VALDOSTA -- Valdosta High head coach Rick Darlington knows a run at the Region 1-AAAAA football title begins tonight. Forget about next week's Winnersville Classic. Forget about the Wildcats' 2-3 start.
Today's region opener at Bazemore-Hyder Stadium against Tift County is the only thing on Valdosta's mind. Kickoff for the homecoming game is set for 8 p.m.
Darlington admits though, the thought tucked somewhere deep in the back of his mind, that a region championship could right the Wildcats' wayward start to the season.
"In order to do that we've got to go out and win this game," Darlington said. "There's nothing beyond Tift County."
Fresh off a bye week after defeating Charlton County 38-14 on Oct. 3, Valdosta (2-3) will find out just how much good, or bad, the off date did today against the Blue Devils (1-4).
"[The off-week] gave us time to improve on our mistakes," Wildcats' senior offensive tackle Anthony Spates said. "Even though we won that Friday with Charlton, we still made several mistakes and I believe [the bye week] gave us enough time to go over all our mistakes and make them right."
The off-week brought three good practices for the Wildcats, according to Spates, a three-year letterman on the Valdosta offensive line.
The Wildcats concentrated mostly on their running game and stopping Tift's Wing-T offense. The Blue Devils, who are also coming off a bye week, recently installed a Power-I formation package that they ran out of, as well as the Wing-T, in a last second 21-15 loss to Class AAA Worth County on Oct. 3.
"We really tried on defense to implement our Wing-T plan and on offense we want to keep getting better at the power game, the option game and the passing game," Darlington said. "I think we're going to have to do all three in order to do well in the region."
A Tift County win would be its first against Valdosta since 1993. The Wildcats have won 26 of the last 28 meetings with the Blue Devils, including last year's 42-0 thumping in Tifton. Valdosta's defense scored three touchdowns in that game.
Tift finished 3-7, 1-4 region a year ago in the regular season and made the state playoffs, but was abruptly sent home after a 41-7 first round loss to Starr's Mill.
Valdosta begins region road at home vs. Tift County
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