VALDOSTA — The most recent Georgia High School Association reclassification has been both a blessing, and a curse, for Valdosta High.
On one hand, the Wildcats won the Class 6A state championship two years ago, their first since 1998, in the first season featuring the newly created Class 7A.
On the other hand, between its new region foes and its historical rivalries, Valdosta High has consistently had one of the toughest schedules in the state.
“I think when we dropped to 6A, when we played where our numbers fell, it really made our schedule a lot tougher,” Valdosta High head coach Alan Rodemaker said at ITG Next Media Day on Saturday. “Because now we’re playing in the toughest 6A region, and we play the toughest 7A region in our non-region schedule.
“They’d fire me on the spot if I stop playing Lowndes, Colquitt or Tifton.”
Three of the five teams in Region 1-6A made quarterfinal appearances when Valdosta won the state title in 2016, and last year, region rivals Coffee and Lee County met in the championship game.
Region 1-7A rivals Lowndes and Colquitt County each advanced to the quarterfinal round two years ago, and along with Tift County, each won 11 games this past season.
But now that the Wildcats occupy the $83 million new Valdosta High School, Rodemaker believes it’s just a matter of time until the black-and-gold are back in the state’s highest classification.
“I think we’ll end back up in that region,” Rodemaker said. “Our school is growing. I think we have close to 700 freshmen at the new school, and so, I think we’ll end back up in that region shortly.”
The Wildcats began working at the new facilities this summer, among the amenities includes two new weight rooms, one primary to football, that will allow the team to hold up to 14 weight classes in a seven-period day.
“For our kids, it just seems like they don’t really know how to act yet,” Rodemaker said. “We’ve been there all summer, and it’s a really nice facility…
“Our staff meeting room is really nice. Our locker room has 180 lockers in it, and we don’t have that many kids. We’ve got an auxiliary gym, which was just slept in for camp, that is really nice. Just to have four practice fields there on the school grounds is really nice.”
Derrick Davis is the sports editor at the Valdosta Daily Times.