The Valdosta Daily Times
Baseball legend Yogi Berra once said, “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.” The football teams from Valdosta and Colquitt County proved that Friday night.
Valdosta survived a furious comeback by Colquitt County in the final four minutes, and held on to win the game 38-36 on Friday at Cleveland Field at Bazemore-Hyder Stadium.
“Obviously, we wish we would have finished it a little better. But with that being said, you’ve got to give their kids a whole lot of credit. You really do,” Valdosta head coach Rance Gillespie said. “They’ve got a good football team. They came out in the second half, and they didn’t quit, they made some plays and made it a crazy finish.”
For the first three and a half quarters, Valdosta dominated the game. Their offense put 38 points on the scoreboard, and their defense held Colquitt’s offense in check for the most part. With less than four minutes remaining in the game, Valdosta was leading 38-14 — and a large percentage of Colquitt’s fans had already left the stadium and begun the drive home.
But apparently the Colquitt players were listening before the game when the late Nick Hyder’s voice was played over the public address system telling the Wildcats to “Never, never, never, never, never quit.” Because the Packers weren’t ready to give up and accept defeat, and they quickly came roaring back — and nearly tied the score.
First, Colquitt quarterback Daniel Mobley led his team 91 yards down the field in seven plays. Mobley completed 5 of 7 passes on the drive, and each completion gave the Packers a first down. On second-and-goal from the Wildcats’ 10-yard line, Mobley found Toddarian Boyd in the end zone for a touchdown. Then Sihiem King caught Mobley’s two-point conversion pass, cutting Valdosta’s lead to 38-22 with 3:42 left in the game.
Then Colquitt recovered an onside kick, and Mobley went back to work. He hit Bobby Hill for 15 yards and Boyd for 29, down to the 1. Then Mobley scored on a quarterback sneak, and threw the two-point conversion pass to Boyd, making the score 38-30 with 3:11 left.
The next onside kick went out of bounds, giving the Wildcats the ball at their own 35. But Valdosta went three-and-out, and a 19-yard punt gave the Packers the ball at their own 42 with barely two minutes left on the clock. On the first play, Colquitt’s John Boatwright raced 38 yards, all the way to the Wildcats’ 20.
Two plays later, Mobley took the snap and threw a lateral to wide receiver Kiel Pollard. Pollard then threw the ball back across the field to Mobley, who caught the ball, got blocks in front of him and ran towards the end zone. A defender hit Mobley near the 1 and drove him out of bounds, but before he went out, the Packers’ quarterback reached the ball over the goal line, and was awarded the touchdown. Suddenly, the score was 38-36 with 1:26 left on the clock, and the Packers were lining up for a two-point conversion that could tie the game.
On the two-point conversion play, Mobley took the snap from the shotgun and looked for a receiver in the end zone. He picked out a receiver near the back of the end zone, and threw the ball. But his throw was low, and the pass fell incomplete, and the score remained 38-36.
Valdosta still had the lead, but it also still had to prevent Colquitt from recovering the onside kick. When the ball was kicked, all 10 Colquitt players charged after the ball. But before they could get there, a Valdosta player picked up the ball up, then fell on the ground. The ball belonged to Valdosta, and all they had to do was kill the rest of the clock.
On the next three plays, Valdosta quarterback Shelby Wilkes — a former Packer — took the snap and kneeled down. After he did it the third time, the game was over — and Valdosta was victorious.
Until Colquitt made its impressive comeback in the final minutes, Valdosta had controlled the game, building leads of 14-0, 28-7 and 38-14. Malcolm Joseph and Nelson Herring, the Wildcats’ standout running backs, were both having big games, and Valdosta’s defense had picked off Colquitt’s two quarterbacks five times (Cole Segraves threw three interceptions and Mobley had two).
“I thought our kids came out in the first half and played extremely well on both sides of the football,” Gillespie said.
Halfway through the first quarter, with the game still scoreless, Valdosta defensive back Terell Roundtree picked off Mobley’s pass and returned it to the Packers' 8-yard line. Herring gained seven yards on first down, then on the next play, he jumped over a lineman and over the goal line for a touchdown, giving Valdosta a 7-0 lead.
Colquitt went three-and-out, and punted the ball back to Valdosta. On second-and-10 from the Packer 37, Wilkes threw deep for Joseph along the sideline. Joseph tipped the ball in the air, caught it and took it all the way to Colquitt’s 2-yard line. Two plays later, Joseph took the handoff, went right and outran a defender to the end zone for the touchdown, giving Valdosta a 14-0 lead.
Then Colquitt drove for its first score. Early in the drive, Segraves was picked off by Valdosta’s Tra Barrett, but Barrett fumbled and the Packers recovered at the Colquitt 36. Given new life, the Packers drove down the field, and Tim Sanders scored on a 1-yard run. Roberto Vega’s extra point made the score 14-7.
On the second play of the ensuing possession, Joseph took a handoff, and started to run, but then reversed course and went the other way. He turned the corner, broke into the open and raced 76 yards untouched into the end zone for a touchdown, giving the Wildcats a 21-7 lead.
On Valdosta’s next drive, a 19-yard run by Herring and a 29-yard run by Joseph on back-to-back plays moved the ball to the Colquitt 17. Two plays later, Wilkes faked a handoff and fired a pass to Sherrod Inman in the end zone for a 15-yard touchdown pass, increasing the Wildcats’ lead to 28-7.
Colquitt responded with a touchdown of its own less than a minute later. Segraves found Hill in single coverage along the sideline, and Hill caught the ball, got by the defender and ran into the end zone for a 33-yard touchdown catch, making it 28-14.
In the final seconds of the first half, Valdosta drove down to the Colquitt 11, then Brennan Goodson kicked a 28-yard field goal on the final play of the half, and Valdosta headed to the locker room with a 31-14 lead.
Colquitt got the ball to start the second half, but on the second play, Valdosta linebacker John Bellamy picked off a pass at the Packers’ 28. Two plays later, Joseph took the handoff, stopped briefly, found a hole, then went through it and sprinted 25 yards for a touchdown, extending his team’s lead to 38-14 with 10:17 left in the third quarter.
At that point, Valdosta had a 24-point lead, a running game that Colquitt was struggling to stop and a defense that had held the Packers’ offense in check for the most part. So Gillespie tried to play conservatively on offense, running the ball and trying to kill the clock. For the rest of the third quarter and most of the fourth quarter, it worked. The Packers loaded the box on defense and didn’t allow many yards, but Valdosta’s defense continued to shut down Colquitt and time continued to tick off the clock.
Then Colquitt caught fire late in the game, and turned a blow out into a nailbiter. But in the end, the Wildcats came away with the victory.
For Valdosta, Joseph ran for 167 yards and three touchdowns on 23 carries. Herring gained 117 yards on 18 carries, and scored a touchdown. Wilkes passed for 87 yards and a touchdown.
For Colquitt, Mobley passed for 151 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Segraves had 125 yards passing, one touchdown and three interceptions.