VALDOSTA – One hundred six games – the oldest rivalry in South Georgia will be renewed when the Valdosta Wildcats (1-2) host the Colquitt County Packers (2-1) Friday night.
The 'Cats come into Friday night after forfeiting last week's game against Bainbridge due to COVID-19 health and safety protocols.
On Aug. 27, the 'Cats defeated the Madison County Cowboys 52-0 on Senior Night for their first win of the season.
Coming off of quarantine, Valdosta coach Shelton Felton discussed the week of practice leading up to Friday's matchup.
"It's gone well," Felton said. "The kids came out excited. We're a little disappointed because we were quarantined and it was a little sluggish because they'd been out but everything's been going well and we're excited about getting out there.
"We're playing a highly-ranked team. It's one of the oldest rivalries in the south, Moultrie versus Valdosta, and we've just emphasized playing our game – playing Wildcat football, controlling the tempo, controlling the line of scrimmage and playing mistake-free ball."
Felton is no stranger to the Valdosta-Colquitt rivalry, having coached at Colquitt under former coach Rush Propst.
However, this will be Felton's first time on the other side of the rivalry as the leader of the 'Cats.
"It's funny," Felton said. "It's a little different because I believed in that Hawg Pen and I enjoyed my time in Moultrie. At the same time, I'm at Valdosta now and it's my time to get things going back at Valdosta and show that Valdosta's still a team to compete with."
Colquitt comes into Friday night winners of two of their first three ballgames. Last week, the Packers defeated Cedar Grove 28-19.
Sophomore quarterback Neko Fann completed 17 of 27 passes for 189 yards with four touchdowns and one interception in the win. Junior running back Charlie Pace had 18 carries for 72 yards while wide receivers Ny Carr and Landen Thomas each had two touchdown catches each.
Ahead of Friday's game, Felton spoke of the challenges the Packers present for his team.
"On defense, coach (Alan) Rodemaker does a great job. They're very aggressive, they're a coverage-based team and they bring a lot of pressure, so that's something we'll be looking out for," Felton said. "Once again, we've talked about since I've been here, we want to control the line of scrimmage. If we control the line of scrimmage, that'll give us a great chance to control some of that pressure.
"On offense, the quarterback is young but he's very athletic. Charlie Pace, the running back – he's a great back. He has great vision and speed. He's a pass-catcher. He's a runner. They have a couple good guys at receiver. I think they're a very explosive offense. We've got to control it, keep the ball in front of us and not give up big plays and make them earn everything the get."
The 'Cats posted their best offensive and defensive game of the season against Madison County, breaking out for 52 points after managing just 20 in their season opener against Warner Robins Aug. 20.
Against the Cowboys, the 'Cats had 21 carries for 132 yards on the ground. Through the air, quarterback Joseph Gardner went 6 of 10 for 122 yards with two touchdowns as the 'Cats exploded for 323 yards of total offense.
"The key on offense is no turnovers," Felton said. "We've got to throw it better and pitch and catch. We have to be able to throw the ball and catch the ball. We've got to control the line of scrimmage, we've got to be able to block and when we decide to throw the ball, we've got to give Joe Joe time to make those passes and I've preached to my receivers all week long, we've got to get open. When we get open, we've got to be able to catch the ball. That's one of the main things and once again, when you play Valdosta, we're going to try and will run the ball so we've got to control the line of scrimmage to run the ball."
The last time the two teams met at Bazemore-Hyder Stadium, the 'Cats defeated the Packers 50-49 in 2019. In that game, the two teams combined for 1,250 yards –– 743 for Colquitt, 507 for Valdosta.
Valdosta holds the all-time edge in the rivalry with 71 wins, 31 losses and four ties.
Kickoff for Friday's game is scheduled for 8 p.m.
Shane Thomas is the sports editor at the Valdosta Daily Times.