Valiants eye bounce back against Hawks

September 13, 2018

VALDOSTA –– Coming off their most lopsided loss since 2015, the Valwood Valiants (3-1) travel to Newnan to battle the undefeated Heritage Hawks (4-0).

The Valiants lost 31-7 to the North Florida Christian Eagles at home last week. The 24-point loss was the largest margin of defeat Valwood has suffered since a 42-6 loss to the Eagles on Sept. 4, 2015. Five turnovers combined with five sacks allowed on quarterback Caleb Burns kept the typically lively Valwood offense stagnant for long stretches.

After a "tough and physical" week of practice, Valwood head coach Justin Henderson says his team is "eager" to face a Hawks team that has outscored its opposition 153-33 in the first four games.

"Kids were eager to get back (on the practice field) and get after it," Henderson said. "I've got a baseball background––the best part about coaching baseball is if you lose a game, you can possibly have one scheduled the next day. With football, you've gotta sit with it for seven days. They're eager to get back out there and show that we're a good football team."

The Hawks' defense looks formidable as well, having held its opponents to just 8.2 points per game during their four-game winning streak.

"They're going to stack the box and I fully expect that going into the game (tonight) with the way we run the ball," Henderson said of the Hawks' defense. "They're really big up front, their front three is exceptional, they've got a couple athletes out in the secondary so I think they're going to try to force our hand to throwing it.

"On offense, they're a spread (team) but they run the ball 70, maybe 75 percent of the time. They've got a running back who's electric and gets the ball and gets out. If he gets the ball, he can take it the distance any time. They've got weapons, they're a good team, undefeated so I think our kids have looked at this as a good measuring stick to see where we're at."

Offensively, the Valiants will need to protect Burns in order to find success against the Hawks. While Burns completed 11-of-19 passes last week, the senior threw for just 75 yards and had an interception ran back for a touchdown.

"We were getting speed-rushed off the edge big-time last week by two good athletes––that's where a lot of our protection woes fell," Henderson said. "A lot of that happened in the second half in third-and-long situations where we had to throw it.

"No. 1, you try to avoid those situations. If you want to throw downfield, that needs to be on your terms, not their terms. That's what we've done a lot (this week), quick game and shoring up the running game so we don't have to face third-and-long. I could call plays on second-and-short, third-and-short a lot better than I can call plays third-and-long, second-and-long."

The Valiants are 2-0 all-time against the Hawks, but haven't played them since 2011 under former coach Brannon Tidwell. In the two wins against Heritage, Valwood averaged 45.5 points per game.

Kickoff for tonight's game in Newnan is scheduled for 7:30.