VALDOSTA -- Ware County and Valdosta come into tonight's meeting coming off very different results.

Last Friday, Ware ended Lowndes' 19-game winning streak, defeating the defending AAAAA state champions 28-7, one of the biggest wins in the school's history. Meanwhile, Valdosta suffered a tough loss, falling to Lincoln in the final 61 seconds, 20-19.

Now Ware will try to build on that big win, while Valdosta will try to rebound after two consecutive one-point losses. Valdosta travels east on U.S. 84 tonight to face Ware at 7:30 p.m. at Waycross Memorial Stadium.

Ware comes in ranked No. 2 in the state in AAAA, maybe the school's highest state ranking ever. The Gators, who made it to the state semifinals last year, may not have the stable of Division I athletes they've had in the past, but this looks like one of the best Gator teams ever.

"Ware's got a good team," Valdosta head coach Rick Darlington said. "Anybody that beats Lowndes is pretty good."

Ware's offense, long a wide-open passing attack, has changed somewhat. Now the Gators run the ball more, thanks to a deep group of running backs, led by Eric Baker, Art Duke and Derrick Daniels. The biggest concern for Valdosta's defense, though, could be Ware's quarterback. Victor Daniels, a sophomore left-hander, gives teams troubles both passing the ball and running it. In last year's 28-14 win over Valdosta, Daniels threw for 80 yards and ran for 39 more, despite sharing time with senior Henry Chubb.

"Offensively, they're very difficult to defend," Darlington said. "They've got an athletic quarterback, and good running schemes. They like to run the one-back shotgun and the two-back shotgun. They like to get in the I formation. They run the power-I with three backs. And now they've added the wing-T to their repertoire. So they do about everything. And the thing that's disheartening about them is they do it all well. They can run it, they can throw it, and they've got good athletes."

In the past, Ware's reputation in football has been a team with a high-scoring offense, but now they've also got a strong defense, as last week's showing against Lowndes indicates.

"This is the best defense they've had since I've been the coach here," Darlington said. "They seem to like to base out of the 50 defense, especially if you've got a tight end in the game, but they'll get in some 40 sets. Their defense isn't very big, but they're lightning quick. Any defense that holds Lowndes to 100 yards rushing is impressive."

The game will be a battle of sophomore quarterbacks. Daniels starts for Ware, while Valdosta alternates a pair of 10th graders at QB, Michael Turner and Alfrie Johnson.

Valdosta is similar to Ware offensively. The Wildcats will also mix up the run and the pass, trying to get the ball into the hands of an impressive group of athletes. Valdosta likes to rotate its backs and receivers, and will mix up its offensive sets.

Valdosta dominated this series from 1968-2002, winning the first 11 Valdosta-Ware County contests (Valdosta also went 39-10-2 in 51 meetings with Waycross High from 1921-89, before Waycross and Ware merged in the early 1990's). But the last two years, Ware has turned the tide, defeating the Wildcats 28-14 in both 2003 and 2004.

Last year, Ware defeated Valdosta much the same way they beat Lowndes last week: they hung with them for three quarters, then took advantage of mistakes and dominated the fourth quarter. In both games, the score was tied 7-7 entering the fourth quarter, then Ware scored three touchdowns in the final 12 minutes to win.

Valdosta knows it can't make those mistakes this time.

Directions to Waycross Memorial Stadium: Take U.S. 84 east to Waycross (approximately 63 miles). U.S. 84 merges with U.S. 82 just inside Waycross city limits. Stay on U.S. 82 and go about three miles. Turn left on Memorial Drive. The stadium is on your left. Tickets will be available at the game for $7.

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