VALDOSTA -- With several players having pulled double duty for Lowndes High last Friday, head coach Randy McPherson figures this week is a fine time for the No. 4 Vikings to have an open date.
All-region cornerback Brad Johnson was the most prominent two-way player for the Vikings (4-0) against Ware County, piling up 133 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns in spot action at wingback. But while Johnson and fellow safety Anthony McCastle have been making frequent cameos on offense, several offensive players made the switch over to defense at times against the pass-happy Gators.
"We played (quarterback) Brandon Ponder a little bit at corner," said McPherson. "He is an experienced corner and we used him just a little bit. (And) I said all along that we were going to use Cory (Clemons) on both sides of the ball."
Clemons, Lowndes' starting wide receiver, took several snaps at linebacker, where he impressed during preseason scrimmages. Tailback Bernard Nathan has been prominent in the linebacker rotation and fellow backfield runner Demetrius Henry also made a brief appearance in the secondary.
"We'll spot play some kids from offense on defense and spot play some kids from defense on offense," said McPherson. "But (in) the core group, nobody really goes both ways as a starter. We'll use people where they're needed. A lot of those kids on offense were sitting over there fresh (against Ware County) and our DBs were getting pretty winded."
Lowndes is resting up ahead of a challenging October schedule that includes a pair of teams -- No. 7 Camden County and No. 2 Valdosta -- ranked in Class AAAAA's Top 10. In addition, the Vikings open Region 1 play at Coffee and host longtime rival Colquitt County. But for now, McPherson is concentrating more on internal improvements.
PULLING RANK: The Oct. 4 home game against Camden County will be Lowndes' first Top 10 matchup of the year. But thanks to the newest Associated Press poll, the Vikings can now claim a victory over a Top 10 opponent.
Westside-Macon entered this week's poll at No. 8 after upsetting No. 9 Northside-Warner Robins. The Seminoles fell 18-15 to Lowndes in the season opener at Martin Stadium.
SEE GEORGIA FIRST: Friday will be road trip day for the Lowndes coaching staff. McPherson is sending at least one member of the varsity coaching staff to scout each of Lowndes' six remaining regular season opponents. That means heading to points throughout South Georgia from Savannah (Camden County at Savannah High) to Waycross (Valdosta High at Ware County) to Leesburg (Worth County and former LHS defensive coordinator Harold Brantley at Lee County). Other games in store for the coaches include Coffee at Monroe-Albany, Colquitt County at Cairo and Thomas County Central at Tift County.
VALDOSTA -- You're a defensive coordinator for a college football team with one task. When Saturday rolls around, your job is to prepare your team to stop Valdosta State.
How? Drop 10 people into coverage? Stack the line of scrimmage and hope your defensive backs can play great man-on-man coverage?
"We're patient on offense and we'll take what you give us," said head coach Chris Hatcher. "We'll do what it takes to move the football, and we have a lot of good weapons to give the ball to."
The 2002 version of the Hatch Attack isn't relying on just one player to make the offense go. A breakdown of the statistics after the Blazers' 3-0 start shows that the quarterbacks aren't particular to which receiver they get the football.
"Some games they'll double up on C.J. (Lofton), sometimes on Reggie (Mosley). Sometimes they'll stack up against the run," said quarterback Buster Faulkner, who's thrown 10 touchdown passes this season. "We'll do whatever they give us to get them the football."
Sixteen Blazers have caught passes this season (17 if you count tackle Chance Hutto, who caught a deflected pass vs. Fort Valley). Outside receivers, tight ends, slot receivers, running backs -- it doesn't matter.
Senior tight end C.J. Lofton has been the most favored target, catching 17 passes. That puts him fifth among Gulf South Conference receivers, the lone Blazer in the top 10. His backup, freshman Andre Zellner, has but one catch, but has been effective in giving the Blazers an extra blocker in run situations.
The other skill positions are the same -- starter or backup, the Blazers keep on going.
"Ideally we'd like to get the ball to as many different people as we can during the course of the game," Hatcher said. "It's just happened that way. Buster's doing a good job going through his reads and finding the open man.
"We tell our backs and receivers every time you go out you have a chance to catch the ball. We've been very fortunate we've been able to do that."
The process starts high above the field with offensive coordinator David Dean calling plays down to Hatcher, then communicating the play to the quarterback.
"Our coaches do a good job of calling plays and putting me into positions to make plays," said Faulkner. "I just try to go out and do the best I can to get them the football."
"We have a progression of reads we go through, and Buster has been able to handle that and get the ball around," Hatcher said. "That's the key, he's been able to do that."
This year's offense has had to break in many new people, from four starters on the offensive line to receivers and running backs and the quarterbacks. In each of the three wins, the first quarter has been a time of adjustment -- no touchdowns yet in the period.
In the next 15 minutes, the Blazers have scored six touchdowns. And VSU has scored on the first drive of the second half each game.
"Sometimes the defenses get the better of us early," Hatcher said. "When we settle down, we've been effective at moving the football.
"Everybody has a different wrinkle they want to try against us. Sometimes it takes a little while to find out what someone else is going to do."
Last year at Delta State, the Blazers found it most effective to throw the deep ball. This year the Statesmen have a new defensive coordinator, and the Blazers found the short pass to be most effective.
This year the Blazers are also becoming efficient at driving the football. VSU is averaging 36 1/2 minutes of possession a game, best in the Gulf South Conference.
And who knows. This week Southern Arkansas may choose to drop everybody in pass coverage, and the Blazers could have big running games from halfbacks Tyran Robinson and Aaron Jenkins.
Whatever the defense gives them. It's worked so far.
React to this story:
- Lowndes man pleads guilty to federal firearms charge
- More than 300 quarantined in Lowndes County Schools
- Boat builder bringing 90 jobs to Valdosta
- SGMC reports four virus deaths Thursday
- Drug bust nets suspects from Lowndes, Lanier, Tift counties
- South Georgia signs up thousands for vaccine
- City school board extends virus sick leave, tables facilities plan
- City OKs $1.11 million in vehicles
- SGMC reports three virus deaths Sunday
- Scott votes no on Trump impeachment