The Valdosta Daily Times
A week after manhandling its first-round opponent in Sharpsburg, the Lowndes Vikings find themselves on the road to North Georgia again. This time to square off against the Lovejoy Wildcats.
Coming off a bye week, Lowndes dominated East Coweta 38-10 in the first-round playoff game last week, simply running the ball down the throats of their opponent and controlling the game from the beginning.
The Vikings rolled up 238 yards on the ground at a 4.6 yard clip while the defense smothered the Indians, especially in the trenches.
Through the first half, Lowndes owned a 175 to 79 yardage advantage and a 23-3 advantage on the scoreboard.
Lowndes figures to have the same game plan this week, albeit against a much tougher opponent (Lovejoy has appeared in the state championship game the last two seasons). The Vikings know their best chance of a win comes from winning the battle upfront on both sides of the ball.
If the Vikings offensive and defensive line can come close to replicating their performance of a week ago, Lowndes has to like their chances of pulling out a win.
Lovejoy’s first round victory did not come as easily.
The Wildcats were locked in a tight battle with upset-minded Marietta for most of the night — Lowndes fans surely remember the Blue Devils from their first round upset of the Vikings a year ago at Martin Stadium.
Marietta held the lead over Lovejoy at Twelve Oaks Stadium with time ticking down to what seemed like another signature upset, but quarterback Quintarius Neely’s 47-yard pass to Preston Williams on the final play of the game lifted the Wildcats to a 27-23 victory.
Williams, a Tennessee recruit, had a standout game, catching seven balls for 275 yards and all four Wildcat touchdowns of the evening to bring his season total to 50 receptions for 1,235 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Needless to say, how much Eric Hart, Brandon Roberts and the rest of the Vikings secondary can limit the damage Williams does will be vital to Lowndes’ chances.
Another great match-up to watch will be the battle in the trenches as both the Vikings and Wildcats both have tremendous talent along both lines.
Georgia recruit Dyshon Sims, Cole Rigdon, and company will have their hands full with Lovejoy’s Dalien “Mount” Walker and the outstanding linebackers DeMarquis Gates and Randy Anyanwu.
On the other side of the ball, Lovejoy returned four senior starting offensive linemen this year which gives them a mighty boost up front, but Lowndes counters with an exceptionally talented front-seven featuring linebackers Tre Jackson and Brian Bell and defensive linemen Zack Copeland and A.J. Harper.
Jackson and Copeland have been the key cogs to the Vikings defense all year and Harper is coming off his best game of the season in which he had three tackles for losses, forced two fumbles and returned a third fumble (forced by Jackson) 13 yards for a touchdown.
Lowndes and Lovejoy have met three times in the playoffs before tonight, with the Vikings coming out on top in 1999 and 2001 and the Wildcats winning in 2002.
An interesting stat about these two programs and their current legendary coaches is that the first playoff game that Lovejoy coach Al Hughes lost came in that 2001 loss to Lowndes, and the first playoff game that Lowndes coach Randy McPherson lost came against Lovejoy in 2002.
Lovejoy's 43-3 victory in 2002 remains the most lopsided loss of McPherson's Lowndes career.
Getting a win tonight will be a tough task, as no team has been able to defeat Lovejoy in the last nine attempts. The Wildcats' only loss of the season came at the hands of the Colquitt County Packers, 17-14, in the second week of the season.
Kick-off is set for 7:30 p.m. today at Twelve Oaks Stadium. Viking fans can listen to a live feed of the game on 99.5 FM.