Special to the Times
Not even a chilly night can put out the fiery path that is the Valwood Valiants.
In front of a full crowd, the defending GISA Class 3-AA State Champions ran away with a 45-13 blowout victory in regional action over the Brookwood High School Warriors (Thomasville, Ga.).
The win did much more than keep the Valiants undefeated.
Due to a 21-14 loss Friday night by Southwest Georgia Academy, Valwood (8-0, 4-0 in region play) has clinched yet another GISA Class 3-AA title.
The Warriors (4-5, 2-2 in region play), as expected, let their ground game lead the way, powered by junior running back Taylor Patterson and sophomore quarterback Cale Deese attempting to pound the football.
“The way (Warriors’ Head Coach Shane Boggs) runs that offense, (Deese) is going to get his yards,” Valwood Head Coach Ashley Henderson said. “To limit him the way we did…we’re just excited about our performance as a whole.”
After a scoreless first quarter for both teams, Valwood running back Marik Merine finally brought life to the scoreboard with a six-yard run in the second quarter. After a converted extra point by Valiant Carter Elliott, Valwood took a 7-0 lead.
It didn’t take long for the home team to add to their lead.
On Valwood’s next possession, Merine took over once more, blasting through the defensive line and running for a 30-yard touchdown.
The touchdowns provided a spark on the defensive side of the ball for the Valiants as well.
On the Warriors’ next possession, Deese’s bullet pass to the left side of the field found its way into the hands of Valwood junior defensive back Garrett Lovell.
“All I could think was ‘don’t drop it’,” Lovell said. “(Deese) is a great quarterback, and I had to plan ahead to make the play.”
The next Valwood drive paved the way for senior wide receiver Char Merine to leave his mark on the game.
In just his second game after returning from injury, Char picked up right where he left off offensively. After slipping by his defender, he was able to find himself alone and on the receiving end of a 35-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Seth Carlo.
The following drive was more of the same, as Carlo once again connected with Char in the end zone. The 40-yard touchdown pass gave the Valiants a 28-0 lead heading into halftime.
“The cornerback gave me the inside, so I headed downfield and got open,” Char said. “(Carlo) did a good job finding me on both plays.”
Char finished the game with 7 receptions totaling 114 yards and two touchdowns.
Taking full advantage of the team’s depth, the third quarter opened with a six-yard touchdown run by sophomore Jack Helms.
Helms saw much more playing time in the absence of running back Zane Edmondson, and his production was a key part of the second half. He finished the game with 23 rushing yards on three attempts, as well as adding 27 yards on three receptions.
“Zane (Edmondson) went down last game, and (the coaching staff) said I had to step up,” Helms said. “I just wanted to prove that I could play at a high level.”
A six-yard run by Deese finally put Brookwood on the scoreboard, but a fumbled snap on the extra point left the Valwood lead at 35-6.
Shortly after, a 30-yard field goal from senior kicker Carter Elliott padded Valwood’s lead at 38-6.
With a running clock in the fourth quarter, the defending champions finalized their victory with a three-yard touchdown run by Marik.
Valiants’ quarterback Seth Carlo totaled 228 yards and two touchdowns in the air, connecting on 19 of 26 passing attempts, as well as one reception on a screen from Carter Elliott for 17 yards.
Junior Marik Merine rushed for 129 yards and three touchdowns on 16 attempts. He also had one reception for 12 yards.
Senior wide receiver contributed with two receptions for twenty yards.
The Valiants will return to regional action for their final regular season game against conference rival Southwest Georgia Academy (Damascus, Ga.) at home on Nov. 1.