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October 24, 2012

’Cats show improvement

Valdosta defeated Tift County 42-7 last Friday night

VALDOSTA — Football coaches hope to see their teams improve throughout the season.

According to their coach, the Valdosta Wildcats have shown improvement in their last two games.

“I thought we played at a high level against Lowndes. We wanted to see that continue, and keep heading in the right direction. I thought we did that (last Friday against Tift County),” Valdosta head coach Rance Gillespie said. “We wanted to see our kids play well.”

The Wildcats are coming off of one of their best performances of the season. Last Friday, they defeated Tift County 42-7 in Tifton.

Valdosta’s offense played well, amassing 384 yards of total offense and 42 points. Quarterback Shelby Wilkes completed 10 of his 14 pass attempts for 244 yards and three touchdowns in less than three quarters of play. Valdosta’s top three running backs — Nelson Herring (54 yards), Malcolm Joseph (46 yards) and Tim McClain (32 yards) — combined for 134 yards rushing, and Herring and Joseph both ran for touchdowns (Herring also caught a touchdown pass). Wide receiver Alex Cason had his best game as a Wildcat, catching two passes for 109 yards, with both catches going for touchdowns.

Valdosta’s defense held Tift to 183 yards of total offense, most of which came after Valdosta had built a 35-point lead early in the third quarter. Tift running back Rashad Daniels rushed for 111 yards, but only 36 of those yards came before halftime. Tift quarterbacks Kris Miller and Michael Hancock completed just 4 of 20 passes (for 74 yards). And Valdosta defensive end Chuntony Johnson returned a fumble for a touchdown four minutes into Friday’s game.

“I thought we played well,” Gillespie said. “I thought we executed some things. I thought we controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the football. I thought we were able to run the football effectively. I thought our wideouts stepped up and made some big plays for us, like we’ve been wanting to see out of them. Hopefully that’s a sign of things to come. I thought the quarterback (Wilkes) played really well. Defensively, I thought, other than a run or two, we fit things up really nice and tackled real well. Of course, (Daniels) is a good back, and I thought we did a good job of matching him up and getting him to the ground. Special teams wise, the punt returns concerned us a little bit, and that’s something we want to focus on this week and get better at. Other than that (special teams played well).”

Gillespie says the Wildcats have to keep getting better.

“Is there things we can do better? Certainly,” Valdosta’s coach said. “I’ll probably be saying that when they bury me.”

“I told them (before the Tift game), ‘Week in and week out, the formula for success in this game does not change. It’s about high effort, high enthusiasm and great execution,’” he added. “I said, ‘That’s what we want to do tonight,’ and I thought we did that.”

Valdosta will face one of its biggest rivals, Colquitt County, on Friday night at 8 p.m. at Cleveland Field at Bazemore-Hyder Stadium. It will be an important Region 1-6A game for both the Packers (5-2), who have a 2-1 region record, and the Wildcats (4-3), who are 1-2 in region play.

Valdosta does not have any serious injuries, and every Wildcat player is expected to play Friday night.

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