The Valdosta Daily Times
The Valwood Valiants can clinch a spot in the GISA Class AA state championship game with a victory tonight over the Edmund Burke Spartans.
It won’t be easy.
Much like the Valiants, the Spartans enter with a 10-1 record, with the only blemish coming against Piedmont, who hasn’t lost a game since 2009 and are the two-time reigning Class AA state champions.
In fact, barring on upset, the winner of tonight’s meeting at Goddard Field will likely face Piedmont in the championship game.
“I told our kids on Monday that we had four days, one game and one win away from the state championship,” Valwood head coach Brannon Tidwell said. “I know a lot of people that have a long time and have played for a long time that have never been to a state championship, so it is a big deal and we are glad that it is here right in front of us.”
Following last Friday’s victory against Gatewood, Tidwell told his team they would have to play a complete football game this Friday night, something they failed to accomplish against the Gators.
After some halftime adjustments, the Valiants shutout the Gators in the second half.
Edmund Burke defeated Heritage, 43-20, in the first round last Friday night in Waynesboro. The Spartans led the entire way, and the game was never close.
“(Edmund Burke) is real physical,” Tidwell said. “They line up and run right at you. They get in two-tight wishbone and they like a 6-man front on defense. It is almost like, lineup, here we are, come block us. That is what they want to do and they play real hard...It is like they are angry the whole game.”
Tonight’s meeting will mark just the fourth all-time meeting between the two schools. Valwood cureently holds a 2-1 record against the Spartans, including a 31-24 victory in the 2006 semifinals, which was played at Goddard Field.
“When they went to the state title (in 2006), they played Gatewood one, and Edmund Burke two, and then went on the road for the state title,” Tidwell said. “We are excited because if he win (tonight) we are at home next week for the state championship. But, yeah it was the same route to get to the state championship game.”
As a team, Valwood is surrendering just 17.7 points per contest, thanks largely to dominant defensive play. On multiple occasions this season, the Valwood defense has held opponents below their normal scoring total. Back on Sept. 23, Valwood held Heritage to 28 points. Heritage finished the season averaging 34 points per contest. On Oct. 21, the Valiants held Arlington Christian to 27 points, a complete touchdown less than what the Eagles averaged across their 11 games this season.
“We gave up 140 yards on 50 plays last week,” Tidwell said. “If you can hold a team to under 100 yards rushing the ball in a high school game, you are going to come out on top. I was real proud of the defense.”
Offensively, the Valiants will need another solid outing by senior Khary Paige. The junior running back set the new Valwood single season touchdown record with his two touchdowns last week. The former Valdosta Wildcat now has 24 touchdowns on the season.
“I told Khary on Monday that (Gatewood) was his best game of the year,” Tidwell said. “I know he didn’t have the 300-yard game, but it was his best game for how hard he ran.”
Along with Paige, quarterback Jake Lastinger will have to pick up where he left off last week. After a rough outing in the Valiants’ regular season finale against Flint River, Lastinger responded with two touchdown passes last week against Gatewood.
Kickoff for tonight’s game is set for 7:30 p.m. and will be broadcast live on The Jock 1150 AM.