Valdosta Daily Times

Local Sports

November 7, 2011

Vikings prep for Jaguars

VALDOSTA — If a bye week heading into the playoffs wasn’t enough time for the Lowndes Vikings to prepare for the upcoming grind of making a run towards a state championship, maybe an extra day will do.

The Vikings (7-3) are set to meet the Stephenson Jaguars on Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. in the first round of the Class AAAAA state playoffs.

The game is scheduled for Saturday night as Stephenson and M.L King share a home stadium (Hallford Stadium). M.L. King claimed the No. 1seed out of region 2-AAAAA, giving them the option to play on Friday night, thus forcing Stephenson to play on Saturday night.

As for how the Vikings spent last week’s bye, they were hard at work, practicing four times before taking Friday night off.

“We had a good off week, great day (on Monday), and I think our kids are still wanting to show what they have,” Lowndes head coach Randy McPherson said. “We had a really good (bye) week, just a little softer than usual.”

Some Lowndes players spent the off night taking in the region 1-AAAAA championship game between Valdosta and Colquitt County at Bazemore-Hyder Stadium, while the Lowndes’ coaching staff scouted the M.L. King-Stephenson game, along with the East Coweta-Newnan game, as it was unclear on which team the Vikings were going to face heading into last Friday night.

“We scouted the M.L. King game, but I didn’t go up there,”  McPherson said. “We sent people to both games, but we didn’t really know who we were playing.”

In the M.L. King-Stephenson matchup, the Jaguars led early, jumping out to a 35-7 lead. Their lead quickly vanished, and in the end, an 82-yard kickoff return with 16 seconds left doomed the Jaguars, costing them an undefeated regular season and the region title.

Saturday night’s meeting between the Vikings and Jaguars will mark the third time the two schools have met, but the first meeting since 2005. The Vikings have claimed victories in both meetings (14-0 in 2005 and 43-7 in 2004), which came in the playoffs. The Vikings later won state championships in those seasons.

Although no players on either team were on the teams back in ‘04 and ‘05, the head coaches remain the same, and McPherson said he sees similarities between the teams.

“The teams look a lot a like,” McPherson said. “This year, they have a lot of (Division I) players and they are going to be tough.”

Lowndes journey to Clarkson will mark the second time this season they will play in the Atlanta area, as they opened the season at South Gwinnett.

“I think we are ready to go,” McPherson said.

The Vikings travel to the Atlanta area might not be over if they get by Stephenon on Saturday night. The Vikings are slated to play undefeated Grayson (pending the Rams get through Collins Hill), the following week. The Vikings could travel to Hillgrove in Cobb County the following week, if both teams are still standing.

The postseason travel to the Atlanta area is similar to the 1999 season for the Vikings. In that year, Lowndes traveled North in every round of the playoffs until the state championship game, which they hosted at Martin Stadium and won.

In their most recent playoff trip to the metro Atlanta area, the Vikings fell to Grayson in 2008. The Vikings managed just seven points in a game that was surrounded by controversy.

While Lowndes has one major Division I prospect, Josh Harvey-Clemons, who is listed as the No. 2 outside linebacker in the nation by ESPNU, Stephenson fields 17 Division I prospects this season, many of whom have already committed to schools likes Florida, Kentucky and Miami.

“I think if you are any kind of competitor you have to be excited about playing against 17 Division I players,” McPherson said. “(Our players) have been talking about it all day.”

Despite producing top Division I caliber players, the Jaguars have failed to produce a state championship under head coach Ron Gartrell.

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