Valdosta and Camden County.
They are two of the most respected high school football programs in South Georgia. They both won region championships in 2011. They’re both called the Wildcats, with matching paws on their helmets (albeit in different colors). Both programs have coaches who know how to win, and players who know how to play.
Tonight, they’ll meet on the gridiron.
Camden County (4-0) will make the two-hour trek from the Atlantic coast to Winnersville tonight to take on Valdosta (3-1). The game will start at 8 p.m. at Cleveland Field at Bazemore-Hyder Stadium. It will be the Region 1-6A opener for both teams.
Last year, Valdosta was the Region 1-5A champion and Camden was the Region 3-5A champion. After the GHSA expanded to six classifications and realigned the regions, Camden moved over to Region 1.
On paper, Camden looks very impressive. It is currently undefeated and ranked No. 1 in Class 6A. The team is also ranked ninth in the USA Today’s national poll. Four Camden players have already verbally committed to Southeastern Conference schools. Camden has won its first four games by an average of 44.75 points.
“We understand who they are. They’ve got a really good football team. They really do,” Valdosta head coach Rance Gillespie said. “A very talented football team.”
Camden quarterback Brice Ramsey is a four-star prospect who is rated the No. 7 quarterback in the nation by scout.com. The 6-foot-3, 197-pound Ramsey has verbally committed to Georgia, and might enroll there in January. Camden’s wing-T offense is primarily a running offense, but the team will line up in the shotgun occasionally and give Ramsey opportunities to throw it.
“He’s got the stature and the big arm and he’s athletic enough. He’s a good player,” Gillespie said. “He’s a really good punter and kicker as well. (His special teams skills) may be as impressive as anything.”
Teammate J.J. Green will be joining Ramsey in Athens. Green, who runs a 4.4-second 40-yard dash, is a dangerous wingback, cornerback and kick returner for Camden. Rivals.com rates him the No. 48 cornerback in the country. He has rushed for 228 yards and three touchdowns, and averages 10.9 yards per carry. He has caught four passes for 54 yards and a touchdown. And on defense, he has not allowed a catch in one-on-one coverage.
“Green (has good) speed. Green has good ball skills, and is just an all-around great athlete,” Gillespie said.
J.P. Vonashek, a 6-foot-6, 270-pound three-star tackle who has verbally committed to South Carolina, will be blocking for Ramsey and Green. Jarrad Davis, a 6-foot-3, 215-pound three-star linebacker, is bound for Auburn. Davis is the No. 31 outside linebacker in the nation, while Vonashek is the No. 41 tackle (according to scout.com and rivals.com, respectively). Fellow linebacker Rafael Hardee could also be a Division I player.
“They’ve got (four) SEC commits,” Gillespie said. “There’s not many teams that can say that.”
“Their nose (guard) is a really good football player as well. The big back that plays fullback for them is a really good player,” Valdosta’s coach added. “They’ve got multiple weapons. It’s not just those five (Division I prospects); they’ve got other guys in there, too. ... They’ve got plenty of skill.”
Camden has been using a 3-3-5 base defense for around 10 years, and it has been a very effective defense for the Wildcats. The 3-3-5 has enabled Camden to line up in anything from an eight-man front to a nickel defense with the same 11 players on the field.
Camden is averaging 49.5 points per game, and is giving up just 4.75. The team has outscored its opponents 198-19 so far this season.
Head coach Jeff Herron has a 147-16 record in 13 seasons at Camden, and his team departed Region 3-5A with an 86-game region winning streak.
The Valdosta coaching staff has spent many hours trying to figure out a way to beat the top-ranked team in the state. They have studied tapes of nearly every Camden game since the 2010 playoffs, so they know a lot about their opponent.
“I feel like we’ve got a good game plan. I feel like we’ve got a good feel for who they are and what they do,” Gillespie said. “It’s just a matter of executing, and going out and playing.”
