VALDOSTA--Just when Valdosta High needed a win the most, it's defense came through.
With Friday's 38-14 victory over Class AA Charlton County, the Wildcats now have two weeks to prepare for a region run they've been talking about. After an off-week this week, Valdosta (2-3) opens its Region 1-AAAAA schedule Oct. 17 at home against Tift County, 1-4 on the season after dropping a 21-15 non-region contest Friday to Class AAA Worth County.
"These are the games that matter," Valdosta head coach Rick Darlington said.
Looking for keys to region success? Start with the Wildcats' defense, which forced Charlton to become a one-dimensional passing team by dominating the line of scrimmage. After allowing over 190 rushing yards twice in consecutive losses to Tallahassee-Lincoln and Ware County, the 'Cats defense held Charlton to just 27 yards on the ground.
Darlington was down-right ecstatic about the play of Valdosta's defensive unit, which he sarcastically called "much maligned."
"The defense was the story because they got us the ball, they got us field position," Darlington said. "Offensively, we didn't have a lot of mistakes (only one turnover) and we made some plays, but that wasn't the story. The story was the defense."
Darlington was right. Five interceptions and one fumble recovery returned for a touchdown resulted in 31 of Valdosta's 38 points against Charlton. Indians' quarterback Jeremy Privett did throw for 255 yards and two scores, but 175 of those yards and both touchdown passes came in the second half after Darlington called the dogs off.
Privett, who took the shotgun snap eight to nine yards behind center, still had pressure in his face most of the night. The Wildcats sacked Charlton's senior quarterback three times. Defensive lineman Corey Sims had one of those sacks and another quarterback pressure that forced Privett to throw an interception to Jeff McNair in the first quarter. Latavious Patterson also had a sack for Valdosta.
Darlington credited co-defensive coordinators Jeff Rolson and Richie Marsh with the defensive game plan that hobbled Charlton's high-powered passing attack.
"They had a great plan, a simple plan," Darlington said. "They brought good pressure and they covered well."
The Valdosta-Charlton game had a slight snafu near the end of the first quarter, when one of the members of the chain-gang was ejected from the game.
The referees told Darlington that one of the chain-gang crew had been kicked out and would need to be replaced. But when that happened, the other member of the crew walked off as well. The two guys were a father and son team.
Valdosta High had to replace both members, delaying the game for about five minutes.
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