Valwood ready for undefeated Tiftarea in region opener
HAHIRA –– Following a timely bye week, the Valwood Valiants (2-2) are ready to play their first region game against the undefeated Tiftarea Academy Panthers (4-0).
“We got a couple kids back that were injured,” Valwood head coach Justin Henderson said about the bye week. “We’re fairly healthy going into it, so if we could just somehow remain that way that would be fantastic. But Tiftarea is in the same boat as we are, they got a small number on their team too. So, I’m sure they’re not going to feel sorry for us… We keep telling (the team) Frederica won (state) last year with 26 guys on the team and we can do the same thing.”
Battling through injury is nothing new for Valwood but losing senior Zach Paulk in the last game against Heritage was a big blow to the roster and they’ll have to manage without him for the rest of the season.
Tiftarea is coming in the game with an unblemished record, 170 points scored, and just 45 points allowed. They’ve favored the run game throughout the year and have found plenty of success.
Senior running back, Adam Mckinney, is averaging 110 yards per game for the Panthers and has tallied seven touchdowns on the year so far. As a team, the Panthers have scored just three receiving touchdowns with 14 rushing touchdowns. It’s safe to say that slowing down Mckinney will be a key to this game for Valwood.
“I think they’re prepared,” coach Henderson said about his team heading into the game. “One of the big keys against (Tiftarea) is getting lined up right and making sure you’re covered up because they’ll slip a wheel route out from anywhere. He’s got about 60 or 70 different formations with about 30 or 40 different types of motions on top of it, so you’ve got to be real sound all the way across the board and make sure you’re getting lined up right.”
This game will fall on the shoulders of Valwood’s defense when it’s all said and done. From the front seven to the defensive backs, everybody will need to cross their t’s and dot their i’s as Tiftarea is coming to apply pressure offensively.
“We feel really good,” said Valwood linebacker and running back Demetris Rosier. “They’re going to try to trick us a lot, but we’ve been working really hard to cancel the motions on defense and offense is looking pretty good. Feel pretty confident about it… It’s going to be a very busy day.”
As far as the offense goes, Pate Hogan is the starting quarterback now that Paulk is out. He’ll have the benefit of receiver Armani Killebrew coming back this game from injury. The rest of the team also got time to recover during the bye and everybody is ready to play their first regional game.
Friday’s kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. at Goddard Field.