Samuel D. Logan
The Valdosta Daily Times
The Valdosta High Wildcats defeated the Tift County Blue Devils 31-21 last week in a heated region battle. Today, the Wildcats prepare to hit the road once again this season to face the 6-1 Colquitt County Packers in Moultrie.
The Wildcats are 5-2 overall and 1-2 in region play, dropping games to the Lowndes Vikings and the Camden County Wildcats.
The Wildcats have been practicing hard all week to prepare for the game, once again implementing loud music to prepare for loud crowd noise.
The running back tandem of Nelson Herring and Malcolm Joseph has been more than efficient for the ‘Cats this season, single-handedly carrying the offense to 1,206 yards on the ground and a total of 14 touchdowns. The passing offense of the ‘Cats has progressively improved through the season, with quarterbacks Seth Shuman and Mac Loudermilk combining for 759 yards through the air. The disappointing stat however is that the quarterbacks have only thrown one touchdown and have thrown three interceptions this season, a stat that the team plans to better.
For the offense, you can expect to see Valdosta lean on the run once again. Herring has been involved more in the passing game lately. Joseph has proven to be a solid goal line back, producing eight of the ‘Cats 14 touchdowns. Both Herring and Joseph will have to have big games for the ‘Cats' one-sided offense to work against a Packers team with a good defense.
“They’re a really good defense. They had good players across their defensive line swap them out with their depth,” said Wildcat Head Coach Rance Gillespie.
The Packers linebackers are athletic and fast. They play aggressively and will be looking to stop Herring and Joseph for losses, rather than be burnt for large gains.
As far as the Packers secondary is concerned, Gillespie feels they may be the best secondary his Wildcats have faced all season.
“They have won some football games solely with their defense,” said Gillespie.
The secondary may prove to be a weakness for the Packers however, if the ‘Cats continue deviating from the pass to the run.
The Wildcat defense has been another important part of the ‘Cats' 5-2 record, playing lights out for the team when needed.
The Packers play a high-octane style of football, similar to what the Philadelphia Eagles run under Chip Kelly. Quarterback Daniel Mobley has 1,393 yards through the air and the Packers also boast the region rushing leader Sihiem King who has rushed for 806 yards so far this season. Zone reads and play action passes are a centerpiece of the Packers offense and the Wildcat defense has been practicing all week to stay focused on their assignments and to execute tackling.
“You have to be ready for their fast tempo. They have a good offensive scheme and have been able to put up a lot of points on good football teams. They will throw the ball and they can run,” added Gillespie.
Heading into the third road game of the season, Gillespie insists on a consistent game plan.
“Going on the road doesn't really change the way we prepare. We have proven to be mature enough to handle the travel,” said Gillespie. “It’s a local rivalry and it seems like we play in one each and every week; one of the oldest rivalries in the state. It’s a region game, with region implications and we want to win.”
A loss this week would put the ‘Cats in a must-win situation for their last two games against Coffee and Brunswick to make the playoffs. In the last three years, the Wildcats have beaten the Packers three times in a row. Colquitt Co. Head Coach Rush Propst in 1-4 against VHS and Coach Gillespie. Last season, Valdosta won 38-36 after leading the Packers 38-14 with four minutes left in the game.
This region 1-AAAAAA showdown will take place 7:30 p.m. today at Mack Tharpe Memorial Stadium, Moultrie.