Samuel D. Logan
The Valdosta Daily Times
Nineteen senior Wildcat football players were honored Friday night, as the ‘Cats held their senior night. The Wildcats ended their regular season however with a loss, falling to their fourth region foe of the season, the Coffee High Trojans (38-17).
With the loss, the ‘Cats move to 6-4 on the season and will prepare to travel to Fairburn Friday, Nov. 15, to take on Langston Hughes of Fairburn.
Plagued by turnovers, the Wildcats were unable to correct mistakes throughout the game, losing the ball five times to the Trojans. The Wildcat defense gave up 431 yards of offense to the Trojans in the form of rushing and passing plays.
“At times we did some things OK. We turned the ball over too much and you can’t do that in games like this,” said Wildcats Head Coach Rance Gillespie. “Not to take anything from Coffee, but our football team was not ready to play. We have to play a whole lot better than we played tonight. We have battled and fought all year long, and we let ourselves down tonight.”
The ‘Cats received the ball first, and scored on a four-play drive covering 70 yards. The first play of the game was a draw play for senior running back Malcolm Joseph who took the ball for a quick 30-yard gain. After a short run by Joseph, sophomore quarterback Seth Shuman found freshman tight end Khalil McClain for a first down, moving the Wildcats into the redzone. On the next play, the Wildcats' other senior running back, Nelson Herring, took the ball into the endzone on a flashy nine-yard touchdown run, making the score 7-0.
Herring ran for 46 yards and Joseph added 140 yards, bringing the total rushing yards of the ‘Cats to 248 combined, including a few rushes by quarterback Mac Loudermilk. The Wildcats accumulated 590 total yards, with 226 coming on a comination of kick returns and punt returns.
The Trojans struck back quickly, scoring on a short touchdown pass by Tyree Paulk, making the game tied at 7-7. The Wildcat defense made some nice plays on defense during the drive, including two big tackles by junior linebacker Terrell Roundtree and a tackle for loss by sophomore Todd Bradley.
On the ‘Cats next drive, the offense continued to click, effectively running the football with Herring to gain a first down. Senior receiver Alex Cason, a commit to Marshall, caught a crucial first down pass to move the chains. However, the drill stalled, forcing the ‘Cats to kick a field goal, making the score VHS 10 to CHS 7.
Coffee continued to fight back, scoring on the next drive with another Paulk touchdown throw, making the score CHS 14, VHS 10.
The Wildcats kept fighting on offense, with Shuman completing a pass to ex-starting quarterback and current starting punter for the ‘Cats, Mac Loudermilk for a big 20-yard gain. Shuman capped the drive off throwing an electric touchdown pass to Cason in the endzone, making the score VHS 17, CHS 14.
With the Trojans facing a 4th and 3 on their next drive, they faked a punt and converted, extending their drive. The drive only resulted in a field goal for the Trojans, making the score tied at 17.
With the Wildcat offense taking the field again, Shuman was pressured in the pocket and threw an interception that resulted in 6 points for Coffee.
VHS was unable to move the ball on their next drive after the interception and Coffee took advantage. Paulk delivered yet another touchdown pass over the ‘Cats defense, making the score 31 to 17.
After halftime, the ‘Cats knew they needed to stop the turnovers on offense and stop the Trojans on third downs. They were unable to do this.
With the Trojans receiving the ball first, Paulk threw a wobbly pass that was, in turn, intercepted by senior defensive tackle Darrius Sapp for the ‘Cats. The ‘Cats moved the ball to the Trojan three yard line but the Trojans caused a Herring fumble and recovered it in the endzone for a touchback.
The Trojans were forced to punt after the drive resulted in a 4th and 10.
The Wildcats took the opportunity to run the ball hard, giving the ball to Joseph for two first down runs in a row. Changing the pace, Herring was placed in the game and proceeded to break off similar runs to Joseph, gaining the ‘Cats two more first downs. However this drive came to end with an incomplete pass on 4th and 8 by Shuman.
After a Trojan punt, the ‘Cats moved the ball quickly down the field, with the help of penalties against Coffee. However the drive was ended by some penalties of their own, and were unable to convert a 4th and 16 with Loudermilk under center.
After another CHS punt, the Wildcats began to drive once more.
With quarterback Shuman getting injured, Loudermilk once again came out at quarterback, only to fumble the ball on a very questionable call from the referees.
Getting the ball in good field position, the Trojans were able to punch it in once again, making the score 38-17, with less than seven minutes remaining in the game.
With the game on the line, Loudermilk drove the ‘Cats to the redzone and was intercepted in the endzone, ending the ‘Cats come back bid.
The Wildcats return to practice on Monday and will be working to rebound and prepare for their game 7:30 p.m. Friday at Langston Hughes in Fairburn.
“We’re going to find our heart again. We will find a way to play hard and play at our best ability,” said Gillespie. “If we do that, we will be all right.”