Special to the Times
On Saturday, the defending GISA Class AA Champion Valwood Valiants look to capture their second consecutive state title as they take the field for a rematch against Memorial Day Academy (Savannah, Ga.).
“Our kids have talked about playing Memorial Day again since the first game ended,” Head Coach Ashley Henderson said. “That really gets our guys going knowing how stiff this competition is.”
The Region 3-AA Champion Valiants (12-0, 5-0 in region play) look to cap off back-to-back undefeated seasons and their fifth state title in school history.
The Region 2-AA Champion Matadors (11-1, 4-0 in region play) will be looking to not only capture the 2013 crown, but also to avenge their sole loss of the season at the hands of Valwood on Sept. 13.
Valwood reached the championship game by defeating Trinity Christian High School (Dublin, Ga.) 35-0 in their first shutout of the season.
“To play in another state championship is special,” Henderson said. “But I’m more excited about just how much we’ve improved as a whole since our last meeting with Memorial Day. Plus, this is the last game as a Valiant for our seniors. This is for them.”
Valwood’s seniors have proven to be priceless assets to the Valiants undefeated season.
“(Char Merine and Reggie Robinson) are two major pieces of our defensive unit,” Defensive Coordinator Brad Alligood said. “Char is a very vocal leader and Reggie speaks with his actions. Together they are a perfect fit.”
In their last matchup, impressive nights from Merine, Robinson, and senior kicker Carter Elliott led the way as the Valiants pulled off a thrilling comeback to defeat the Matadors by a score of 13-12.
After regaining possession, trailing by two points with just under 1:30 remaining in the game, the defending champions were able to drive into field goal range, allowing Elliott to give Valwood the lead on a 42-yard field goal.
After Memorial Day’s final drive was interrupted with a clutch interception by Valiant Kyle Wilkes, Valwood emerged victorious, moving to 3-0 on the season.
“Our defense has been huge for us,” Alligood said. “We’re better on both sides of the ball than we were at the beginning of the season. We’re playing very cohesive football and I feel that we’re more than ready to see Memorial Day again.”
Since then, the Matadors have reeled off nine straight wins by an overwhelming average of 45 points per contest, including a 59-15 thrashing of the Region 1-AA Champion Milledge Academy Trojans (Milledgeville, Ga.) in the GISA Semifinals.
“(The Matadors are) playing some really good football right now and have been for some time,” Henderson said. “They’ve got plenty of great athletes that can score from anywhere on the field.”
A victory Saturday would give the Valiants their second straight state title. Last year’s title came in a 48-13 rout of the Westwood Wildcats (Camilla, Ga.).
“We’re looking forward to the challenge,” Coach Henderson said. “We wouldn’t want it or have it any other way than to get to play (Memorial Day).”
Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. from Mercer University Stadium (Macon, Ga.). Radio listeners can tune into the game on WJEM (The Jock) 1150 AM and 96.1 FM.