Valiants battle Panthers in regular season finale

With region stakes high, Valiants battle Panthers in regular season finale

VALDOSTA –– The Valwood Valiants (5-3, 2-1 Region 3-3A) host the Tiftarea Panthers (5-3, 1-2) in their regular season finale tonight at Goddard Field.

Needing a win to avoid losing ground in the region standings, the Valiants delivered their fifth shutout of the season with a 35-0 win against Deerfield-Windsor last week.

Caleb Burns bounced back from a tough game in a loss to Southland to complete 14 of 20 passes for 197 yards and three touchdowns against Deerfield. Reigning Region Player of the Year Cam Walker caught six balls for 55 yards with two scores as the Valiants put up 309 yards of total offense.

Keeping Burns upright to allow him to make plays helped the Valiants' offense to put the Knights in the rearview mirror as they look for their third region win tonight against the Panthers.

"They're a three-man front team and they bring pressure from all over the place so we certainly have our work cut out for us," Henderson said. "I think our offensive line made some strides last week. We've just continued to work on consistency––we've been good at times, we've been bad at times and even in the games we've come up short, we've had our moments. 

"I think this point at this time of the year is when you're looking to all your guys to be getting better and it's time to maybe not reach your peak, but you're climbing that mountain. That's the challenge for all of us, is just continue to climb that mountain and get better."

The Valiants spent their week preparing for the Panthers and multi-purpose running back Spence Massey. Much like their own Swiss army knife Sam Martin for other teams, Massey is high up on the scouting report for tonight's game.

"The first thing we have to do is stop Spence Massey," Henderson said. "He's one of the better players in our league. He's a do-it-all type kid for them––he's their free safety, he can score from running back, score from quarterback, score from punt returns and we've seen him score from safety. He's a heck of a football player, we're gonna have to try to slow him down. When we get the football, we've got to make our possessions count. They like to run the ball at you and they've had a lot of success here lately throwing the football, too. They're gonna take their shots but we're gonna have to know where No. 9 (Massey) is at all times and try to slow him down."Despite the Panthers holding a 19-13 all-time record against the Valiants, the Valiants have taken each of the last five meetings by a combined score of 184-57.

The Panthers currently sit fourth in Region 3-3A at 1-2, just ahead of last-place Brookwood at 0-3. With a win, the Valiants would tie first-place Southland for the region's best record at 3-1. According to Henderson, however, the region standings are far from set with teams still jockeying for position.

"The thing about it is, really we need a three-way tie because that would give us the 1 seed," Henderson said. "We need Deerfield to beat Southland and handle our business and get into that three-way tie because we do hold the tiebreaker. And Tiftarea is playing, there's a chance they could still be the 2 seed as well so our region is far from settled. It's wide open right now, all the way from 1 through 4 and it's kind of like that throughout the state."

Tonight's game can be heard on 1150 AM as well as 96.1 FM and will be streamed on foxsportsvaldosta.com.