Valdosta Daily Times

June 12, 2013

Wildcats to compete at Byrnes passing tourney

Ed Hooper
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — The Valdosta Wildcats aren’t approaching the summer with a laid back attitude. America’s winningest high school football program has been hard at work the past few weeks.

“It is going good. I felt like this: With a young football team, that you can see us really progressing,” Valdosta head coach Rance Gillespie said. “It is exciting for us. Some things are starting to click and roll for us. We are getting better.”

And this weekend, the skill players on this year’s Wildcat football team will face one of their toughest challenges this summer, when they participate in the 24-team strong passing tournament at Byrnes High School in Duncan, S.C.

“There are a lot of coaches that approach passing leagues different ways,” Gillespie said. “Some don’t want to keep score; it is all about the reps and getting better. And we certainly want to do that too, but two of three times a summer, I want to put our kids in a competitive situation and see how they react in a competitive situation. How do they react to the adversity of being down two scores? How do they respond to being up by three scores? I think that is important to teach your football team to handle those types of different situations.”

Some of the best passing offensive teams will be attendance this weekend, including Gwinnett County-power North Gwinnett and host Byrnes, which has a combined to win seven Class AAAA South Carolina state championships since 2002.

“They’ll have teams from all up the eastern coast,” Gillespie said. “Last year there was a team out of Delaware that was really good. North Gwinnett is always there. This is important to some really good football teams that throw the football. It really prepares you for that end of the game.”

This weekend’s passing competition will be the Wildcats’ second in as many weeks. Last weekend, the Wildcats hosted five schools that were set to participate in Valdosta State’s team passing tournament that was canceled.

No score was kept last weekend, says Gillespie, but it did allow schools, including Valdosta, to get some repetitions against other opponents on film, which they can use for further evaluation.

“We didn’t really keep score like we will this weekend,” Gillespie said. “We made it somewhat competitive, but it was all about us getting work and getting some stuff on film that we can teach from.”

Nearly all high school teams compete in passing tournaments throughout the summer, including Valdosta.

But Gillespie acknowledged the Wildcats need to face tough competition throughout the summer because of their difficult early-season schedule that features Thomas County Central and Brooks County — front runners in Class 5A and 2A, respectively — to open the 2013 season.

“You don’t want to step out there day one, and the first time you’ve been in a competitive situation all summer is the scrimmage, what little bit you get out of the scrimmage, and then it be the first game,” Gillespie said. “It helps kind of ready you for those early games.”

Valdosta scrimmages Ware County at Bazemore-Hyder Stadium Aug. 16 and opens it season Aug. 30 against TCC.