VALDOSTA -- So what went right for Lowndes High?
For Viking football fans that sat through Friday night's 25-7 preseason scrimmage loss to Thomas County Central, the temptation might be to check "nothing." But while No. 5 Lowndes looked lost at times and played sloppy throughout the 36-minute game, there were some bright spots for new head coach Randy McPherson to build on.
The new wing-T offense is a work in progress, but it still gave Lowndes more punch in the running game than the Vikings have enjoyed in years. Eight different rushers (including punter Yancey Hartman following a bad snap) combined for 211 yards. After being buried on the depth chart most of his Lowndes career, running back Bernard Nathan got a chance to start and responded with 48 yards in six carries, including runs of 21 and 19 yards.
"It was a long time waiting," said Nathan. "I feel relieved now that I'm starting. It feels good, but I feel bad for the team also. But I can remember a time when I was getting no PT (playing time)."
Sophomore Octavious Everett was limited to fourth quarter action with the rest of the backups, but he showed the potential to be a star down the road and maybe sooner. Everett went for 61 yards on six carries and Lowndes' only touchdown.
As a whole, the wing-T looked better on sweeps to the outside and misdirection plays, but less effective at getting tough yards up the middle. Still, Lowndes had only one play go for negative yardage.
Another positive sign was the aggressive play of newly-minted linebacker Cory Clemons. An All-Region 1-AAAAA tight end last year, the senior is pulling double duty on defense and showed that his speed will be a big help to a rebuilding front seven. On back-to-back plays in the second quarter, Clemons pounced down on the TCC quarterback after a 1-yard gain for a tackle that echoed throughout the stadium and then came up with a 1-yard sack. That sequence forced the Yellow Jackets' only punt in the first half.
The Lowndes secondary, expected to be the strength of the defense, only saw two pass attempts, but Anthony McCastle came up with an interception on a poorly thrown deep ball midway through the second quarter.
Can those positive steps lead to Lowndes being ready for the season opener August 30 against Westside-Macon?
"There's a chance, yes," said McPherson. "It depends on how bad they want it."
ERRING BY AIR: Lowndes' former all-state quarterback Barrett Wilkes, now at Valdosta State, was back at Martin Stadium to watch his former team for the first time since graduation Friday. If his appearance in civilian clothes didn't convince Viking fans an era had ended, watching this year's struggling attack did.
Clemons, now a wide receiver, and tight end Zach Parker were held without a catch against TCC. Running back Demetrius Henry caught a pass in the flat and turned it into a 30-yard gain for the Vikings' only completion.
Quarterbacks Brandon Ponder, Bryan Sermons and Jake Walker had taken roughly an equal number of practice snaps, but senior Ponder went all three quarters with the first team Friday. After an opening interception off the hands of Clemons, Ponder never got comfortable, overthrowing several passes, underthrowing another and trying to force the ball into double coverage.
VEERING OFF COURSE: How effective is Thomas County Central's veer offense at fooling people? On the Yellow Jackets opening snap it bamboozled the officials.
After faking a handoff to the fullback, the TCC quarterback kept the ball up the middle for a 13-yard gain. He could have had more, except for an inadvertent whistle after the fullback without the ball was "tackled" behind the line of scrimmage.