VALDOSTA -- As the tickets run low, the paint starts to dry on the field and the additional bleachers continue to roll in at Martin Stadium, the tension is mounting for Saturday night's Class AAAAA championship.
The penultimate game in Georgia football pits the state's two best teams, Brookwood and Lowndes, against each other.
The two teams have battled to be the state's best all season, as Brookwood finished 14-0 this season ranked No. 2 in the state and No. 19 in the country on Sports Illustrated's High School Power Poll.
The Vikings lost just one game on their way to a 13-1 ledger and were ranked No. 3 in the season's final poll.
While the Vikings plowed across South Georgia with a team filled with fast, strong athletes all around the field, the Broncos rumbled through the Atlanta area posting a running attack to make the bulls in Spain jealous.
The Broncos tallied 4,101 yards rushing in 2005 behind an offensive line featuring players no smaller than 230 pounds.
"Our strengths in the past, as well as this year, have been our ability to run the football," Brookwood coach Mark Crews said. "That's what we like to do first, but we feel we can pass if we need to."
The Broncos have a quarterback who can deliver those passes, if the Vikings manage to close in on the running game. David Pittman, a senior, has thrown for 903 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Although Pittman suffered a sprained ankle in Brookwood's 23-14 victory against Dacula in the state semifinals a week ago, the dangerous quarterback is still capable of putting up numbers that led to his 546 yards rushing this season.
With Pittman providing a dangerous athlete from behind the Broncos' I-formation offense, one of his backfield mates has the potential to give any team fits. Cameron Smith, a Division I prospect at running back, recorded 2,405 yards and 32 touchdowns on 316 carries for the Broncos.
"We have a running back that has a little over 2,300 yards this year," Crews said. "Our offensive lineman and he work well together.
While Crews may discredit the Broncos' size along the offensive line, they pose a big task to the Vikings' front five.
In front of Pittman, a 6-foot, 230-pound Joey Robinson is the smallest of the lineman at center.
After Robinson, right guard Nick Biggee weighs in at 250 pounds, and left guard Jon Milner tips the scale at 260.
Going outside, the tackles get even bigger. Left tackle Mitchell King is 275 pounds and right tackle Chris Fowler is 270 pounds.
And the buck doesn't stop there. At tight end, the Broncos possess a 6-foot-3, 280-pound senior in Matt Long, and a 195-pound fullback clears the way for Smith.
"Our offensive linemen are a good mix of kids who work awfully hard," Crews said. "We're not tremendously big and tall, but we have a bunch of kids that have done a good job of working together."
To limit some of Smith's yards, the Vikings will have to rely on their defensive line's quickness to get around the big men in the trenches.
"Defensively, they are very quick," Crews said. "They don't stay blocked very long, and they get to the football very well.
"It will be a big challenge for us to be able to stay in the game."
Brookwood will be looking to stay in the game by using its defense as well.
To stop the Vikings defensively, Crews said the Broncos need to shut down Lowndes' three-headed running game.
"Offensively, they have three or four guys that are talented running the football. They don't rely on one guy."
Brookwood's corps of linebackers have combined for 362 tackles, with middle linebacker Rennie Curran leading the way.
The 5-foot-11, 200-pound junior has come up with 187 tackles for the Broncos, and will be needed to try and slow down the speedy wing-T offense run by Lowndes.
"Obviously, our defense has seen some wing-T people this year," Crews said. "But I don't know if we've seen anyone with the same kind of quickness and speed.
"We have our work cut out for us for sure, to try and slow them down."
Although Lowndes' offense runs only a limited number of plays, Crews still feels his defense will need to be at its best to stop the Vikings.
"The ones they run are really effective because they give you a lot of speed," Crews said. "Their backs are all very capable and very quick, and you have the difficulty of trying to defend all the misdirection stuff and everything."
At this point in the season, with just two teams remaining that have clawed their way to the top against some of the state's best, it will come down to which squad is more disciplined and mistake-free.
"I think that at this point, you have to play mistake-free football, and not have turnovers," Crews said. "You have to hang in there and play good defense."
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