The Valdosta Wildcats (10-2) edged Johns Creek 28-24 last week thanks to some late fourth-quarter heroics on both sides of the ball. Now, the 'Cats move on to the quarterfinals against the Richmond Hill Wildcats tonight at 7:30.
Here are my takeaways from the Johns Creek game and a look at the "other" Wildcats:
Rhym Does It Again
In Valdosta first-round win against Lakeside, sophomore cornerback Jadarian Rhym picked off Jaden Taylor and scored on a 99-yard pick-six that turned the game from an early deficit to a runaway win.
Against Johns Creek, Rhym made his presence felt in an even bigger spot.
With the 'Cats clinging to a 28-24 lead with no time left on the clock and the Gladiators taking one final shot to the end zone to try to win the game, quarterback Ben Whitlock rolled out to his right and threw into the end zone. The pass hung in the air and floated in the direction of a receiver. Unfortunately for Johns Creek, the pass floated long enough for Rhym to step right in front it and pick off the pass in the end zone.
The Return of Sherm
After missing Valdosta's first-round win against Lakeside with an ankle injury, junior receiver Javonte Sherman made his return in a major way last week at Johns Creek.
The 'Cats leading receiver caught five passes for 155 yards, including the go-ahead touchdown with 43 seconds to play. Trailing 24-21, senior Tate Rodemaker hit Sherman on a skinny post route that allowed Sherman to use his speed in space to roll 46 yards for the score.
The Region 1-6A First Team selection has been a stud all year and in the biggest game of the 'Cats season thus far, Sherman showed why he's one of the best receivers in the state.
Two Picks, No Problem
Quarterback Tate Rodemaker went 18-of-28 for 312 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Going against a Johns Creek offense that loves to throw the football, Rodemaker was solid and efficient. Whitlock threw twice the number of passes as Rodemaker, in fact, going 36-of-56 for 378 yards but threw the costly interception at the end.
Outside of a pick-six against Lowndes early in the season, Rodemaker has avoided making any costly mistakes to hurt Valdosta's chances.
Through 12 games, Rodemaker has completed 202-of-280 passes for 3,056 yards and 41 touchdowns.
Who is Richmond Hill?
Hailing from Region 2-6A, the Richmond Hill Wildcats come into tonight's matchup 8-3 overall, having won seven straight games.
The Wildcats defeated the Lanier Longhorns 48-34 last week –– the third-most points they've scored all season.
Richmond Hill averages 33.8 points while allowing just 17.2 points per game.
Junior quarterback Tyler Coleman has thrown for seven touchdowns this season, completing just under 57 percent of his passes for 917 yards.
The lion's share of the load falls on the Wildcats' running game led by senior running back Jalen Rouse. Rouse has rushed for 1,670 yards this season on 213 carries with a team-leading 23 touchdowns. Rouse has also caught 14 passes for 105 yards with one touchdown.