'Excited, anxious' Henderson ready for opener

August 17, 2018

VALDOSTA –– At long last, Valwood Valiants head coach Justin Henderson will make his debut on the sideline as the Valiants travel to battle with the Bowdon Red Devils tonight at 7:30.

Henderson admits he's had a tough time sleeping in the days leading up to tonight's opener.

"I'm very excited," Henderson said. "Sleep has been hard to come by at my house the last couple nights...excited, anxious, not really nervous. I don't usually get nervous until we get to the stadium typically, so that won't be anything unusual for me. Right now, I'm just very excited and anxious."

The Valiants begin their state title defense against a Red Devils team that finished 2-8 last season and 1-6 in Region 6-A. The Red Devils averaged just 14.8 points per game while allowing 30 points per game.

Despite their record last season, the Red Devils have traditionally been strong. Under new coach Richard Fendley Jr., Henderson says after talking with Fendley in the offseason the feel around the program is the Red Devils may not be down for much longer.

"Traditionally, they were a good football team," Henderson said. "They've been down as of late and the coach they've got is brand new. He's excited, he's trying to build and he's optimistic that in the future, they're gonna get really good."

The Valiants have re-tooled around senior quarterback Caleb Burns and running back Cam Carter, adding newcomer Willie Roberson and finding a bigger role for sophomore Bay Moorman in the backfield.

At wide receiver, the Valiants has re-stocked with newcomers Ashton McNeil, Jaheim James and Matt Hardy, who Henderson likes due to his size, speed and sure hands.

In tonight's opener, Henderson sees the fact that his team did not scrimmage in preseason as a potential disadvantage against the Red Devils, who held two preseason games leading up to tonight.

"The scary thing about this game is they've had two scrimmages at a couple of those private camps they go to," Henderson said. "They've got a couple legs up on us with that. Usually when you play a scrimmage, you make a ton of errors––penalties and stuff that get corrected between one another and I'm worried about that.

"We can't be careless with the ball, we can't be careless with penalties, we've got to tackle––they do have a couple running backs that if you let them get loose, they can break some tackles and go. And obviously, we can't get beat in special teams. That's one area we've been great at the last couple of years and I hope to keep it going. If we play the way we're capable of playing, then we'll be fine in there."