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May 23, 2013

Gillespie, McPherson pleased with spring practices

VALDOSTA — Valdosta’s Rance Gillespie and Lowndes’ Randy McPherson both think their football teams got better during the recent 10 days of spring practice.

Then again, both coaches know their teams have a ways to go before the start of the football season.

“I think it was a successful 10 days,” Gillespie said. “I thought our football team came a long way in a lot of different areas. We were able to give a lot of kids a lot of looks. I think we have a good feel for where we are at. Now, with all of that being said, the other thing is it showed us that we are not there yet. We still have a ways to go.”

Lowndes’ spring practice came to an end last Thursday, with the Vikings’ playing their spring game at Martin Stadium. Valdosta closed its spring practice last Saturday, with the playing of its spring game inside Bazemore-Hyder Stadium.

“We had a really good spring — really good,” McPherson said. “Nobody got hurt. The leaders were everything that we wanted. (Tre’) Jackson on defense, with (Nathan) Brantley, (Zack) Copeland, (Brandon) Bell, (Eric) Hart, (Brandon) Roberts, that side of the ball is ahead of the offense. But that isn’t a bad thing.”

The same could be said for Valdosta, which returns nine of 11 starters on defense from last year’s team, but is looking to build a brand new offensive line and replace a quarterback

on offense.

With 10 days of practice underneath their belt in the spring, Gillespie said he noticed an improvement in his team, especially with the talented defense.

“The two kids inside on defense had really solid springs,” Gillespie said. “I though the linebackers had solid springs. The secondary is so much better than last year and of course it is the same kids....We made strides there as well.”

Offensively, both teams are looking for starting quarterbacks this season, while both have dominating, talented options at running back.

“Offensively, the two backs (Nelson Herring and Malcolm Joseph) are just special players,” Gillespie said. “I think we have got a handful of kids that can play up front for us and we have a couple of guys that can take snaps for us.”

Valdosta played three quarterbacks in its spring game, but Gillespie said that he hopes to narrow his QB selection down to two by the start of the season.

“That would be tough to get three in there, but I would think there could be a high probably to see two,” Gillespie said.

 “From a rep standpoint, I would like to cut it to less than three.”

Lowndes has multiple options at quarterback, including the son of defensive coordinator Taz Dixon, Austin Dixon, who is expected to compete against Parker Bonner for the starting job.

While Valdosta’s spring game featured the varsity playing at one time, Lowndes’ game featured the freshman and varsity rotating every eight plays, with the offensive unit having eight plays to score from the 40-yard line going out.

“We got some kids that we are going to use on both sides of the ball and we switched them around,” McPherson said. “We worked on our kicking game before the scrimmage.”

Both the Vikings and Wildcats will begin their offseason programs next Tuesday. Both teams will work four days a week, in the morning hours, this summer. Summer camp officially begins in late July.

Neither team has plans to participate in shoulder pad approved camps over the summer, a new rule change approved by the Georgia High School Association earlier this year.

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