Valdosta Daily Times

Local Sports

November 30, 2012

For the state championship

Valwood hosts Westwood for GISA Class AA state title

VALDOSTA — It all comes down to one final game for the Valwood Valiants. Tonight, the undefeated Valiants will host the Westwood Wildcats in the GISA Class AA State Championship Game at Goddard Field. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.

“(Our players) know me well enough now to know that we are not going to change any kind of preparation,” Valwood head coach Ashley Henderson said. “This is a bigger game than last week, but we are not going to practice any harder and I don’t think we can practice any faster.

“But there has been a little extra sense of focus around here this week. We have had our three best days of practice we’ve had all year. We have been real crisp and we have had seniors going up to scout team guys and telling them to ‘bring it.’”

Valwood and Westwood met Oct. 19 in Valdosta. After a close first half, the Valiants pulled away and cruised to a 48-18 win over the Wildcats.

In the win, the Valiants led 13-6 at the half before adding two third quarter touchdowns to take a 27-12 lead into the final quarter.

“We have definitely not forgotten that, and we are practicing like that,” said Henderson, when asked about how close the game was in the first half. “We are not taking anything for granted.”

In the fourth quarter, running back Marik Merine scored three rushing touchdowns to ice the game for the Valiants.

“They are a good team,” Valwood offensive lineman Aulden Bynum said. “They had a chance to almost go up heading into halftime. It was a good game. I just think they wore down late, which I doubt will happen this time since I know they are conditioning for this game. They are coming into this game mad, so it is going to be a good one.”

Added quarterback Jake Lastinger, who completed 9 of 10 passes against the Wildcats earlier this season: “People that talk to me, they seem to forget it was close the whole first half. And then we came out in the second half, and I’m not sure if it was our depth or what, but we really wore them down in the second half. They are a great team and we are definitely not looking past them.”  

Valwood beat John Milledge Academy in the state semifinals last weekend in Milledgeville. In the win, the Valiants blew a double-digit third quarter lead and needed a game-winning touchdown run by senior Khary Paige and a defensive stop inside their own 20-yard line late in the fourth quarter to secure the win.

“Going into that game, this entire football season, we had only been behind one other time, so when we huddled the guys up, I told them, ‘What an opportunity, because I had been wondering what would happen if they got behind,’” Henderson said. “And there was no panic in those guys. They accepted the challenge and they went and did it. That is what was so great.”

In its first season as a Class AA member school, Westwood entered the playoffs as the No. 2 seed from Region 3. In the playoffs, the Wildcats beat Briarwood Academy 35-0 in the first round, Edmund Burke 35-20 in the second round and Brentwood 40-28 in the state semifinals last week.

“It will open your eyes. The kids understand what it is all about,” Henderson said. “Since we have played them, they haven’t played in a close game since then. They’ve beaten everybody pretty handily and they are playing pretty good football.”

Westwood’s appearance in the state championship game marks the third straight season the Wildcats have played for the state championship. The Wildcats won the two previous GISA Class A state championships and haven’t lost in the playoffs since a 28-24 loss to Thomas Jefferson in 2009.

“This is the biggest challenge of the season because it isn’t just a team you’ve beat, it is a team that knows how to play in the playoffs,” Henderson said. “They’ve been in the state championship three straight years, there has to be a lot to say about that.”

Tonight’s game can be heard live on The Jock 1150 AM, 96.1 FM. Live updates will be available on Twitter at @Ed_Hooper.

Gameday information: Tickets for tonight’s game will be on sale at the gate, although tickets are also on sale through the school to help avoid congestion at the ticket gate. Due to an expected large crowd, Valwood has brought in extra bleachers to help accommodate fans, although not all fans will be guaranteed seating. Lawn chairs will be permitted tonight. Due to the large amount of expected traffic, shuttle service will be available from various points in the parking lot.

1
Text Only
Local Sports
  • Former Blazer Kugbila out for season

    Now, after missing the 2013 season with a knee injury, this signals another hardship for the promising guard.

    July 25, 2014

  • LHS baseball signing Two Lowndes grads sign scholarships

    Lowndes graduates Henry Hoff and Nick Higginbotham decided to take the next step in their respective baseball careers together on Thursday as both signed a letter-of-intent with Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in Tifton.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • 150723-Lowndes_Brooks5.jpg Winding Down

    In its final 7-on-7 test of the summer, Randy McPherson was pleased with how the Lowndes football team looked Wednesday morning.
    Brooks County coach Maurice Freeman, on the other hand, was worried about the kind of hole the Trojans would have dug for themselves at Martin Stadium against the Vikings and Lafayette (Fla.) had it been a real game.

    July 24, 2014 3 Photos

  • Grable signs with Tampa Bay

    Another former Valdosta State football player joined the ranks of the National Football League when linebacker Jeremy Grable signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Wednesday morning.

    July 23, 2014

  • MaryAlice.jpg Just Keep Running

    Forrest Gump once said, "I used to run to get to where I was going, but I never thought it would take me anywhere." In the case of 18 year-old Mary Alice Smoot, anywhere is Tampa, Fla.
    After four years of unparalleled success running cross-country at Valwood, Smoot will continue running competitively next season at the University of Tampa.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • 10U ELITE World Series Champs.jpg DKSA Elite win USSSA Global World Series

    DKSA ELITE just continues to win, the 10U team’s latest victory came in the USSSA Global World Series held in Destin, Fla. July 8-12.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Lowndes_McPherson.jpg Milestones on tap for upcoming season

    Some milestones are destined to occur, like when Georgia Christian hosts David Emanuel on Aug. 22 in the Generals’ first varsity football game since the late 1960s.
    Others will have to wait and see what continues to take shape come Friday when teams can begin fall practice, and especially Aug. 1 when teams can suit up in pads for the first time, such as can Valdosta win its record 24th state title, or can Lowndes capture its fourth state championship under Randy McPherson, or can Valwood and coach Ashley Henderson play in its third straight GISA state championship game?
    As we start to find out the answers to those questions in just a few short weeks — the regular season is just 31 days away — there should be a few more milestones for area coaches to mark 2014 right along with the Generals getting back on the gridiron.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • ACC_Jimbo.jpg Back on top

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • ACC_Petrino.jpg Petrino returns to Louisville for first ACC season

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Braves_Marlins JUpton.jpg Jones lifts Marlins past Braves in 10

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

Blazers Blog
More