The Valdosta Daily Times
The Lowndes football team has been approaching every region game this season as if the region championship was on the line.
Tonight, the Vikings will actually play for the Region 1-6A championship when they host the top-ranked Camden County Wildcats at Martin Stadium. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. and the game will be nationally televised on ESPNU.
“They have a fine team,” Lowndes head coach Randy McPherson said. “They’re obviously one of the better teams and we are looking forward to the challenge. We are going to have to play well.”
The Wildcats enter tonight’s game with an 8-0 record, averaging 301.5 yards rushing and 118 yards passing per game. Meanwhile, the Vikings are 9-0 and average 265 yards rushing and just 63 yards passing per game.
Camden County is loaded with talent on both sides of the ball, and it has shown this season. The Wildcats are averaging 46.1 points per game and are allowing just 4.6 points.
Only two teams — Beach and Coffee — have scored 12 points against the Wildcats this season. Coffee is the only team to hold the Wildcats to less than 40 points in a game.
“Any time you can strap up and play for a region title, it doesn’t get any better,” Lowndes quarterback Alex Stephenson said. “They’re physical and they get after it. They just know football.”
Lowndes and Camden County last met in the second round of the 2009 state playoffs, when the Wildcats beat the Vikings 10-7 en route to a second straight state championship.
Winning state championships has become a common theme among the two teams, who have combined for six of the last nine state championships in the Georgia High School Association's largest classification. Camden County won the state championship in 2003, ’08 and ’09, while Lowndes won the state title in 2004, ’05 and ’07.
In four of those six years where either Lowndes or Camden County won the state title, the teams faced off in the playoffs four times. Camden County beat Lowndes 21-14 in the second round of the ’03 playoffs, but the Vikings got revenge a year later when they routed the Wildcats 30-0 in the state semifinals. They also shut out the Wildcats, 10-0, in the 2007 state semifinals. Camden County won the latest meeting in 2009.
This season, Lowndes and Camden County can't meet in the playoffs unless both teams win their respective sides of the Class 6A playoff bracket and advance to the state championship game in mid-December.
Rather than meeting in the playoffs this year, the teams will meet for the first time as region rivals. The Wildcats joined Region 1 after reclassification moved them from a much-weaker Region 3, where they won a state-record 86 straight region games dating back to 2000, which is also the year of their last region loss. Now, Camden County, who has extended the region winning streak to 90 games, is looking to win the state’s toughest region in its first season as a member.
“Obviously, they are always going to be competitive,” said McPherson of Camden County joining the region. “Their coaches know our coaches and they have a first-class team. Everybody knows that them being with us brings a lot more excitement.”
Athlete J.J. Green leads the attack for Camden County. The University of Georgia commit is averaging 70.4 yards rushing and15.2 yards receiving. Defensively, Green has three interceptions this season, including two in a 43-6 rout of Valdosta earlier this season, both of which he returned for touchdowns.
Wildcat quarterback Brice Ramsey, another UGA commit, is ranked as the nation's 12th best quarterback. Through the first eight games this season, Ramsey has completed 53 percent of his passes (44 of 81) for 950 yards with 16 touchdowns. More importantly, Ramsey has thrown just one interception this season.
“The only statistic that matters to us is that ‘W’,” linebacker Tre’ Jackson said. “We don’t care about any offensive statistic or their defense. We don’t care about any of that. We are trying to stay focused on them and do the best we can to come out with a victory.”
Ramsey, Camden County's all-time leader in touchdown passes, also serves as the team’s kicker. He is averaging 43.5 yards per punt and has 43 touchbacks on 50 kickoffs this season.
Linebacker Jarrad Davis leads a dominant defensive attack that hasn’t allowed more than 12 points in a game this season.
The Auburn Tiger commit has a team-high 69 tackles this season, while junior Anthony Johnson leads the team with five sacks.
The availability of Lowndes’ All-State safety Tiquan Lang (ankle) and senior running back Nick Burgman (hamstring), both of whom were classified as day-to-day by McPherson earlier this week, is still unknown heading into tonight’s game.
“If they’re able to play, they’re going to play,” McPherson said. “But if they can’t go, they can’t go...But the good news, we are going to get them back at some time.”
Sophomore Ahman Brown will lead the offensive attack for the Vikings. Brown is second on the team, behind Burgman, with 440 yards rushing and eight rushing touchdowns this season. Senior Jordan Williams (330 yards, six touchdowns) and Tevin Brown (279 yards, three touchdowns) will also get carries tonight if Burgman and Lang are unable to play.
Defensively, the Viking defense got back on track last week against Tift County, following its fourth quarter near-collapse against Coffee two weeks ago. Lowndes’ defense held the Blue Devil offense to just 105 total yards of offense and was able sack Tift quarterbacks seven times.
This week, though, the Vikings were completely focused on the No. 1-ranked Wildcats.
“When we came out to practice this week, all we were looking for was to do our very best,” Jackson said. “We came out and tried to do our very best to get ready for (Camden County).”
Tonight’s game will be carried live on ESPNU. Mediacom customers can view the game on channel 178 and channel 828 in the HD format. ESPNU is also carried on Dish Network channel 141 and DirectTV channel 208.