Valiants defeat Trojans

Valiants' defense returns 2 INTs for TD in drubbing of Trojans

The Valwood Valiants advanced to the GISA state semifinals with a resounding 42-7 victory against the John Milledge Trojans Friday night.

Despite building a 21-7 lead on John Milledge Academy at halftime, the Valiants’ lead felt eerily uncomfortable.

That is, until the Valwood defense had its say.

With 8:30 left in the third quarter Trojans quarterback Brandon Bellflower hit running back Jacob Prestwood for a short gain, but had the play negated by an illegal motion penalty. On second-and-24, Bellflower dropped back to pass but had his pass picked off by linebacker Sam Martin who took the ball all the way for a Valwood touchdown. The Valiants’ 28-7 lead put the home crowd at ease before they put the game away for good.

After forcing the Trojans three-and-out, Valwood quarterback Caleb Burns hit Cam Walker for a 62-yard touchdown strike to put the Valiants ahead 35-7 with 6:06 to go in the third quarter.

“(Cam) was great,” Henderson said. “I think he’s the best player in the state and he proved it again tonight.”

With 8:44 left in the game, Bellflower was picked off by linebacker Jaharie Boone, who returned the interception 64 yards for the final margin––the Valiants’ second defensive touchdown of the night.

“This being my last time playing on this field, that was amazing to leave that mark,” Boone said of the play. “That’s something I’ll always remember and (Bellflower) threw it my way and I said, ‘This is my chance to get my first one’, so I just did what I did.”

For the Valiants, it was the seventh time they’ve held a team to seven points or fewer this season.

“Our kids have had that game circled since last year,” Valwood coach Ashley Henderson said. “A lot of people would want to shy away from that matchup but we didn’t.

“Our seniors, especially, knew what was coming second round and we were excited about it. They played with a lot of emotion, they played relentless, our defense was awesome––we had one drive where we lost our minds for a little bit, but after that, we played ball and we beat a really good football team tonight bad so I’m really proud of them.”

Penalty flags came fast and furious on Friday as both teams combined for 20 penalties in the first half alone––11 against Valiants, nine against the Trojans.

The Trojans took advantage of a rash of penalties against the Valiants. A drive that started at the 20-yard line suddenly moved the Trojans down to the six-yard line thanks to two personal fouls, an offsides penalty and an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

The Trojans put the ball in fullback Jacob Prestwood’s hands. Prestwood powered the ball in from the goal line to make it a 21-7 game with 2:49 left in the half.

Both teams traded turnovers early in the second quarter as Burns was intercepted by Trojans cornerback Blake Jackson on the Valiants’ second play from scrimmage. The Trojans looked to capitalize with a little trickery as they ran a flea-flicker to running back Ammad Foston who hit Caleb Rogers deep down the field and drawing a pass interference call on the Valiants in the process.

The spark was fleeting for the Trojans as a botched snap on first-and-10 from the 16-yard line was recovered by the Valiants.

From there, the Valiants hitched their good fortunes to their running game in the second quarter. Following a seven-yard hook up from Burns to Walker, running back Cam Carter exploded down field on back-to-back plays for gains of 21 and 28 yards down to the Trojans’ 28-yard line.

After a holding penalty on the Valiants, Burns fired a pass deep down the left sideline to Walker, who knocked the ball away from a Trojans defensive back to make a diving catch for a 32-yard gain down to the 5-yard line.

Burns called his own number to pick up three yards before punching in a 2-yard score to put the Valiants ahead 21-0 with 7:03 left in the second quarter.

Late in the first quarter, the Valiants struck quickly with a five-play, 66-yard drive that saw Burns hit Jaharie Boone on a long toss for 47 yards. On first-and-goal from the 14-yard line, Sam Martin found a hole to the end zone for a 14-yard touchdown run with 38 seconds left.

The Valiants will travel to St. Simons next Friday for a showdown against Frederica Academy. Due to Hurricance Irma, the Valiants had their regular season matchup against Frederica canceled. The Knights defeated the Valiants 24-13 last season.

“They’ve got a lot of speed,” Henderson said of Frederica. “They’ve got a ton of athletes and we’ve got our work cut out for us. I’m excited for that matchup––last time we played them, they took us down so we’re gonna have to go to work Monday and come out and play ball (Friday).”