VALDOSTA -- Something went wrong last Friday in Wildcatland. Now the Valdosta High coaches are trying to figure out what that was, and fix it.
Last week's 6-0 loss to Madison County has been hard for many people to digest. Sure the Cowboys were good, very good, but people around here, coaches included, aren't used to Valdosta getting shut out.
So the coaches have gotten to work, trying to do the things right that they didn't do Friday.
"Valdosta teams don't ever expect to lose, and when they do, they take it hard," Wildcats head coach Mike O'Brien said. "We had our grieving time Monday, and then we went to work, trying to rectify the mistakes that we had made.
"We've had good practices this week. The weather changed (Tuesday), but our kids played hard, even at those conditions."
The offense, for one, has had its share of work. O'Brien and offensive coordinator Tim Horton are trying to get things right in the offense.
"We've worked on (the offense), but we had enough enough offense that if we'd gotten key plays at certain times, we would have scored," O'Brien said. "But to Madison's credit, they didn't allow us those plays. Hopefully this will be a learning experience."
For one thing, the running backs have gotten more work. The ankle injury that's sidelined leading rusher Corey James means other backs must step forward, at least until James returns, and no one knows yet when that will be.
That includes Willie Cowart, now the primary fullback, Eric Williams, the safety/back who must improve his running between the tackles, and Dewayne Williams, who was the Wildcats' leading rusher Friday (8 car., 67 yards) but is still learning the offense. JoJo Robertson will also be in the mix.
"We'll probably still go with a rotation, because we're not sure about what we want, and because both (Dewayne and Eric) play defense," O'Brien said. "I thought Dewayne had some nice runs. We feel good about him. The backs (in general) did all right, but they have to do better."
O'Brien's dismay wasn't so much with the running game as it was with the offense in general.
"We should have moved the ball better, we should have made the field goals. We should have scored," the seventh-year head coach said. "I thought we should have beaten them. But we didn't."
Another area that's gotten work is placekicking. Brent Allen missed two field goals Friday night. Allen was more accurate in practice Tuesday, missing his first kick but making several in a row after that. The Wildcats also took a look at juniors Matt King, who is inexperienced but has shown a good leg, and Robby Steltenpohl, back from injury. Like a certain college team 110 miles away in Tallahassee, Valdosta refuses to blame its kicker for the loss, but clearly the kicking must improve.
"We've been using some more kickers. We're going to let them kick, and as the week goes on, we'll see who's kicking the best," O'Brien said. "Brent missed the two field goals, and it's his job to kick those. But it's also our guards' job to block, and our receivers' job to catch. That's just (two) mistakes we made in the ballgame."
The bottom line, though, is that the Wildcats must play better in general.
"We've got to get better," O'Brien said. "There were things we didn't do against Madison, and that hurt us."
Now Valdosta will focus on this week's game, against Tift County Friday at 7:30 p.m. in Tifton. Madison was not a region game; Tift is.
"It would be tough if we fell to 0-1 in the region," O'Brien said. "We've got to be prepared, and ready to play."
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