VALDOSTA –– After allowing only eight points through their two contests, the Lowndes High defense is showing what they’ve known since the spring. 

They’re built for whatever challenges awaits them this season.

The Vikings returned 10 of 11 starters for the 2019 season and bring a veteran experience that isn’t normal for high school programs. 

They’re battle-tested. 

This rendition of the Vikings are the last traces of two strong years of Lowndes football. 

In 2017, an undefeated regular season and No. 1 ranking in Class 7A gave hope to the first state title since 2007. That hope was shattered with a 36-31 second-round defeat to McEachern. 

Last season, the Vikings strung together three playoff victories before falling to Milton in the semifinals as the Eagles went on to win the 7A championship. 

Now with a senior-laden defense, many Vikings are looking to make a statement in their final year. 

“Defensive wise we’re going to try to get as much shutouts as we can,” senior linebacker Gary Osby said. “If the (other) offense doesn’t score we’ve got a better chance of winning because obviously we’re going to make sure our offense has some points on the board. But the goal for this year is always the same. Win every game.” 

The Vikings defense held two separate offenses scoreless thus far. Against Bainbridge the Bearcats got their lone score on a safety. 

And Drew scored on a fake punt that traversed from one end zone to another. 

With the offensive evolution that has spread throughout every level of football, it has become rare to completely shut teams out. 

But the Vikings handled the feat in consecutive weeks which plays into the pride of the defense. 

“The guys take pride in not letting the other offense into the end zone,” corner backs and assistant head coach Terry Quinn said. I think the guys want to see that zero up there because nowadays with the spread offense it’s hard to keep a lot of good teams out of the end zone. So we look forward to anytime we can get that shutout. It’s a big deal.” 

The Vikings’ defense was caught in the crossfire of powerful offenses last season. In some of those games players made mistakes because of the lack of experience. This season the Vikings have the advantage of starters and back ups with game experience. 

They can self-correct mistakes, which makes coaching easier and opens the door to deeper understanding.

“You know we start getting to the finer points of defensive football,” defensive coordinator Byron Slack said. “We breakdown plays and opponents and what not. Guys that have played a lot of ball you start to moving in to the next level. Looking at really dissecting sets and even personnel. Being able to notice when a certain guy is lined up in a position and make calls off of that when you’ve got guys that are comfortable and know what they’re doing.” 

The veteran leadership of the Lowndes defense cannot be undervalued. It ensures that once the current senior class graduates the program will still be in capable hands. It also gives younger players a chance at game experience when they’re implemented in strategic increments.

Rather than having trial by fire, the Vikings are able to test the waters with inexperienced guys, knowing that the veteran players can still assist with development. 

“It’s really good for our younger guys to see the leadership on the team,” senior cornerback Josh Brown said. “Everybody is pretty experienced players. With them having the experience that they have they help us out a lot on defense. Knowing where to be at, knowing what call to run, when to do what. It’s just very helpful and I’m glad to be a part of it.”

For the past four years, most of the defense has lined up with each other. From ninth grade teams, scout team, junior varsity and now varsity.

The bond forged over the years has created a sense of security in the each other. Players know each other’s strengths—they account for their weaknesses too. 

The Viking players aren’t just teammates, they’re friends. 

It makes all the difference when game time comes. 

“It makes Friday nights easier,” Osby said on trusting his defense. “Being around the same guys, you trust them so you’re not worried about doing their job yourself. You go ahead and do what you’re supposed to do and it makes the defense click.” 

The Vikings have put themselves in the driver seat to an interesting season. 

The schedule is packed with challenging foes, likely and unsuspecting. 

After a strenuous summer, they could experience fatigue as the fall progresses. 

The doubt of seasons past might creep into the locker room. 

But it’s no matter to the Vikings. 

The bond, coaching, skill and overall hard work gives them the mentality that they’re state championship contenders. 

They’re determined to make this year different. 

“Since all the mistakes we learned we’re going to be a better team and perform better,” Brandon Brown said on making this season different. “Fix those mistakes we had and make our way to the state championship.” 

The Vikings will take on Champagnat Catholic of Florida on Friday at 8 p.m. at Martin Stadium in their homecoming game. 

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