Valdosta Daily Times

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December 26, 2013

Looking back at Lowndes

A recap of the Vikings' 2013 season

VALDOSTA — A quarterfinals appearance and a loss to the reigning and eventual back-to-back AAAAAA champions, the Norcross Blue Devils, abruptly ended one of the oddest seasons of Lowndes football in its twelve years under Head Coach Randy McPherson.

The Vikings' season had all the ups-and-downs of a roller coaster as Lowndes alternated frustrating losses with fantastic team football.

The trend began in Lowndes' second game of the season against the Newton Rams. Coming off a 42-2 blowout of Luella in the opener against a team the Vikings handled easily a year ago — to the tune of 31-0 — almost no one would have expected the 15-14 upset Newton was able to pull off. Max Preps' Georgia High School Football Daily ranked it as the top surprise of the 2013 season.

Despite the loss, Lowndes showed the resiliency they would display all season by taking care of business against the next underdog, Windsor Forest, the very next week. Not only did the Vikings take care of business, they did it in historic fashion, scoring a school record 87 points while pitching a shutout of the Knights at Martin Stadium.

Lowndes outgunned Windsor Forest 432 to 24 in one of the most impressive total team performances of any team this year.

However, after shutting out another AAAAA opponent the following week — the Hardaway Hawks, 63-0 — the Vikings hit another valley in their season, a 37-7 home-loss to the Colquitt Packers.

The team hit its lowest point of the season the following Monday when three players would leave a Vikings practice, and ultimately, the program.

The team's leading rusher, a senior offensive lineman, and junior defensive back walked off of the team, but instead of crumbling, the Vikings rallied and put together a tremendous stretch of football.

Lowndes bounced back and beat Brunswick in a 38-30 shootout on the road thanks to a game-clinching pick-six by playmaker Eric Hart; Hart returned three of his five interceptions for a score.

The Vikings kept picking up steam with another close victory the following week, albeit in extremely different fashion. Lowndes followed up a 38-30 contest with a win in a 3-0 slugfest against archival Valdosta in the 45-year anniversary of the Winnersville Classic.

Zack Copeland, Alex Brown, and Tre Jackson led an all-time defensive effort from the Vikings. Copeland's nine tackles, four for a loss, earned him MVP honors as he provided the quote that would perfectly summarize Lowndes' mindset to close out the season.

"I just had to think 'be an animal'," said Copeland. "Just be an animal and be in on every play. I just prayed before the game and thought about being an animal the rest of the game."

Not only did the Vikings play like animals that game, but the play carried on throughout the month of October as Lowndes would rack up wins against Coffee and Tift Co. in the midsts of a four-game winning streak.

Lowndes would stumble once more before the opening round of the playoffs, losing to the back-to-back 1-AAAAAA champion Camden County Wildcats. A three-and-out sandwiched between two special teams doomed the Vikings to an early 21-0 deficit they could not recover from in the 28-7 loss.

Yet again, the team would pick itself off the mat and respond to a tough loss, this time going on the road and dominating East Coweta in the first-round of the AAAAAA playoffs, 38-10.

Lowndes would continue their impressive postseason run through North Georgia by handling Lovejoy, 23-18.

The offensive line was the key in the postseason run as the Vikings averaged 273 yards on the ground at 5.25 per carry.

On the third trip to Atlanta, things wouldn't go as smoothly; Lowndes ran into the buzzsaw that is the Norcross Blue Devils.

The reigning champions, led by the number one college prospect in Georgia, Lorenzo Carter, held the Vikings to just 120 yards and forced five turnovers en route to a 28-7 victory and their second consecutive AAAAAA championship two weeks later in the Georgia Dome.

Nine wins. Just like 2012, yet much more satisfying.

Despite winning nine games a season ago, Lowndes found themselves out of the playoffs after an upset by Marietta. This season, the Vikings showed that they can go on the road and win important games, a lesson that surely won't be forgotten come next fall.

Lowndes has the talent in-waiting to reload and make another playoff run next season.

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