The Valdosta Daily Times
The countdown to a possible state championship for the Valwood Valiants gets smaller and smaller each week.
This week the countdown is at three, as in three games remaining until a 14-0 undefeated state championship season for Valdosta’s only remaining undefeated football team.
But first, before the Valiants can hoist the championship trophy, they must get by the tough Trinity Christian Crusaders tonight at Goddard Field.
The Crusaders are out Dublin and visit the Valiants in the second round of the GISA Class AA state playoffs following a 30-8 win over Dominion Christian last week. Valwood blanked Central Fellowship 41-0 in its first round matchup last week.
“All you can do is prepare as best as you know how — work hard Monday through Thursday and go out there Friday and let the chips fall where they may,” Valwood head coach Ashley Henderson said. “Our kids are definitely excited about this game and that is what it boils down to.”
Trinity Christian runs a wing-T offense, much like the other opponents the Valiants have been able to limit this season. The difference between the Crusaders and those other teams is their ability to pass the football.
“They are wing-T all the way but this bunch throws it and they are good pretty good at it, too,” Henderson said. “They will hurt you with it and they will take some chances down the field. They have some athletes over there that we are going to have to keep our eyes on or they’ll make some plays.”
A primarily run-based team last year, Valwood has also started to incorporate the pass into its offense this season. The Valiants have excelled at it, too. Last week against Central Fellowship, senior Tyler Williams, who has split time with fellow senior Jake Lastinger for much of the season, threw three touchdown passes and completed five of his six passes for 148 yards. He also ran for a touchdown in the win.
While Lastinger has been the starter this season, Williams has rotated in on a series-by-series basis. Tonight, the duo will rotate series.
“One (quarterback) is 1A and one is 1B,” Henderson said. “I think they are both starters. Whatever it is, it works. Tyler is used to coming in on the second series, so I don’t want to put him into something he hasn’t faced.”
Tonight’s winner will advance to the state semifinals and will face the winner of the Memorial Day versus John Milledge Academy matchup. If Valwood and John Milledge Academy both win, the Valiants will play in Milledgeville next Friday night. If the Valiants win and play Memorial Day, they’ll host the semifinal matchup.
Valwood would host the championship game Dec. 7 at Goddard Field with a win in the semifinal.
The last time Valwood was lucky enough to play for a state championship was 2006. The Valiants lost that championship game 56-7. They lost to Trinity Christian.
“Coach (Brett) Martin told me about that,” Henderson said.
“It was up there and they have a cannon they shoot off after every score — like Tifton. He said he thinks they are still shooting it off because they scored so much that game.”
Valwood is 0-4 all-time against the Crusaders and Henderson thinks tonight will be a battle between two football crazed regions of the state.
“They play good football up there in Dublin. That area is a tough football area,” Henderson said. “They are tough kids, kind of like what I think South Georgia is like. We are going to put our pride on the line.”
Valwood football can be heard all season long on The Jock 1150 AM, 96.1 FM.