VALDOSTA--With Valdosta High's region schedule approaching, last week's off-week couldn't have come at a better time.

Then again, maybe it could have.

"We're just so eager to play the next game and then you know you've got an off week and you're like, 'Ah, we can't play this Friday,'" Wildcats senior left tackle Anthony Spates said. "That just takes your adrenaline rush. By the time you get to the next week, you're still pumped up, but the off week did take a little out of you."

Valdosta (2-3), two weeks removed from a 38-14 pounding of Class AA Charlton County, has a love-hate relationship with the dreaded bye-week. On one hand, there was no game to get ready for just when the Wildcats may have been peaking after its dominant performance Oct. 3. But on the other hand, Valdosta got a week off to solidify its strengths and correct its weaknesses for the region opener Friday against Tift County.

"I think we got better at the things we are trying to do," Wildcats head coach Rick Darlington said. "Offensively, we may have expanded a little bit, but not too much. On defense, keep it simple but aggressive, and start getting ready to defend the Wing-T."

The off-week allowed Valdosta High's coaching staff to install defensive packages to defend against the Wing-T, which Darlington said is the primary formation his next four opponents run (Tift, Lowndes, Lee County, Colquitt County).

So, what exactly do the players do with no game on Friday: a trip to Disney World maybe or perhaps catch another high school football game? Not quite. Last Friday may have been an off-day on the football field for Valdosta, but don't think all the Wildcats had the day off.

"My manager messed around and scheduled me to work," said Spates, who had to work all weekend.

Region Expectations

While Valdosta may not be considered the favorite to win Region 1-AAAAA at the onset of region play, the 'Cats still expect a region championship. Darlington wouldn't have it any other way.

"Of course, that's Valdosta and that's the standard," Darlington said. "We want to win the region."

Said Spates, "Me personally, I would love to see us go 5-0 and have all our [playoff] games at home."

GHSA institutes 'mercy rule'

The GHSA's 'mercy rule,' which was passed Monday and goes into effect this week, is one Darlington is familiar with.

The rule was implemented to speed up lopsided games, like Lowndes High's 61-7 win over Coffee or Cook's 54-7 win over Berrien last Friday.

The new rule states that if a team is losing by 30 or more points after the first half, the coach of the trailing team can choose to play the second half with a running clock. In that instance, time would only stop for time outs, after touchdowns and during penalties. The game automatically goes to a running clock if the trailing team is down by 30 or more points after the third quarter, regardless of the trailing coaches' wishes.

Darlington says the rule, which is used in Florida, puts a coach between a rock and a hard place.

"We had that thing in Florida and the thing that's hard about it is, if you're that coach that's getting blown out you've got to say 'yeah, go ahead and run the clock,'" Darlington said. "As a coach, you don't want to do that in front of your kids. I think it's hard for a coach who's got some pride in him to do that."

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