VALDOSTA –– It goes without saying that the expectation for the Lowndes High Vikings is to win every game and become state champions.
That’s the culture created by Randy McPherson over his 18 seasons as head coach.
In 2017, the team almost achieved that goal after going undefeated in the regular season. They eventually lost to McEachern in the second round of the 7A state playoffs.
In 2018, the Vikings fell to the eventual state champions in the semifinals of the 7A playoffs.
In 2019, there are no more excuses. This is the year of redemption.
When Lowndes opens the season they’ll be ranked as the No. 52 high school football team in the nation according to High School Football America.
But the recognition stops there for the Vikings.
They’re predicted to finish second behind Colquitt County in Region 1-7A and fifth in the entire classification.
Contrary to the two prior seasons, they don’t have a single preseason all-state or region player on offense.
That’s not a focus for them though.
The main focus for the Viking offense is figuring out how to improve from last year’s results.
Lowndes has traditionally been known for its run threat.
While that will still hold true this season, they’ve focused on improving their passing game during the offseason.
Sophomore quarterback Jacurri Brown has the keys to the offense. His athleticism gives him advantages over opposing defenses and he has a collection of skill players that’ll make his job easier.
Tony Wiseman, Ghetti Brown, Cornelius Wright are a part of the senior wide receiving core and junior Dominique Marshall had a very strong showing during the spring and summer.
Lowndes can amalgamate players at running back to fill the void that Travis Tisdale left.
That group is headlined by senior Gary Osby and junior Isreal Mitchell but will feature junior back Justin Lee and sophomore Tydreke Thomas as well.
The Viking offense will be protected by all-region linemen Bryer Touchton and Jacarri Williams along with honorable mention all-region lineman Walker Corbett.
This is a Viking offense that isn’t a stranger to scoring after averaging 37 points per game last season. That number is likely to increase despite having the fifth strongest strength of schedule in 7A according to The Maxwell Ratings.
The Vikings will run a system where there aren’t many star players but it’s catered to an interchangeable offense. Players will be able to flow and rotate throughout first and second team and make the same plays.
The revamped offense will see the Vikings be able to change pace and control the game speed.
If need be, the Vikings can slow the game down and stringing together a deliberately slow drive.
The formation is designed to run opponents over.
Players from both sides of the ball are used in an attempt to take the Vikings size advantage over their opponents.
The twist is that any type of play can be called from the formation and it can be used from anywhere on the field.
Often used in goal line situations, expect to see the Plowboy to turn the tide.
The strength of the 2019 Vikings will be their battle-tested defense.
The Vikings are returning almost their entire defense from a season ago. A defense that faced some of the toughest competition in the state and came out on the other side.
That trend continued throughout the offseason with the high caliber competition that Lowndes faced. They faced Warner Robins in the spring game before facing off against Thomasville, Brooks, Coffee and Lee during the summer.
Now ahead of the season the defense is licking it’s chops.
Upfront the Vikings have a three manned attack that will give opposing linemen nightmares.
Jacques Hunter, Jaylon Jones and Thomas Davis are going to do their best to disrupt every play that their opponents have.
Linebacker Devonn Lane is going to be the quarterback of the defense and communicate all shifts in coverage and schemes.
Backers Tiberius Drocea and Gary Osby will be the heart of the defense as they enter their senior campaign.
The Viking secondary has many interchangeable parts.
Corner Caleb Roberts would likely start for any other high school in the area. His combination of speed, strength and size is rare at the high school level.
The two corners that he shares time with are just as talented. Tyler Belchar is one of the youngest varsity starters as a sophomore. His speed and ball awareness makes him one of the most valuable players on the Vikings roster.
Opposite from him will be the definition of a lockdown corner, Josh Brown.
Brown is a hard-hitting corner that disrupts the offense whether through the air or ground. He’s the type of corner that can be trusted to secure an entire side of the field. With the Viking’s 3-4 defense, he fits the traditional mold of a man-on-man corner.
Junior T.J. Quinn will likely split playing time at the saftey position behind seniors Shawn Martin and Brandon Brown.
With a schedule that includes five teams that received rankings from High School Football America, the Vikings are in for a test this season.
They open with a scrimmage at Bainbridge who were 5A state champions last season.
Followed by a three-game home stand against Drew, nine-win Champagnat Christian and Parkview—the team that delivered the Vikings first loss last season.
The Vikings have a three-hour trek to their first regular season road game against East Coweta next, which catapults into what will likely be playoff-caliber matchups the remainder of the season.
They play Miami Northwestern at home on Sept. 20 and face the Valdosta Wildcats in the Winnersville Classic the ensuing week.
Three consecutive road games against Ware Co., Tift, and Camden with the two latter games opening region play.
Colquitt Co. comes to town to conclude the regular season on Nov. 1 in what could decide the final standings in Region 1-7A.