Samuel D. Logan
The Valdosta Daily Times
With a very defensive scrimmage against Ware County out of the way, the Valdosta Wildcats have turned their eyes towards Aug. 30 when the team will face the feisty Thomas County Central Yellow Jackets.
With the defense showing promise, the Wildcats started practices this week focusing on a couple of key things, both offensively and defensively, before the game Friday.
“We are still trying to get better ourselves. Of course, we are preparing for the different looks we will be receiving, but we are working on fixing, improving offensively and defensively from a Valdosta standpoint,” said Wildcat Head Coach Rance Gillespie.
As far as the offensive line goes, the Wildcats have found the five starters for the season and have been working hard to progress these players as much as possible. After suffering a lackluster running attack during their Ware County scrimmage, the Wildcats focused heavily on the run game, and more importantly, blocking specifically.
The Yellow Jackets have two strong linebackers in Jarell Jones and Austin Bryant, which makes it essential for the Wildcats to improve on making holes for their double running back tandem Malcolm Joseph and Nelson Herring to gain yards.
“We hope to block better on Friday night,” said Gillespie.
As for the Wildcats quarterback situation, Gillespie was mum on naming a starter at this time. The Wildcats will continue to work with senior Mac Loudermilk and Craig Berry as choices at quarterback, presumably switching the quarterbacks out as the game goes along. At practice Monday, Loudermilk primarily worked on plays with his running backs and the offensive line to practice blocking and shifts.
“We’re getting closer everyday, but as far as me naming a starer, that might not come until later into the season. Just going to see how it plays out,” said Coach Gillespie.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Wildcats have been working to prepare for the option offense that Thomas County Central runs.
“They have a good football team and have been giving us some different things to prepare for, like the option,” said the coach.
The defense will have a task this week stopping the triple option offense of the Yellow Jackets, which includes their quarterback Adam Choice and running backs Deondre Cooksey and Shaquille Coleman. Choice is a speedy quarterback who will make sure the linebackers of Valdosta stay on their A game Friday.
“Anytime you face the option, it's a totally different animal. We have to prepare to play disciplined football,” said Gillespie.
Discipline is exactly what the Wildcats have to bring going against a quarterback who has rushed for double the yards he has passed for during the last two seasons.
The defense will have to make sure it knows all of its assignments and it cannot miss open tackles once the game kicks off Friday.
One thing is for certain, the Wildcats will continue to practice hard this week, in hopes of starting off the season 1-0.
The Wildcats kickoff the season, 8 p.m. Friday, Aug. 30, Cleveland Field at Bazemore-Hyder Stadium.