VALDOSTA — Five days.

That’s how long the calendar says it will be until the local high school football season starts. The season that much of South Georgia has been waiting for since last December is now effectively upon us.

On Friday, two-time defending state champion Lowndes will open up its season with a trip to Marietta to face Harrison, a team that is coming off back-to-back 9-2 seasons. The Vikings have gone a combined 29-1 the last two seasons, but most of the starters from those championship teams have now graduated, and the 2006 Vikings remain something of a mystery as they try to break in 17 new starters.

Two days ago, Lowndes lost its preseason scrimmage 19-6 to Thomas County Central, which is ranked No. 6 in the preseason AAAA state poll. The Vikings played like the young, inexperienced team they are, and head coach Randy McPherson and his staff saw that there’s still plenty of work to do.

“We’re rebuilding, and we’ve got things we have to work on,” McPherson said afterwards.

Across town, Valdosta will open its season against Jordan High out of Sandy, Utah. Jordan is 2-0 and the No. 3 team in Utah’s highest classification, and has four Division I prospects. Valdosta is No. 6 in Georgia’s largest class (AAAAA), and is looking to improve on back-to-back five-loss seasons — something Valdosta had never suffered before in its 92-year history.

In its preseason scrimmage, Valdosta narrowly defeated Bainbridge 16-13 last Friday on Cleveland Field. The Wildcats picked up 347 yards of total offense, including 277 yards rushing on 19 carries, but were only able to convert their seven trips into Bainbridge territory into 16 points. Against Valdosta’s defense, Bainbridge had 187 yards rushing and 226 yards of total offense, but 146 of those yards came on three big plays by the Bearcats.

Valwood opens its season at home, hosting Randolph Southern at 7:30 p.m. Friday. The Valiants went 6-5 last season, their first winning season since going 8-3 in 2000.

In its preseason scrimmage, Valwood lost 36-16 to GISA-ranked Briarwood Academy.

Clinch County will open their season against probably the best team it will see all year. The Panthers will host Charlton County — the two-time AA state champions, who may be even better — on Friday.

Clinch started off with a bang, defeating Ware County, a perennially-strong AAAA school, 12-0 in their scrimmage last Friday. The Panthers scored two touchdowns, and their usually-tough defense shut down the Ware attack.

Lanier County begins the season hosting Albany, a AA team, on Friday. The Bulldogs are trying to build off of their best season ever, a 5-6 performance last year that ended with a playoff berth.

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