Valdosta Wildcats App
Wildcats Prepare to start Season
August 24, 2011By Monty Long of Valdosta High School
After a week off, the Valdosta Wildcats are preparing to start their football season. Valdosta begins its regular season on Friday night, when it hosts Brooks County, the No. 8 team in AA, at 8 p.m. at Cleveland Field at Bazemore-Hyder Stadium. “I think we’re to that point where it’s time for us to see how we do against someone else, and see where we’re at,” Valdosta head coach Rance Gillespie said. A lot of teams, including the other four Region 1-AAAAA schools, began their seasons last week, but Valdosta was off. The Wildcats, a team with nine new starters on offense and six new starters on defense, have had an extra week to practice before they start playing games that count on their won-loss record. “I think the extra week did us a lot of good, as far as preparation and the extra reps and mental assignments and fundamental work,” Gillespie said. Gillespie says his team is continuing to get better. “I think we’re improving each and every week, as you would hope and you would expect this time of year,” he said. “The kids are getting better and better each day they’re out there. The more reps, the better we get.” Valdosta lost 24-7 to Ware County (the No. 7 team in AAAA) in a preseason scrimmage on Aug. 12. Since that scrimmage, the Valdosta coaching staff has been working to help the team get better and improve in the areas where they need improvement. The Wildcats had five full practices last week, and will have four more practices this week before they take the field on Friday night. “We’ve had two more weeks of practice (since the scrimmage), and I think we’re a better football team than we were,” Gillespie said. Gillespie thinks defensive tackle Willie McClain will be back for the Brooks game. McClain limped off the field with an injury early in the first quarter of the Ware scrimmage, and did not return. Terry Allen and Darrius Sapp have been working at defensive tackle in McClain’s absence. When McClain returns, he will be a part of a four-player rotation at the two defensive tackle spots with Allen, Kris Brown and Sapp. Jamel Hunter, the Wildcats’ center, will also be back. Hunter was held out of the Ware scrimmage after experiencing some problems with the heat in practice. Hunter’s return will enable Willie Barrett to move back to left tackle, his normal position. Barrett is one of two starting offensive linemen who are back this year. The other one is Ronnie Stoney, who is making the transition from right guard to right tackle. New right guard Anthony Evans was moved from defense to offense in the offseason. Dyshon Simms, who began fall practice as a reserve, has earned the starting job at left guard.