James A. Washington
The Valdosta Daily Times
The Valwood Valiants (10-0, 5-0 in region play) are one step closer to repeating as GISA Class AA State Champions, and they look to continue on that road today against the Gators of Gatewood High School in Eatonton.
“Gatewood has a fine football team,” Valwood Head Coach Ashley Henderson said. “(Gators’ Head Coach Jeff Ratliff) makes sure his kids play from whistle to whistle.”
The Valiants, currently in the midst of a 24-game winning streak, come into their matchup with the Gators following a dominating 46-7 victory over the Knights of Community Christian High School, Stockbridge, in the opening round of the playoffs.
Gatewood (7-4, 4-1 in region play) comes into Friday’s game after winning the opening-round battle over the Brentwood High School War Eagles by a score of 14-7.
“Being in the playoffs, everyone from here on out is a quality football team,” Henderson said. “But Gatewood is a completely different offense than Community Christian. Coach Ratliff is a great coach and he has his guys clicking on all cylinders right now.”
Relying heavily on the I formation and possessing a strong run game, the Gators averaged just less than 28 points per game during their 10 games of the regular season.
“Gatewood's a physical football team,” Henderson said. “They are athletic enough to spread the field and make you defend every inch of it.”
While every football team presents their own unique challenges, the Valiants don’t let these new tests deter them in any way.
Henderson stresses the importance in repetition and concentration in every practice.
“Our guys have bought into how we prepare,” Henderson said. “We've put a bunch of good practices together.The leaders on this football team have total zoom focus.”
Fans can expect a tremendous battle in this second-round encounter. The Gators are a strong defensive team, allowing only 17 points per game during the regular season.
“We are expecting a dogfight Friday night,” Henderson said. “We have to be at our best.”
Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. today at Goddard Field. Radio listeners can tune into the game on WJEM (The Jock) 1150 AM and 96.1 FM.