Valdosta practice

Valdosta High quarterback Mike Turner (16) scrambles away from the pass rush of defensive lineman Kendall Lewis during a practice drill.

VALDOSTA — The Valdosta Wildcats continue to be hard at work, preparing for the football season that is just two weeks away.

Valdosta will hold an intrasquad scrimmage at Bazemore-Hyder Stadium at 7 p.m. today. There will be officials calling the game, and the coaches will be coaching from the sidelines, as the offense faces the defense.

First-year Valdosta head coach Rick Tomberlin says he wants to have the scrimmage so he can expose his team to game-like conditions.

“It’s just a practice, but it’s going to feel like a game because of the way we’re having it,” Tomberlin said. “We’re going to try to have it as much like a game as we can.

“We’ve tried to treat this week like a game week, so that we can start preparing for our actual game weeks.”

He also likes having the scrimmage because it gives the Wildcats another chance to get some work in on their field and the Sprinturf playing surface.

“We hope to play there several times prior to our first game. It helps our home field advantage,” Tomberlin said. “We scrimmaged over there last week, we’ll be there Thursday and Friday, and then we plan to get over there next week before the scrimmage. We like our stadium, but it’s hard not having it on campus.”

The junior varsity will play the freshman team early in the scrimmage, then the varsity will spend the majority of the time on the field.

Next Friday, Valdosta scrimmages Bainbridge at Bazemore-Hyder in a 48-minute scrimmage. The Friday after that, the Wildcats start the 2006 season against Jordan High from Sandy, Utah.

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Tomberlin has been proud of the team’s work ethic and the effort he’s seen on the practice field. But while he says the team is improving, he still says there’s a lot of work left to do.

“We’ve got a long way to go,” the coach said. “I’m real pleased with the effort, but we’re not executing great. No excuses; we’ve just got to play better.

“We’re getting better. The kids are learning. But we’re not ready to play a 1-AAAAA opponent yet.”

The hot weather hasn’t helped.

“We’ve had three tough, tough days this week,” Tomberlin said. “The biggest obstacle is the heat. It’s been so hot. At one point (Wednesday), our thermometer got up to 104 (degrees). If it rains like it did, it can feel real hot. But everybody in (South Georgia) is dealing with that.”

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Could we see the Valdosta-Lowndes game televised on ESPN this year? Maybe.

Representatives from ESPN have talked to Valdosta about possibly televising the Winnersville Classic on Oct. 20 on ESPNU, the network’s school sports station. But for now, the talks are just in their infancy, and there are still hurdles that must be overcome. Among them is ESPNU’s prior commitment to broadcast another game on that Friday night.

“There was some talk about that,” Tomberlin said. “There’s nothing official yet. They contacted us and said they were interested. But they’ve got a verbal agreement with another school to do their game that night. They said they’d like to do ours, but they feel like they’ve got an obligation to the other school. So nothing’s official yet.”

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