VALDOSTA -- Now Valdosta sits less than a week from its chance to wrap up the Region 1-AAAAA title.
Because Colquitt County defeated Coffee 16-9 last Friday, Valdosta would wrap up the region title and top seed with a victory over Colquitt this Friday, though they would also need a victory over Coffee the next week to be the first outright region champions since the Wildcats in 2000. With a win over Colquitt and a loss to Coffee, Valdosta would tie Lowndes for the title, but Valdosta holds the tiebreaker.
"We have a chance to win the region title Friday night," Valdosta head coach Rick Darlington said. "It's something I don't think a lot of people outside the region thought we could do, but I don't think the people inside the program doubted we could do it, if we played like we were capable."
Valdosta (5-3, 3-0 region) has opened its region football season with two routs and a down-to-the-wire classic against archrival Lowndes.
Valdosta clicked on all cylinders Friday against Lee County in a 47-0 rout. In the first half alone, the Wildcats rolled up 316 yards of offense and 34 points. Quarterback Cedric Hatten had a hand in most of those yards, throwing for 101 and running for another 88, and accounted for three touchdowns. Halfback Victor Harrell, subbing for injured Corey James, gained 58 yards and a touchdown on eight carries.
Lee's cheerleaders and band dressed in Halloween costumes Friday night. Unfortunately for the school, though, the football team dressed as themselves, and that failed to intimidate Valdosta.
"That was good (to win big)," Darlington said. "It was neat to have a game where we didn't throw an incompletion. We ran it pretty good. It was fun."
Lowndes, meanwhile, is off this week. The Vikings complete their regular season next Friday against last-place Lee.
Lowndes has clinched a playoff berth. The Vikings actually still have a shot at the region title, if Colquitt beats Valdosta and the region ends up in a three-way tie. Lowndes would get the tiebreaker because they are 3-1 against non-region AAAAA schools (Valdosta is 0-1, Colquitt 0-0). A Valdosta win over Colquitt would wrap up the title for VHS, and ensure Lowndes of a second-place finish regardless of the outcome of the Lee game.
The Vikings will certainly work on fundamentals this week, and eliminating turnovers, after Tift scored two defensive touchdowns last Friday. Lowndes turned the ball over four times in the first half, but did not turn it over in the second half.
"We really played sloppy in the first half," Lowndes head coach Randy McPherson said after the game. "We've got to protect the football and we didn't do it the first half. Turnovers killed us in the first half. I've never seen anything quite like that."
Perhaps Lowndes' biggest positives against Tift were a defense that held Tift's offense scoreless, and the running of senior running back Freeman Stephens, who had his biggest game of the year, running for 162 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries.
Some of Lowndes' coaches could spend Friday night in Newnan, scouting the Newnan- East Coweta game. The loser of that game would be Lowndes' first-round opponent should the Vikings get the No. 2 seed.