VALDOSTA -- The Valdosta High Wildcats understand one very important point.
It's a whole new season now.
The nine-game winning streak to open the season is now just a thing of the past. So is the loss to their crosstown rivals 11 days ago.
Now it's playoff time, and everybody is 0-0 in the new season, with the goal of going 5-0.
"It's a new season. No matter what's been going on in the past, it's all new now. Everybody in the playoffs has their backs against the wall," O'Brien said. "If you win you move on. If you lose, you go home.
"I keep emphasizing we want to be practicing next week. I think they realize that fact, especially the seniors, because we've had pretty good practices this week."
The Wildcats open the playoffs Friday night against Warner Robins at Cleveland Field.
"Warner Robins is a good football team," O'Brien said. "They'll be prepared, and ready to play. We've just got to be ready."
Valdosta has finally gotten around to practicing for the Demons this week. The scout team offense was running plays out of the Wing-T, the offensive scheme WRHS. Coaches were pointing out the main plays the Demons will try to run Friday.
VHS spent last week predominantly on themselves. With an off week following the Lowndes game, Valdosta went in and worked on strengthening themselves, and getting back on track in some areas that had fallen off slightly.
"We've gone back to the basics of tackling and blocking, so hopefully we can iron out some of the mistakes we've made," O'Brien said. "I'm happy with the way the kids have responded. They've been in here working hard, and have done a great job last week and this week. Hopefully we'll carry it through."
One area they have particularly worked on is the offensive line, after Lowndes put constant pressure on quarterback Jarod Alford late in the game. O'Brien was pleased with the progress of the line, which is mostly underclassmen, has made since then.
"That's one area we went back to the basics with," the coach said. "We've worked on pass protection, and run blocking, and we've seen improvement."
This is an unusual week for all remaining football teams, since it is Thanksgiving week.
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School is only in session Monday and Tuesday; the students are off Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. The Wildcats will practice Wednesday morning at 9 a.m., then come back Thursday morning at the same time for their traditional Thanksgiving morning practice.
Think practicing on Thanksgiving is strange? For those involved, it beats not practicing that day, which happened in 1993 and 1999, when the Wildcats missed the playoffs.
"Those were not pleasant holidays (those two years)," O'Brien said. "I know everybody thinks it would be pleasant, but it was not, as competitive as we are. We wanted to be preparing for our next game, not sitting at home."
O'Brien's week has already taken one unusual twist.
Tuesday evening, O'Brien traded in his whistle for a waiter's apron. Valdosta's head coach joined Lowndes head coach Milt Miller, VSU head coach Chris Hatcher, and several other prominent local people as guest waiters at Texas Roadhouse. The tips from their service went to charity.
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