Controlling Destiny: Vikings host Packers in key region matchup

Dave Sundin | Special to the TimesLowndes running back Chase Belcher (4) holds his index finger in the air after making a key play against Cedar Grove Oct. 8 at Martin Stadium.

VALDOSTA – The 7-1 Colquitt County Packers visit the Concrete Palace tonight.

Region 1-7A play opened last week, and both the Packers and the Lowndes Vikings (6-2, 1-0) handled their first opponents, setting up tonight’s game as a matchup for the region championship.

Lowndes traveled to Tift County last week to collect an important opening win with a score of 26-7.

Despite eight false starts, Vikings quarterback Jacurri Brown still managed to lead the offense to 359 total yards, just over their season average yards per game of 355.

The star senior accounted for 313 of the yards himself, 263 through the air and another 50 on the ground, however those came on 28 attempts for an average yards per carry of less than three.

The Vikings' usually productive run game struggled to get anything going against Tift, with running backs Chase Belcher rushing for only 35 yards and Jacarre’ Fleming running the ball seven times for no yards.

So the Vikings and head coach Jamey DuBose needed everything they could get from No. 11 Friday night.

“I think Jacurri was really good… I think Tift had a good plan, you just saw Jacurri be a great athlete and make some big-time plays,” DuBose said. “But when I say that, I have to mention the wide receivers. They did a great job in scramble drills and knowing where to be to make plays.”

Khris Thomas was in the right place for Brown several times, and he once again led the team in catches and yards against Tift, hauling in six for 111 yards. The 6-2 senior’s 457 receiving yards on the season paces the team.

Chase Belcher was able to make his impact felt in the receiving game as well, something he is no stranger to as he played wide receiver before switching to running back this year. Friday night he caught three balls for 91 yards.

The Vikings will no doubt need all their playmakers to execute against the Packers. Colquitt comes into the Concrete Palace with only one loss on the season to face a Vikings team looking to make up for a lopsided loss in the game last year.

“We’re back in the same spot we were last year, and we didn’t play well last year,” DuBose said. “The game was 40-10, but honestly it should’ve been about 70-10… It left a bad taste in our mouth.”

The two teams have traded victories for the last three years, with the home team coming out on top each time. But right now the Packers are rolling, and their momentum won’t be easy for the Vikings to stop, even with home field advantage.

The Pack’s last loss was a 31-24 defeat at the hands of Westlake in the second game of the season. Since then, they have exploded offensively to the tune of 45 points a game.

The 34 points they scored in last week’s overtime victory against Camden County were the fewest the Pack have scored in their last five games. 

Last week it was junior back Charlie Pace who was running the show for the Packers, getting the rock 31 times for 171 yards on the ground and another 25 through the air. 

Packers quarterback Neko Fann was no bystander however, throwing for 277 yards and three scores. The wiry 6-foot sophomore has impressed this season for the Packers, throwing for 1,284 yards, along with 19 touchdowns to only two picks.

Fann threw two touchdowns Friday to fellow sophomore Ny Carr. Carr has been the recipient of no fewer than eleven of Fann’s touchdown passes already this season.

The leaders on the other side of the ball showed up in the Pack’s region opener as well. Seniors Ricky Yates and Pershaun Fann combined for 22 tackles against Camden. 

The do-it-all linebackers are first and second in total tackles for the Packers respectively. 

P. Fann is a playmaker for the defense, leading the team with a pair of picks this season and his three breakups are tied for second. 

The 6-1 senior can also pressure the quarterback with three sacks and four hurries good for second and third on the team respectively.

Yates isn’t far behind with 2.5 sacks to go along with a forced fumble and fumble recovery. 

But the Vikings have already faced some of the best defensive talent in the state. Last week at Tift, Brown was scrambling away from Tyre West, the 14th highest graded defensive linemen in the country according to 247sports.com, one of the stars in UGA's second ranked 2021 recruiting class. 

When Lake Gibson came to town Sept. 3, they brought their 5-star safety and FSU commit Sam McCall with them.

On Oct. 8, the Vikings played Cedar Grove and their defense featuring linebacker/defensive lineman Carlton Madden, and DLs Josh White and Christen Miller, three of the top 50 players in the state according to 247sports.com.

“I think our schedule has really enabled our team to be prepared for any team we run into,” DuBose said. “We’ve been challenged in every position and every way, so we know we can go out and compete against anybody.”

That experience will be invaluable as the Packers bring a younger but equally tested team into Lowndes for a game that has massive post-season implications. DuBose said his team knows the importance of the game though as the winner of this game controls its own destiny in the region.

“Same thing is on the line this year: region championship,” DuBose said. “[The winner is] gonna be the team that plays well and executes well and holds on to the football. So that’s what our guys have got to do this year.”

The game kicks off at 8 p.m.

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