HAHIRA –– The battle for the top spot of the region between Valwood (5-2, 2-0 Region 3-3A) and Southland Academy (4-3, 1-1) was the debut of Valwood’s true potential as a team.
The Valiants defeated the Raiders 30-14 on Friday night –– putting on a dominant performance not reflected in the final score.
Southland was shutout for three quarters and scored all their points in the final 10 minutes, never threatening to make a comeback. Running back Clay Owens and the rest of Southland’s offense were shut down from start to finish.
Run defense has been a weakness for Valwood this season, or it was at least. This game displayed what the Valiants can truly do when everything’s clicking. After getting scared last week against Creekside, where the run game abused them, they showed up and showed out this game.
“Intensity of how we came to work today. That’s what was different,” Valwood head coach Justin Henderson of his team. “They’ve had enough of everybody telling them that we can’t stop the run. I’ve had enough they’ve had enough, and they showed up tonight and stopped the run…They understand now that they’ve shown what they can do that is the expectation from now on. What a night to be a Valiant.”
Valwood’s Tyler Cross was a force defensively, finishing with a team high nine tackles. Quarterback Pate
Hogan went 10-of-15 for 120 yards, two touchdowns and a rushing touchdown. Hogan connected with Jaheim James on the first play of the game and it snowballed from there.
“It all started when we came to practice,” Hogan said. “I mean that last game, it shouldn’t have been like that. We should’ve came out faster and we didn’t, we sat down. We came out to practice, everybody got a little mad you know. We had some work to do so we started watching film, practicing, then came out here and got the job done”
Each game this season has been a test for Valwood. No matter if it was in a win or a loss, they never showed their true colors until this game against a very good team. Valwood’s offense was firing, defense held up, they cut out the penalties, and finished the game with no injuries.
It’s seemingly coming together for Valwood as the postseason looms around the corner.
The Valiants are now 5-2 on the season, 2-0 in region play and the top dogs of the region rolling on a four-game win streak.
“We finally played up to our level,” Henderson said. “This week started Monday. You could tell something was different and the boys responded. I’m just proud of them, proud of their efforts. I could go on and name names, but it was a team effort. It wasn’t a one-man deal, it was a team effort.”