Valwood prepares for ‘biggest challenge of the year’
HAHIRA –– The bye week last Friday allowed for some time off the gridiron.
Now the Valwood Valiants (1-1) are set to face yet another state championship team –– the North Florida Christian Eagles (1-1).
NFC won the Class 2A Florida state championship just last year and beat Valwood 31-7 last season.
Now, Valwood travels to Tallahassee seeking their first win over NFC since 2014. NFC isn’t a region or in-state rival, but this game holds the same type of weight for the Valiants.
“It’s been a long time since we’ve won,” Defensive end Wright Kimbro said. “We just all want to win bad. You know, we’ve got a state championship on our mind but when we’re playing teams like Bowdon and NFC, we still want to win just as bad.”
Both teams enter this game with the same 1-1 record, and for the Valiants, this will be their biggest test so far on their top-heavy schedule.
They kicked off the season against a Bowdon team that was big in size and numbers compared to the Valiants and lost in a close game. Next was the victory over last year’s state champion and rival, Frederica Academy.
With competition like that so early the Valiants are battle-tested heading into their first road game of the year against one of the toughest teams on the schedule.
“Main challenge we have to do is get lined up correctly and be aggressive for the run,” Valwood head coach Justin Henderson said. “Of course, DB’s they can’t go to sleep because (NFC) still have Cadillacs out wide. It’s going to be a big effort for us, this is the first time we’re really going to get challenged on defense.”
The talent on the other side has been recognized.
Valwood knows that this game isn’t going to be given to them, but they can take it.
Defensively, the Valiants have only allowed 27 points in the two games they’ve played. Players like Jaheim James, Zach Paulk, Bay Moorman and Aalah Brown will look to continue having a big impact on defense.
Offensively, Henderson’s scheme has several layers to it but what has been most prolific is the passing game, and that may be because of the weapons he has at hand.
Quarterback Pate Hogan has been solid so far and his receivers like Brown, Armani Killebrew and Michael Tucker can take the top off any defense.
But the most consistent player yet is kicker Gatlin Kimbro. On the season he’s a flawless 3-for-3 for field goals and 4-for-4 for extra points.
NFC is a highly respected team. They’ll test how good this Valwood team is and getting the W will take a complete team effort.
“(NFC) is always a little bit different, always athletic, always well-coached,” Henderson said. “I’ve always had a lot of respect for their coaches down there for what they do and how they do it. So, it’ll be our biggest challenge of the year.”
Friday’s kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.