Valdosta and Camden played each other eight times between 2001-05 (five preseason scrimmages and three playoff games), but the teams have not played since then. Gillespie and Herron, two coaches with a combined six state championships, have never faced each other.
In 2003, Camden beat Valdosta 21-7 in the Class 5A state championship game at old Cleveland Field. The teams also competed in the last GHSA football game ever decided by penetration (Camden won 15-14 in 2002).
Valdosta’s offense is led by quarterback Shelby Wilkes (535 yards passing, four touchdowns, two interceptions) and running backs Malcolm Joseph (398 yards, seven touchdowns rushing; 158 yards, one touchdown receiving) and Nelson Herring (391 yards rushing, four touchdowns; five catches, 61 yards, two touchdowns receiving). Wide receiver Alex Cason has caught six passes for 117 yards.
The Valdosta Wildcats are averaging 32 points per game, and giving up an average of 10.5 points per game.
What does Gillespie feel his team must do to win tonight?
“What we have to do is we have to get out and play a really good football game, without mistakes,” he said. “We can’t beat ourselves. We’ve got to make them make the plays. We need to control the football game offensively, which I think we’re totally capable of doing.”
No. 1 Camden County comes to Valdosta tonight
Valdosta and Camden County.
- Local Sports
Nolin settling in as new VSU soccer coach
Meet Rebecca Nolin, VSU's new soccer coach.
Induction Crowd: Honorees were genuine, down to earth
More than 48,000 people gathered under the scorching sun at The Clark Sports Center for the 75th National Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Sunday, including one woman who carpooled to the event with more than 40 other people.
Braves trio all business at inductions
The Braves seemed almost businesslike in their approach -- something you might expect from a trio that won so consistently.
Managers Joe Torre and Tony La Russa also remained calm and collected throughout their addresses.
Frank Thomas took care of the emotional side, his voice breaking and his eyes moist during a heartfelt speech Sunday at the Clark Sports Center.
Cooperstown Merchants: Weekend was a success
Cooperstown merchants are elated about the exceptionally prosperous Hall of Fame Induction Weekend, several storekeepers said Sunday.
During an afternoon lull in business, when the National Baseball Hall of Fame's induction ceremony was taking place, area shop and restaurant owners took a quick breath, reflected and expressed satisfaction with their sales for the weekend.
Hall of Famers thank fathers for stepping up to the plate
Great ballplayers thanking their dads at a Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony is about as original as oil and vinegar are to an Italian restaurant.
Hall of Braves
The weird part was that Jeff Idelson didn't take a lot of time to answer.
"Is there any word or description that unifies this class?" was the query posed to the National Baseball Hall of Fame's president.
"The common thread among the six is profound humility," Idelson said of former managers Joe Torre, Bobby Cox and Tony La Russa, and former players Frank Thomas, Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, all of whom will be inducted into the Hall today. "I don't think I realized that fully until I spent time with them in December. It was uncanny to me, for the cumulative star power in that group, the humility among them. I think that's felt really strongly with baseball fans."
Cox’s willingness to defend players stands out to local coaches
Bobby Cox will be able to add Hall of Famer to his resume when he is inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame today in Cooperstown, N.Y.
But the former Atlanta Braves manager’s legacy will remain the same to area baseball coaches: his willingness to defend his players.
Area teams hoping to get over the hump
Past successes lead to present and future expectations.
That’s the task faced by pretty much all 12 area high school football coaches present Saturday at In The Game Magazine’s South Georgia Football media day at the Holiday Inn conference center.
It’s a task that also has the elite group searching for answers as to how to get past the state championship road block in recent years, aside from Valwood’s GISA Class AA crown in 2012.
- Valdosta hosts fundamental camp for ‘Little ’Cats’
Getting Back to Work
Friday officially began the 2014 season for the Valdosta Wildcats and both the offense and defense came out and made statements.
After holding spring and summer workouts, the Wildcats will practice four more times without pads before beginning full pad practice next week.
- More Local Sports Headlines
- Nolin settling in as new VSU soccer coach