Valdosta Brings GHSA Football 6A Championship Back to TitleTown
Friday, Georgia High School Association Football State Championship play began on day one at the Georgia Dome. Action kicked off with Eagle's Landing Christian Academy ending Fellowship Christian's perfect season defeating the Paladins 34-27 for the Class A Private Championship. Class 3A followed as Cedar Grove claimed it's first State Title in a 30-19 victory over Greater Atlanta Christian. The Class 5A championship match up featured Buford, who has won 11 state championship, 10 since 2001, making their Class 5A debut but fell short as Rome knocked off the Wolves 16-7. The night cap featured the Valdosta Wildcats, who were hoping to bring the State Title back to the city named ESPN's 2008 TitleTown, taking on the Tucker Tigers for the Class 6A championship. The Tigers received the opening kickoff but Valdosta's defense made their presence felt early forcing Tucker to punt the ball. On their ensuing possession, the Wildcats marched down the field with an air attack lead by Sr. quarterback #4 Josh Belton who helped Valdosta cap the drive with a 25 yard touchdown strike to Jr. #26 Damarrias Morrow as the Wildcats would take a 7-0 lead with 7:40 left in the opening quarter. With Tucker's offense back on the field, the Wildcat's defense once again forced Tucker to punt the ball, resulting in Valdosta's Jr. #5 Jayce Rogers returning the ball to the Tiger's 29 yard line.
Back at the helm of the Valdosta offense, Belton would once again lead the Wildcats into the end zone as he connected with Sr. wide receiver #6 Jr. Ingram for a 20 yard touchdown. On their third possession of the game, the Wildcats were attempted to add to their 14-0 lead when Belton was intercepted by Tucker's Jr. corner back #29 Tylan Oglesby at the goal line. with 9:55 left in the second quarter. Tucker, who continued to struggle against the Wildcat's defense, would find themselves going for it on 4th and 4 with 2:00 left in the half but failing to convert. After taking over on downs, Valdosta would end the half kicking a 44 yard field goal with :01 left in the second quarter to take a 17-0 lead into halftime. The second half opened with Valdosta's offense on the field and the Wildcat's switching back and forth between Belton and Jr. quarterback #17 Hunter Holt to give the Tiger's defense a different look. Despite the change at quarterback, Tucker's defense seemed to settle in as they forced the Wildcats to punt on their first possession of the half. As Tucker's Sr. quarterback #12 Xavier Shephard Jr. led the Tigers down the field, the QB was picked off by Valdosta's Rogers in the end zone.
Tucker's defense would continue to keep Valdosta from scoring in the second half and the Tigers would eventually get into the end zone behind a 8 yard touchdown run by Sr. running back #1 Chris Broadwater to make it a 17-7 game with 2:03 left in the third quarter. In the fourth and final quarter of the game, both defenses continued to keep the opposing team from scoring but it was but it was the Wildcats defense that came up big when Tucker went for it on 4th and 5 from the Valdosta 21 yard line and Valdosta's Sr. corner back #1 Antwon Kincade broke up a touchdown pass attempt by Shephard with 8:00 left in the game.
Tucker would get another chance for their offense to produce points but fell short as Valdosta would go on to win the Class 6A Championship by a final score of 17-7 and claiming their first title since 1998. Following the game, Valdosta head coach credited his players and their maturity for contributing to their victory. "A lot of people look at us and don't see a championship team but if they open up our chest, they'll find out what kind of heart we have. The inside of our kids is really strong and I couldn't be more proud of them!"