VALDOSTA –– This week the Valwood Valiants (7-2) prepare for region rival Deerfield-Windsor (5-4) with hopes of sweeping region play and becoming Region 3-3A champions.
Valwood has been streaking since their narrow loss to North Florida Christian by winning six straight and plan to make it seven to achieve one of the goals they set for themselves in the preseason, being region champs.
“We have to come out with lots of energy like the last games,” said junior lineman Mark-Anthony Audain. “If we don’t do that it’s going to be slow like Creekside. We could really blow this team out of the water. They have really big guys but we have speed and they’re not going to be able to keep up with the speed.”
Speed has been lethal for the Valiants, especially over the last few games.
It was on display just last week when Javan Wright made a house call on an 85-yard kick return. Jaheim James is deadly in open space with the ability to break off short catches for big gains and touchdowns. Then there’s Aalah Brown; a dominant wideout and constant threat on defense with two fumbles returned for touchdowns.
Speed kills and they’ve shown it.
Deerfield is a big team up front that likes to run, something the Valiants have seen plenty of this year. Valwood Head Coach Justin Henderson mentioned that the difference is that they probably haven’t seen a team that does it as good as Deerfield.
“What a big challenge we have this week with a big physical football team,” said Henderson. “Keeping people off the scoreboard, keeping people off the field, I think they had about three or four shutouts in a row. I hope we’re able to get in there and compete with them because they are physical and they are big, but our front are not cowards by any stretch of the imagination and we’re just gearing up for a big region game.”
Deerfield is coming off a crushing 35-0 loss to Tiftarea, a big team that gave Valwood problems as well. But that was before the Creekside induced epiphany four weeks ago that revitalized Valwood’s play.
The challenges Valwood will see against Deerfield have been reoccurring all year long. That’s stopping the run game and establishing their own.
Both aspects have been a strong point in their game since the epiphany.
Because of their imposing run defense paired with relentless running from they’re backfield, Valwood has outscore their last three opponents 121-64.
Running back Blaine Cooper has been a man on a mission and a huge part of the team’s identity. Here are his numbers from his last three games: 63 yards one touchdown, 152 yards three touchdowns, and last week he tallied 105 yards one touchdown.
Cooper and teammate Bay Moorman are two backs that run hard every time, not letting just one guy stop them. They’re effectiveness not only helps the offense gain rhythm, they also keep the defense off the field and that has been pivotal for Valwood’s success.
If Valwood plays the ball they’ve showcased over the last few weeks it’ll be hard to bet against them. A win will give them a 4-0 region record, a region championship, and some advantages heading into the postseason.
“This is going to really boost us into the postseason,” said Audain. “When we win this game, we’ll have home field advantage for all the games throughout the playoffs.”
Losing this game will result in a tie for the region championship and a snapped streak for Valwood heading into the playoffs.
The Valiants have done well responding to whatever is thrown at them so we’ll see if they can continue the trend in the season finale.
Valwood will travel to Albany to play Deerfield-Windsor on their turf at 7:30 p.m.