The Valdosta Daily Times
Valwood’s Ashley Henderson told his team they are through phase 1 of the season, and on to phase 2.
The Valwood head coach’s comments are in reference to the Valiants completing their five non-region football games of the year and preparing to open region play tonight against the Sherwood Christian Eagles at Goddard Field.
“We are through phase 1 of the season, and we are into phase 2,” Henderson said. “And we are working on our placement into the playoffs. We are trying to get a No. 1 seed.”
Sherwood Christian is 3-3 this season after losing to Deerfield-Windsor 42-9 last week. Deerfield-Windsor is 5-1 this season and is one of the top-ranked teams in Class AAA. Despite the .500 record, Henderson said the Eagles have plenty of talent on the roster, which is filled with a deep group of seniors.
“They are talented,” Henderson said. “Coach (Otis) Covington coached at Fort Valley (State University), and he has brought a wide-open spread and shoot offense.”
“We have our work cut out for us this week,” Henderson continued. “These kids work hard, and they have some talent, too. They are battle tested, too. They have been in tough games, so this won’t be their first rodeo.”
Defensively, the Eagles feature eight seniors, which will line up against Valwood’s senior-laden offensive unit, led by Khary Paige, Rashad Mathis and offensive lineman Aulden Bynum.
“We had a really tough non-region schedule, and region doesn’t get any easier,” Henderson said. “We have five region games in a row.”
Last week, the Valiants faced their toughest challenge of the season when they edged out Mount de Sales, 17-14. In the game, the Valiants turned the ball over five times (three fumbles and two interceptions), and committed a season-high in penalties.
“Give Mount de Sales credit, they are a good football team,” Henderson said. “Their record doesn’t indicate how good they are. We put the ball on the ground and threw two picks. We had a bunch of yards on them — we had almost 500 yards of offense — but five turnovers will negate that. We were fortunate to win.”
A major reason for the turnovers was the heavy rain in Macon. Henderson said the field was soaked with rain, and he even described the playing surface as “swampy.”
“The ball was wet, it was rainy and the field was swampy,” Henderson said. “A couple of times they just stripped us, one time we ran into the back of one of our guys and fumbled and another time they put a helmet on the ball.
“When you make a lot of little mistakes, they build up. We have made a conscious effort to emphasize ball security this week in practice. Our running backs are running with the ball everywhere they go. We have gotten back to the little things and the fundamentals of carrying the ball through traffic.”
While the offense struggled holding on to the football in the driving rain storm, Henderson said he was pleased with the way his defense shut down the Cavalier offense.
“Our defense stood with the pack,” he said. “That team has been scoring 28 points a game, and we held them to 14. They have some good players, they have one guy committed to Middle Tennessee State, and they have a bunch of numbers. We were battling sloppy field conditions and overcoming turnovers and penalties.”
Tonight’s game will also act as Homecoming for Valwood.
Valwood football will only be carried on The Jock 1150 AM tonight, because the Atlanta Braves’ wild card playoff game against the St. Louis Cardinals will be aired on 96.1 FM.