VALDOSTA -- With the Lowndes High Vikings' big state championship game against the Brookwood Broncos only four days away, it is time to start dissecting it -- starting today with the running backs.
The Broncos have one of the best offenses in the state, having set a school record for points scored, thanks primarily to its running game. The Broncos have scored less than 30 points only four times this season. Only one of those times did they score less than 20. The Broncos' 37.2 points per game average was a Region 8-AAAAA best.
Brookwood is led in the backfield by standout senior running back Cameron Smith. Last week, Smith blew the doors off of a tough Dacula defense. At game's end, Smith had rushed 30 times for 203 yards and two touchdowns. For the season, Smith has over 2,300 yards rushing.
This is Smith's first and only year at Brookwood, since he came over from Meadowcreek before the season started. Last year, as a Meadowcreek Mustang, Smith faced the Vikings and was stopped cold, mustering 40 yards on 17 carries in the 49-0 loss. Then again, it was against a Lowndes defense that didn't allow many rushing yards to anyone in 2004.
Lowndes' defense has been just as strong this year. Defensive coordinator Randy Hill's Viking defense has played with a tenacity all season long, allowing only 6.6 points per game. Including last Saturday's victory, the Vikings have seven shutouts on the season -- which means that half of Lowndes' opponents have gone scoreless. Only three times have the Vikings had more than 10 points scored on them.
The Vikings' offense is also fueled by the run. Last week, both Darriet Perry and Devaris Leonard scored, but Stanley Dickson led the team in rushing yards with 107. The Lowndes running game broke 300 yards on a usually-stifling Stephenson defense.
Lowndes has been primarily a running team since head coach Randy McPherson arrived in 2002 and installed his wing-T offense.
All season long, the Vikings have split the carries between Perry (811 yards rushing, 12 TD), Dickson (923 yards, 12 TD), Lynn Williams (732 yards, 12 TD) and Leonard (354 yards, 8 TD). The disadvantage in sharing the carries between backs is that none of them wind up with eye-popping stats. But the advantages of that strategy are that the backs don't wear down, and that opposing defenses have a hard time knowing which runner will get the ball.
The Broncos' defense has stopped a lot of powerful offenses en route to allowing only 11.79 points per game. But it will have its hands full against the Vikings' ground game.
With two teams that win games with strong running games and good defense, this game will probably be won in the trenches. The team whose offensive line does the best job of opening up holes for the running backs to run, and the defense that does the best job keeping those holes from being opened, will likely be the winner Saturday night.