By Samuel D. Logan
The Valdosta Daily Times
The excitement for Friday night football is in the air. With the regular season around the corner, many teams held cross-team scrimmages Friday night.
The Valdosta Wildcats hosted the Ware County Gators in what turned out to be a pretty nice defensive game for both teams.
Acting as somewhat of an “NFL preseason” game, the scrimmage gave both coaches a look at their offense and defense against different personnel.
The starting quarterback for the Wildcats was junior Craig Berry. Berry had an efficient first half, completing four out of five passes for a total of 18 yards.
However, Berry was sacked on the game’s opening drive, furthering questions about how the Wildcats will replace a whole offensive line that was lost after last season for various reasons.
“We have to be a more physical unit, and we are capable of that. We have some big guys up there (o-line) and there is work to do,” said Gillespie.
The Wildcats are searching for an offensive identity and plan on continuing to try different things until they find their niche.
“We felt like we were headed to finding our self and identity, but to have an injury; we have to keep working with all the players we have to make something happen,” said Wildcat Head Coach Rance Gillespie.
The Wildcats used senior Mac Loudermilk for an offensive series lined up at quarterback. On the series, Loudermilk threw no passes, but looked very
comfortable running the offense. While Loudermilk was at quarterback, the Wildcats implemented a little “wildcat”-style football. One memorable play from the series was a little wide receiver reverse run by Alex Cason for a big gain.
The running game of the Wildcats, which features a two running back tandem of Malcolm Joseph and Nelson Herring, was dismal at best, only putting up 17 yards on a total of 15 carries to end the first half.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Wildcats were dominant in stopping the Gators’ passing game, limiting the Gator stating quarterback to throwing three out of 11 completions and garnishing only 20 yards.
Rashay March, a sophomore defensive back, made a tackle to remember when he stopped the Gators’ running back for a seven-yard loss.
Linebacker Terrell Roundtree made a pair of tackles that stalled opposing drives and was constantly around the ball.
Defensive tackle Darrius Sapp also was dominant in the first half, stopping a run for a four-yard loss.
The game went into halftime tied with a score of zero.
The defense was very important in this game. The Wildcat rush defense struggled to contain runners throughout the game; however the pass coverage and quarterback pressure seemed to carry the defense in the game.
“I think the defense played really well. They were put into a lot of tough situations and they came through,” said Gillespie.
Aggressive and strong are words that can describe the Wildcat secondary in this game, making big hits on multiple occasions.
“The secondary was physical, and we did a pretty good job containing the football,” Gillespie said.
The defense allowed only 103 rushing yards on 21 carries, and held the Gators to under 50 passing yards.
On offense, the Wildcats showcased a total of three quarterback options, including sophomore Jacob McMillan, who led the Wildcats to their first score late in the fourth quarter.
Due to Cole Massingill being injured in practice last week, the Wildcats’ offense rotated a lineup of Craig Berry, Mac Loudermilk and Jacob McMillan at the starting quarterback position.
“We got a lot of work to do with our entire offense. We are nowhere close to where we want to be,” said Gillespie.
The offensive line continued to struggle throughout the game, allowing multiple sacks on each of the quarterbacks that took snaps. The Wildcats’ play calling leaned more on rushing plays but was overall unsuccessful with yard gains, finishing the night with 18 carries for a combined 14 yards.
During the scrimmage, punters showed their leg strength and accuracy; however there were no returns made, according to scrimmage rules.
Gillespie and the Wildcats know that it will be a busy week at practice, as the team prepares to take on the Thomas County Central Yellow Jackets on Aug. 30.