The Valdosta Daily Times
It was a great night for the North Cobb Warriors. And a pretty bad one for the Valdosta
Wildcats. North Cobb ended Valdosta's football season on Friday night, defeating the Wildcats 42-14 in the first round of the Class 6A state playoffs.
The Warriors (9-2) did just about everything right on Friday. Their potent offense (which averages around 40 points per game) piled up 392 yards of total offense and made several big plays. Their defense
picked off five passes, and limited Valdosta (a team that had rushed for around 2,000 yards in the
regular season) to just 28 yards rushing on 28 carries. And the Warriors scored 42 points; only
Camden County had been able to put up that many points against Valdosta before
Friday's game. "We ran into a really good football team," Valdosta head coach Rance Gillespie said. "We knew that they were (real good) coming into the game.We turned the ball over — which we said we couldn't do.We couldn't establish our run game — which we said we had to do. And
then I made some bad calls that didn't go our way.…You put all those things together against a good football team, and you're not going to win at this time of year."
The Wildcats finished the season 7-4. The score was tied 7-7 heading into the second quarter. But three big plays by North Cobb — two interceptions and a long touchdown pass — helped the Warriors score 21 points in a span of less than seven minutes, and gave them a 28-7 lead. Valdosta never got closer than 14 points the rest of the game.
"It did (change the game)," Gillespie admitted. "They made two good plays (on the interceptions), and (changed) the game."
Valdosta scored the first touchdown of the game. Shelby Wilkes' 24-yard pass to Alex Cason moved the Wildcats into North Cobb territory, and four straight runs moved the ball to the Warriors' 6-yard line. On first-and-goal from the 6, Nelson Herring took the handoff and went right. Then he cut inside and crossed the goal line for the touchdown. Brennan Goodson's extra point gave the Wildcats a 7-0 lead.
North Cobb answered with a touchdown of its own. On the first play of the ensuing possession, quarterback Tyler Queen hit Jake McKee for 32 yards. Then Queen carried three straight times, and each run went for a first down. Then Queen handed the ball off to J'Vonte Herrod, who found a hole between the right tackle and the right guard, and ran into the end zone for an 11-yard touchdown run. A.J. Borduin's extra point tied the score at 7-7.
Valdosta had a good scoring chance after defensive end Elijah Thomas picked off a screen pass and returned it to the Warriors' 38. But two delay of game penalties helped stall the drive, and the Wildcatsended up punting. The score remained tied 7-7 after one quarter. Then the Warriors took control of the game in the second quarter.
On the Wildcats' first possession of the second quarter, they faced third-and-13 at their own 9. Wilkes tried to find a receiver near the 25, but North Cobb defensive back Cameron Albright read the play perfectly, stepped in front of the receiver and picked off the pass at the 25. Then he took off running, got blocks in front of him and raced into the end zone for a touchdown, giving the Warriors a 14-7 lead.
Later in the quarter, North Cobb got the ball at its own 38 after a punt. On the first play of the drive, Queen threw a quick screen pass to wide receiver Xavier Borishade. Borishade caught the ball near the line of scrimmage, ran right by two defenders and took off running. He sprinted 62 yards untouched into the end zone, and gave the Warriors a 21-7 lead.
Four plays later, North Cobb's Latrell Gibbs picked off a pass and returned it to the Wildcats' 5, putting the Warriors in position to add seven more points to their lead. On the next play, Queen faked a handoff, kept the ball, found hole and ran into the end zone for North Cobb's third touchdown of the second quarter, giving the Warriors a 28-7 lead.
The score was still 28-7 as the teams headed to the locker rooms at halftime.
Valdosta knew it had a big deficit to make up in the second half, and the Wildcats started the third quarter by putting together one of their best drives of the game. Wilkes completed three straight passes to three different receivers to start the drive, for a total of 48 yards. Those passes and two Nelson Herring runs (for 11 yards) moved the ball to the North Cobb 21. Then on first-and-10 at the 21, Wilkes hit tight end Taijuan Smith over the middle. Smith caught the ball, shook off a would-be tackler and took the ball into the end zone to cut the Warriors' lead to 28-14.
But if that drive gave Valdosta any momentum, the Warriors took a lot of it back when they responded with a four-play, 65-yard scoring drive. Albright gained 13 yards and Queen ran for 12 on the first two plays. Two plays later, Queen threw a slant to Borishade. The cornerback covering Borishade was out of position to make the tackle, and Borishade got by him. Then he turned on his blazing speed again, and raced 45 yards untouched into the end zone, increasing the Warriors' lead to 21 points again, 35-14. Then North Cobb's Romelo Lewis picked off a pass on the first play of Valdosta's ensuing possession, denying the Wildcats a chance to answer back.
Later in the third quarter, North Cobb's Hakeem Sawyer killed a promising Valdosta drive with an interception at the NCHS 26.
Early in the fourth quarter, Valdosta threatened again. Wilkes' 46-yard pass to Montrey Minto, a 16-yard completion to Sherrod Inman and a 13-yard pass to Minto helped the Wildcats move the ball to the Warriors' 3. A touchdown would have been huge for the Wildcats. But Wilkes' fade pass was caught out of bounds on first down, Herring was stopped at the 2 on second down and Wilkes' passes fell incomplete on both third and fourth downs, and VHS came away empty.
That was Valdosta's last great scoring chance. North Cobb's defense forced the Wildcats to turn the ball over on downs on their last two possessions, and the Warriors turned to their running game to kill much of the clock in the fourth quarter.
The Warriors scored one final touchdown with 3:17 left in the game. Queen found a hole and dashed 24 yards untouched into the end zone to extend his team's lead to 42-14.
Queen only completed four passes all night, but those four completions went for 154 yards and two touchdowns. Queen also ran for 131 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries.
Herrod rushed for 96 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries, while Borishade had two catches for 107 yards and two touchdowns.
"They were everything they were advertised to be on offense," Gillespie said. "(Herrod) was strong and he ran the ball extremely hard. The quarterback is a really good player, which we knew coming in. And then (Borishade) is explosive, which he proved to be. (Albright) is a solid target for them, too."
For Valdosta, Wilkes completed 19 of 46 passes for 265 yards and a touchdown. But he was picked off five times.
Despite the loss — and his disappointment that the season was over — Gillespie praised his players for a season that saw the Wildcats win seven games and finish third in a tough Region 1-6A.
"Certainly we didn't achieve to our standard," he said. "But these kids won some really good football games against some really good football teams. Certainly we wanted to win (this) playoff game. But to be in the playoffs coming out of our region, to beat Colquitt, to go up to Coffee and win in Douglas to get into the playoffs (is something to be proud of). There are so many things that these kids accomplished (that they can) be excited about, and that we are proud of them for."
"I'm really proud of this group. I really am," he added. "They have been an enjoyable group to be around. They were easy to coach. Just a great bunch of kids. They really have been."