Special to the Times
The Valwood Valiants are one step closer to repeating as GISA Class AA State Champions and will look to secure a spot in the title game when they face off against the Crusaders of Trinity Christian High School (Dublin, Ga.) on Friday.
The Valiants (11-0, 5-0 in region play) come into Friday’s semifinal contest following a 39-7 victory over the Gators of Gatewood High School (Eatonton, Ga.).
As with many games this season, the defending champions were able to capitalize on a strong performance from their defense.
Also playing a major role was senior kicker Carter Elliott and the Valiants’ special teams.
“It's always an advantage when the offense has to travel the length of the field and you pin them deep,” Head Coach Ashley Henderson said. “On the flip side of it, (Valiant junior) Garrett Lovell has done a great job as a punt returner for us. When you can get it up field the way he does, it's a weapon.”
Trinity Christian (8-4, 2-2 in region play) comes to Goddard Field on the heels of a 30-27 win over the Region 4-AA champion Flint River Academy Wildcats (Woodbury, Ga.).
The Crusaders are under direction of first-year head coach Sam Barrs.
While a change has been made at the helm, Coach Henderson knows that their opponent will be well-prepared, returning numerous talented players from last season.
“Coach Barrs has done a nice job with his guys, and they've bought in to what they're doing,” Coach Henderson said. “They're big, fast, and they play hard…I think that is a direct result of his leadership.”
In their last meeting, a 51-7 victory in the 2012 GISA quarterfinals, the Valiants were able to take advantage of a tremendous game on the ground.
The team managed 343 rushing yards, with then-sophomore Zane Edmondson accounting for two touchdowns.
“Last year’s score may have been a little misleading,” Coach Henderson said. “We hit them with a couple big plays and took advantage of some turnovers. If anything, last year's score will motivate them. Coach Barrs is a smart coach...He’ll have them ready.”
The winner of Friday’s game will clinch a spot in the Class AA championship game against either Milledge Academy (Milledgeville, Ga.) or Memorial Day Academy (Savannah, Ga.).
The title game is slated for Nov. 30 at Mercer University in Macon, Ga.
Friday’s kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at Goddard Field. Radio listeners can tune into the game on WJEM (The Jock) 1150 AM and 96.1 FM.