VALDOSTA—Saturday brought an end to Valdosta State football’s fall camp that spanned four weeks and challenged players physically and mentally. 

The final day of practice was held at Bazemore-Hyder Stadium, where players donned game uniforms rather than the tattered practice uniforms that’d been worn throughout camp. 

The team was put through many game-simulated situations from each facet of football and coached on how to react in each scenario. 

The methodical carefulness used by the coaching staff and overcast weather seemed to perfectly match the mood of the team. 

After going through an elongated camp schedule, the goal was not to exhaust players in the final practice but to mentally prepare for the regular season.

“As a team we definitely progressed from the beginning to the end,” Brian Saunds said. “We started off a little shaky but that comes with the system. We had to acclimate to what’s new but as an offense, as a defense, we definitely have gotten better. We’re not where we want to be at yet but we’ll get there. We have another week until we play our first game.”  

The regular season begins with a trip to Albany State on Sept. 7.  The Blazers have faced each other for roughly a month. Now, it’s time for the Blazers to have a new opponent. 

“Everybody’s ready,” head coach Gary Goff said. “We’re excited and we’ve been game planning for a week now. We’re excited to be watching film and come up with a game plan for the team. We haven’t done a lot of that in camp because you don’t want the game plan to be get stale. So we’re excited to be doing something else at practice … I’m ready to start working on our opponent.”

At the start of camp, Goff said he was looking for accountability and leadership from his team. 

He said he’s found that in seven players who took the onus for the team. Not only through vocal commanding or playmaking but character and discipline as well. 

“There’s a good list of them to be honest,” Goff said about players that stepped up throughout camp. “Nick Moss has stepped up and done a good job. Corey Roberts as well on the defensive side. And Joe Mozone has been vocal, which has been good. Offensive side, Rogan (Wells), he’s not a very loud guy at times but he is a leader and we put him in some leadership roles this camp. He’s done a good job with it. Brian Saunds and Adonis (Sealey), those six guys right there are really doing exactly what we want want and that’s hold each other and the team accountable. And I’ve got to mention too, (Lio’undre) Gallimore has had a great camp. Not only as a playmaker but he has really stepped into a leadership role. Especially for that receiver unit as well. Once you start to get some leaders start to emerge, it starts to spread like wildfire which is a really good thing.” 

While leadership is not the only requirement to win football games, the Blazers will surely benefit from having it rooted once the season begins. They’ll also benefit from making it through camp relatively healthy and with a better understanding of the new systems. 

In hindsight, the camp was a success according to the team.

“I think it was pretty successful,” Wells said. “We came out here with a lot of energy and tried to learn the new system. I think we took it really well and it’s just all about the attitude coming into camp. It’s a grind and I think it went pretty well.” 

With camp concluding, the Blazers will be introduced to a more stable schedule. A schedule that comes with study halls, potentially later practices, earlier treatment sessions and week-to-week game planning. 

But it also introduces the excitement of facing a new opponent each week.

“Very excited,” Cory Roberts said on how he feels now that camp is done. “We’ve been going through a good fall camp so we’ve been going at it. Now it’s time to recover but still stay game focused.” 

The Blazers will have Sunday off and will await the plans of Hurricane Dorian to execute the early part of their weekly schedule. The overall message with the team is their readiness for Saturday’s contest.

At the end of the day, the Blazers still have their hunger and somebody has to eat. 

“Man we’re ready,” Saunds said. “I know as an individual, I’m ready. I’m ready to get back on the field. I know as a team, man we’re hungry. All we want to do is play. All we want to do is play that first game. That’s it.” 

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