Valdosta Daily Times

November 2, 2012

Column: Friday night fever

Ed Hooper
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — OK, here we go! The wait is finally over. Tonight, high school football fans all around the United States will get to see this area’s most highly anticipated matchup of the season (yes, even more than Winnersville). Camden County plays Lowndes in Martin Stadium for the region championship.

Both teams are undefeated, both are ranked in the top four of the state and both are looking to make a statement heading into the playoffs in a few weeks. Not sure if this could have played out any better.

Before I dive into the Camden-Lowndes game, let me remind you that the Valwood Valiants are trying to secure an outright region championship tonight, while teams like Valdosta, Clinch County and Cook are all looking to improve their playoff positioning.

In the weekly pick ’em standings, Christian and I were both 5-1 last week (I want on the record that I had Valdosta beating Colquitt County). Christian leads the overall standings by one game; he is 42-11, while I am 41-12. Make sure to follow us on Twitter at @VDTsports and @Ed_Hooper.

No. 1 Camden County at No. 4 Lowndes

This is the mecca of high school football games this season, and the entire country will get to watch live on ESPNU. Let’s get this thing started already!

Obviously this game is intriguing on many levels. Camden and Lowndes are two of the clear powers in high school football in the state of Georgia. The two schools have combined for six of the last nine state titles in Class 5A, and both are vying for the chance to win the first-ever 6A championship.

But to me, the most interesting thing about this game is the matchup itself. Camden County is the big, strong, high-profile team with a ton of Division I commitments, while Lowndes is the small, young, talented team that has no superstars but just finds ways to win the close games and dominate the games they are supposed to.

I’ve been impressed with both teams this season.

When the season began, everyone knew that Camden was going to be a legitimate contender for the championship. I wasn’t as sold on Lowndes. In fact, I really didn’t buy into how good the Vikings were until their win over Colquitt County five weeks into the season. The first four games of the year (two that I missed because of travel for Valdosta State) just didn’t prove anything.

I tweeted earlier this week that I thought Camden County was, statistically, the greatest high school football team ever. The Wildcats are scoring over 46 points a game and allowing just over four. Those are the kind of numbers you get by playing video games, if you’re lucky.

Obviously, Camden County has a lot of talent and is very well coached (you don’t win 90 straight region games without good coaching and some very good athletes).

Tonight, I think, will prove to be the toughest test of the season for Camden County. I think the Wildcats are the better football team, I really do. But Lowndes’ Randy McPherson has a way of motivating his football team for big games, and I don’t see the Vikings being blown out tonight. There is too much on the line and too many eyes on this game.

If there is anything that worries me about Lowndes, it is the health of All-State safety Tiquan Lang and running back Nick Burgman. I don’t see either of those two players stepping onto the field tonight, although McPherson has them listed as day-to-day. The amount of rest time they will get by not playing tonight will be valuable for Lowndes moving towards the playoffs.

I hope the Vikings win tonight, just like I hope all of our local area teams win every Friday night. Winning teams sell more papers than losing teams, and they are much more fun to write about.

I’m just not sure, without Lang and Burgman being at full-strength, if the Vikings can beat this Camden County team, which someone told me “was the greatest team I’ve ever seen,” following the rout of Valdosta.

Ed: Camden County wins 28-20

Christian: Camden might be the best high school football team I’ve ever seen, too. Lowndes will put up a good fight tonight, but Camden has no weaknesses, and in the end, the Wildcats will just be too good. Camden wins 24-7.

Valdosta at Brunswick

When Valdosta lost to Lowndes earlier this season, I wrote a column where I said the Wildcats were the best 3-3 team in the state. Now the Wildcats are 5-3 and right back in the thick of a very congested playoff race in Region 1-6A.

Like last week, the Wildcats cannot afford a loss, as that might open the door for Coffee and Colquitt County to secure playoff berths.

A win tonight and the Wildcats would be one of the top four teams in the region heading into next week’s game at Coffee. They would be joined in the top four by Camden County, Lowndes and the winner of the Coffee-Colquitt County game.

That would set up a very interesting slate of games next week, which features Colquitt County hosting Camden County and Coffee hosting Valdosta. There are a lot of different scenarios, but I’d rather hold off on those until we have some more clarity after tonight’s games.

Regardless, the Wildcats can’t worry about next week, and just need to worry about winning tonight and strengthening their playoff position. I imagine Valdosta is going to be very motivated to come back on the field after that fourth quarter from last week, which saw Colquitt County put the look of death into nearly every Valdosta fan.

Rance Gillespie will have the Wildcats ready to go tonight. I’ve seen Brunswick in person; the Pirates aren’t very good.

Ed: Valdosta wins 40-10

Christian: Valdosta wins 38-7

Valwood at Southwest Georgia

I said at the beginning of the season that Valwood wouldn’t lose a game this season, and would go 13-0 and win the state championship. I stand by what I said earlier this season.

The Valiants are too good, too motivated and too talented to lose a game, especially one that decides whether they win the outright region championship or split it three ways with Southwest Georgia and Westwood.

Valwood has lost six straight games to the Warriors, but I expect that losing streak to come to an end tonight. Maybe a big night for guys like Khary Paige and Rashad Mathis.

Ed: Valwood wins 33-14

Christian: Valwood wins 28-10

Lanier County at Clinch County

Clinch County is clinging to its postseason life. Sixteen public schools qualify for the Class A public state playoffs, and the Panthers are currently No. 16.

A win tonight over the struggling Bulldogs will help earn Clinch County some much-needed points, and should help move the Panthers up to No. 14 or so heading into a must-win game against Turner County, currently No. 17 in the rankings, next week.

Clinch County has struggled at times this season, and hasn’t had the best of showings the past few weeks. I expect head coach Jim Dickerson to get the Panthers back on track tonight against the Bulldogs, who are 0-14 all-time against Clinch County.

Ed: Clinch County wins 35-17

Christian: Clinch County wins 28-10

Berrien at Cook

Ed: Cook wins 38-14

Christian: Cook wins 45-7

Upset picks:

Ed: Coffee over Colquitt County

Christian: Tucker over M.L. King