Valiants roll early, coast past Irish

September 1, 2018

HAHIRA, Ga. — The Valwood Valiants put on an offensive clinic in the first half as they romped past the Notre Dame Irish 35-14 on Friday.

The Valiants (3-0) scored all 35 of their points in the first half for their 40th home victory in their last 44 games at Goddard Field.

Looking to preserve themselves after a physical matchup with Frederica Academy last week, the Valiants accomplished their goal of cleaning up mistakes and getting backups into the game early against the Irish.

“We spent a lot of time during the practice week working on us and not necessarily focusing on Notre Dame,” Henderson said. “They’re a young program trying to be up-and-comers and our B-teamers have been going since spring as well and they deserved a shot to get out there.

Caleb Burns connected with Luke Eager for a 13-yard touchdown pass to put the Valiants ahead 35-0 with 3:46 to go in the first half.

A week after seeing his 14-game streak with at least one touchdown pass snapped, Burns tossed three scores in the first half and sat out the second half as the Valiants put the game out of reach early.

“Defensively, for them, we knew that every time we got around the 20-yard line, they would go to a man kind of look out of trips (formation),” Burns said. “We kind of took advantage of that. They basically went man-to-man 20 yards and in so all of our guys were man-beaters and they were wide open.”

The Irish (0-3) were able to score a pair of touchdowns against the Valiants’ reserves in the fourth as quarterback Thomas Mlakar hit Nasir Warner for a 62-yard touchdown pass with 11:45 left in the game. Later in the quarter, Mlakar fired a 40-yard pass to Frank Woods, found Izayah Fuller for 32 yards, then punched in a 5-yard touchdown himself with 2:11 left to cut into the final margin.

Valwood’s Tyler Cross forced a fumble from Mlakar and recovered it to give the Valiants the ball back with 10:55 left in the second quarter.

Three plays later, backup quarterback Zach Paulk found Jaheim James for a 12-yard touchdown to make it 28-0 with 9:09 to go in the half.

After coming up with the game-saving tackle last week against Frederica Academy, Valwood defensive end Eli Joyner recovered a fumble on a botched toss play by Mlakar. After running for six yards on a carry, Burns fired two incomplete passes before hitting Paulk on an eight-yard connection with 3:14 left in the first quarter.

Following a pair of seven-yard runs up the middle by running back Bay Moorman, the two quarterbacks hooked up again as Burns found Paulk for a 6-yard score to make it a 21-0 game with 2:21 left in the opening frame.

“We were simple but we did want to bring pressure because we thought they’d have a hard time dealing with that,” Henderson said. “We brought an outside blitz every time just because I thought they’d have a hard time blocking five of us and sure enough, they did.

“We’ve got a good defense when we’re zoned in, locked in from Monday through Friday. Last week, we showed it and this week, no different.”

With the Valiants bringing relentless pressure, the Irish offense couldn’t produce anything on its opening drive. Two bad snaps pushed the Irish back 19 yards and a run by Mlakar failed to gain any yards.

The Valiants responded with an eight-play, 31-yard scoring drive punctuated by Burns finding James in the end zone for a 2-yard strike to put Valwood in front by two touchdowns, 14-0 with 5:01 left in the first quarter.

After receiving the opening kickoff, the Valiants marched right down the field before Moorman broke out for a 21-yard touchdown run to go ahead 7-0 with 9:53 left in the first quarter.

“This was a great night — we got some things fixed with varsity and the B-team got some much-needed reps," Henderson said. "I’m proud of the whole group — proud of the (starters) for coming in and playing at their level, not worrying about who they’re playing against. The B-team came in and competed their tails off.”

UP NEXT

The Valiants host the North Florida Christian Eagles next week. NFC has the distinction of being one of the three teams to defeat the Valiants last season, winning 18-13 in Tallahassee last September.

“It’s gonna be war,” Burns said with a grin. “I fully believe that. We’ve been in two wars already. We came out victorious and I think that’s what we’re gonna do again.”