VALDOSTA -- By their head coach's own admission, the Lowndes High Vikings are more than ready to see a team with a different-colored jersey.
But in their last intrasquad scrimmage of the preseason late Thursday afternoon, the Vikings did just fine banging heads with one another. There were still mistakes such as penalties and turnovers, especially late, but far fewer than the first scrimmage two weeks ago. Coach Milt Miller called the two-hour drill a solid ending to the first stage of the preseason.
"It's really encouraging," he said. "They bounced around, having fun. They seemed fresh, they've got their legs under them. Of course you never get enough (practice) to where you're totally ready. But the rotation thing we're doing, we feel really good about right now."
After staying conservative on offense the first scrimmage, the Vikings took to the air early and often Thursday. Senior quarterback Barrett Wilkes connected on his first six passes and finished the night 15-of-20 passing for 142 yards and a touchdown, although he did through an interception on his final series of the night. Still, Wilkes was pleased with what the offense was able to accomplish.
"We're getting in sync right now for the games," he said. "We're coming along pretty well. The receivers caught the ball well, and the line did an excellent job. Give them credit for opening holes and holding the defensive line. We've still got a couple of things to work out, but we're pretty close."
Lowndes scored five touchdowns, including two in goal line drills, and a 39-yard Brad Robinson field goal, but the Vikings came away empty on their best drive of the night. Starting the scrimmage on his own 35, Wilkes led the offense to three first downs before a devastating holding penalty and a four yard loss by running back Demetrius Henry pushed them back to near midfield. Catches by Andy Gay and Zach Parker put the Vikings in field goal range, but Robinson's 44-yard try went wide left.
"We need to do a better job on offsides and stupid penalties that can hurt us, like holding," Wilkes said.
Darrin Richardson scored the first touchdown of the night from 13 yards out, bouncing to the left sideline after finding the middle clogged. Richardson finished the night with 62 yards on four carries, including a 42-yard scamper that set up a short Wilkes to Gay touchdown pass. Henry, working with the first unit, carried the ball 12 times for 34 yards.
"We all came out knowing what we had to do, to take care of our mistakes," Henry said. "We had to come out and play smart. That's what (Miller) got onto us about all week."
The defense gave up more yardage Thursday night than a fortnight ago, but the Viking stop troops still came up with seven turnovers. More importantly, they only drew one unsportsmanlike conduct call, a far cry from the penalty-plagued scrimmage at the beginning of August.
"You wonder about the defense, but then (they) boughed up and did a good job on goal line inside the 10," Miller said. "They're really getting physical on defense.
"We're not on a jet track to anywhere, but we're getting better day by day."
Now the Vikings get what they've been craving since the start of camp -- an opponent. Brooks County comes to Martin Stadium next Friday for junior varsity and varsity scrimmages, which means Lowndes will go into game week mode.
"You need to try and get your team in that routine," Miller said. "We'll look at some film of this scrimmage Monday. We'll not have a true game week, but it will be a lot closer than it has been."
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