VALDOSTA—The largest rivalry in the state makes it’s return this Friday. 12,000 fans and supporters will be packed into Bazemore-Hyder stadium (hopefully wearing masks) as the Valdosta Wildcats take on the Lowndes Vikings in the Winnersville Classic. Here are six thoughts leading into the game. 

Viking Slayer

Of the last eight times Rush Propst has stood on the opposing sideline of Lowndes, he’s left the game victorious six times. That’s a 6-2 record, the last matchup ending with a 40-6 drubbing in 2018. 

If there’s an active coach that knows how to dismantle the Vikings, statistically it’d be Propst.

Jacurri Brown

Superman himself, dressed in crimson and white. Brown is one of the top dual-threat talents in the the state and this season he’s fully embraced the responsibilities that have been added to his list of duties. 

With new head coach Jamey DuBose and the renovated offense of the Vikings, Brown has not only become a more complete quarterback but the most dangerous weapon that the Vikings have. 

Tough as nails and able to recognize defensive schemes, the Valdosta defense will have its hands full dealing with Brown on Friday night. 

But if any defense is equipped to manage Brown it’s the Wildcats. 

Last year, Brown went 6-of-16 passing for 50 yards and had 47 yards on 12 carries. It was the lone game that he didn’t score a touchdown in during Lowndes’ state championship run. 

Amari Jones

Jones was originally thrusted into the starting role for Valdosta due to an “injury” to transfer quarterback Jake Garcia. 

Due to circumstances, he’s held on to that role for the past month but only has two starts to show for it. 

This game will be a measuring stick for Jones and the Valdosta offense. They’re up against a defense that only allowed 11.6 points per game last season and averages 14.25 points allowed per game thus far. 

Jones’ versatility will be needed to keep Lowndes honest and he’s going to have to make plays through the air. 

Both are within reach for the junior quarterback. He’s built a chemistry and trust with the team and they support him.

Senior receiver Javonte Sherman said on Monday that every week he gives Jones a new word.

The word for this week: calm. 

Concrete Curtain

The Lowndes defense is the real deal. They only allowed 11.6 points per game last season but that might not even give an accurate representation of how good they were. 

They neutralized top talents week in and week out on the way to the 7A state championship. This season they returned six starters and an additional three guys that saw a lot of reps due to injuries. 

They’re headlined by Thomas Davis, who was named the Most Outstanding Player for the Classic last season. Leon Williams and Jacques Hunter will give the Valdosta offensive line fits while Jalon Baker and T.J. Quinn will be ready to pounce on any player that tries to get past them. Tylar Belcher has done well in coverage this season and has three interceptions. Ramecia Burgman is a punt block specialist and isn’t afraid to make a play in open field.

They’re stingy, vicious and won’t make life easy for Valdosta. 

Weapons Galore

The 2019 game was totted as Valdosta’s dynamic offense against Lowndes’ swarming defense. I don’t see any reasons why it won’t be the same this time around. The only difference, Valdosta’s dynamic offense became even more dynamic this offseason. It’s hard to fathom a team that graduated Tate Rodemaker (who has already seen game action at Florida State) could get better on offense but that’s exactly what happened. 

That’s thanks to the weapons that they added to its roster. Three-star receiver Allah Brown transferred in from Valwood after having a dominating season for the Valiants. Four-star receiver Tajh Sanders transferred from Colquitt and is as dynamic as receivers can come. 

That’s on top of having Javonte Sherman return after a 53 catch, 1,156 yard season during his junior campaign. 

The last time Lowdes had to face receivers this good it was against Marietta and it ended with them losing in the state championship. 

History of the Classic

The most interesting aspect of the Classic each year is remembering that it was never intended to be the rivalry that it has become. Valdosta outscored Lowndes 259-23 in the first eight games.

Lowndes was an afterthought until Joe Wilson took over the Vikings and turned the program around. He helped deliver the first win against Valdosta in 1977 with a 7-2 victory. 

Thus the rivalry was born. 

In recent history, Valdosta secured its 900th program win against Lowndes in the season opening contest in 2016. 

Since then it has been all Vikings. They’ve outscored Valdosta 140-35 in the three games since—with shutouts in 2017 and 2019. 

Friday will mark the 59th time that the two programs have facd and with each matchup the history continues to grow. 

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