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VALDOSTA –– While much of their new-look coaching staff is still in the works, the defending GISA state champion Valwood Valiants know one thing for sure––who they’ll play next season.
The Valiants released their 2018 football schedule over the weekend and will face an immediate test as they travel to St. Simons to face Frederica Academy on Aug. 24.
The season opener is a rematch from the 2017 GISA state semifinal game that saw the Valiants come from behind the stun the Knights 14-10 and punch their ticket to the state championship game. The rest is history as the Valiants held off Trinity Christian Sharpsburg 14-9 to win its third state title in the last six years.
In somewhat of a shocker, the Valiants will have to defend their state title without Ashley Henderson as head coach.
With Henderson leaving to become the head coach at Thomas County Central, Justin Henderson––Ashley’s brother and the Valiants’ defensive coordinator––assumes the role of head coach for a Valiants team that lost valuable senior standouts Cam Walker, Isaiah Bristol, Jaharie Boone, Sam Martin, J.D. Scurry and kicker John Miller this offseason.
After tangling with Frederica Academy, the Valiants play their first home game Aug. 31 against Notre Dame. North Florida Christian visits Goddard Field on Sept. 7 which figures to be a physical matchup as NFC handed the Valiants their second loss of the season in Tallahassee last September.
The Valiants hit the road to play Heritage in Newnan on Sept. 14 before a bye week Sept. 21. From there, the Valiants open their region schedule in Chula against Tiftarea Academy, whom the Valiants pummeled 42-10 on the road last season.
Oct. 5 will be Homecoming for the Valiants as they host Creekside before traveling to Americus on Oct. 12 for a showdown with Southland Academy.
The Raiders were the last team to defeat the Valiants last season and the only one to do so at home as they knocked off the Valiants 16-6 on Oct. 16, 2017. That game also featured a controversial ending as the Valiants saw a late go-ahead touchdown run by quarterback Caleb Burns negated before the Raiders pulled away in the fourth quarter.
On Oct. 19, Valwood visits Loganville Christian for a road matchup. Returning to region play, the Valiants host Brookwood on Oct. 26. Valwood defeated Brookwood 27-0 in Thomasville last season.
The next week, the Valiants wrap up their regular season against rival Deerfield-Windsor on Senior Night. The Valiants racked up their fifth and final shutout of the season against the Knights, cruising to a convincing 35-0 victory in Albany.
Following the regular season, the GISA state playoffs begin on Nov. 9 and will run until the GISA state championship game on Nov. 30.