The Valdosta Daily Times
One day after Thanksgiving, the Lowndes Vikings will take I-75 North for the third consecutive week, this time to face the defending AAAAAA state champions, the Norcross Blue Devils in a huge quarterfinals showdown.
Lowndes has seemingly hit its stride oner the last several weeks after a bit of a dip early in the season. The Vikings have been playing their best football of the season in all facets of the game — defense, offense, and special teams.
While the offense and special teams have certainly done their jobs, it's been the defense that has been simply dominant for the last six weeks.
Lowndes' defensive line has made life difficult for running games and quarterbacks alike, consistently beating blocks and getting penetration in the backfield. A fantastic linebacking crew of Tre Jackson, Brian Bell, and Dante Robinson clean up anything that manages to make it past the line of scrimmage.
Offensively, the Vikings trademark wing-T has gotten rolling behind the strong play of the offensive line. Georgia recruit Dyshon Sims heads a group that has physically dominated opposing defensive lines so far in the playoffs.
Through two playoff games, Lowndes has gained 546 yards on the ground and dictated the tempo of each contest.
Norcross represents another level of competition.
The Blue Devils have the talent — the consensus top player in Georgia, defense end Lorenzo Carter — and the playoff experience — back-to-back finals appearances — to make life very difficult for Lowndes.
With a mobile quarterback and the threat of run and pass, Norcross has the type of offense that has given Lowndes some trouble this season.
In the Vikings two worse defensive performances of the year, a 37-7 loss to Colquitt County and a 38-30 victory over Brunswick, the opposing team has been able to spread Lowndes out with multiple receivers and take advantage of the space afforded to them around the line of scrimmage.
Norcross's dual-threat quarterback A.J. Bush will look to replicate Colquitt's Daniel Mobley's game against Lowndes in which he threw for 181 yards and a touchdown and ran for 76 yards and another score. Bush has thrown for over 1500 yards and 11 touchdowns and added 597 yards -- at 4.6 yards a carry -- and 11 more scores on the ground.
One area of Bush's game the Vikings may be able to take advantage of is his ball security.
Bush has thrown eight interceptions this season, including one last week in the Blue Devils 32-9 victory over the Brookwood Broncos.
Lowndes has forced 28 turnovers this season, including picking-off 16 passes. The Vikings may be able to force Bush into some turnovers and quiet the home crowd early on.
When the Vikings are on offense, most fans will have their eyes on the Sims, Carter matchup along the line. Sims has had a tremendous playoff run thus far, but Carter has talent that has collegiate coaches drooling already. Whoever gets the better of this battle will go a long way to determining a winner.
Norcross got to this point by compiling an 8-2 record in the regular season before rolling through the opening rounds of the AAAAAA playoffs by a combined score of 60-9 against Etowah and Brookwood. But despite the sparkling record and nine-game win streak, Norcross did have its share of troubles early on in the season, granted against premium competition.
Norcross opened the high school football season on ESPN2 in a battle between the 2012 AAAAAA Georgia State champions and the Florida State champions, and perennial powerhouse, Washington (Miami, Fla.). The Blue Devils were embarrassed by the Tornados — ranked tenth in the nation — who rang up 55 points in three quarters en route to a 55-0 victory.
Two weeks later, Norcross was handed their second loss of the young season, at home, by rival North Gwinnett 36-17. The Blue Devils were held scoreless in the second half as the Bulldogs ran up 26 points for the victory.
Both Washington and North Gwinnett are still alive in their respective playoffs, showing that these teams were no pushover.
But since that loss, Norcross has been on fire. The Blue Devils have won nine straight games by an average score of 35.7 to 7.5, with the closest game a 24-20 victory over Peachtree Ridge.
Kick-off is set for 7:30 p.m. in Spalding, Ga. Viking fans can listen to a live broadcast of the game on 99.5 FM.