MACON – While the Valdosta Wildcats drew first blood, they failed to overcome a huge first-half deficit in a 48-20 loss to Warner Robins on Saturday in the classic kick-off. sending from the Middle Georgia club from Macon.
The ‘Cats (0-1) scored on a blocked punt, scoop and score from safety Camren Bailey in the first quarter, but quickly found themselves in a 27-7 hole against the Demons midway through the second quarter. .
A touchdown pass from Joseph Gardner to Nevin Spivey reduced the lead to 27-14 with 14 seconds left before halftime. In the ensuing kick-off, it appeared the ‘Cats were gaining momentum as they scooped up a Demons fumble to take over with a chance to make it a one-scoring game.
The momentum was shortlived however, as Gardner threw an interception to close the first half with the ‘Cats down 13.
With Warner Robins’ defense ending Valdosta’s on-going attack, the offense began to wear down Valdosta’s defense – turning a competitive clash on paper into a rout.
“It got away from us early on,” said Valdosta coach Shelton Felton. “They did a good job building formations on our running game. They load the box with a nine-man box and we didn’t hit on some shots. We tried a few shots, there aren’t any. had only a few that we haven’t touched on. We need to go back and adapt and improve in that department. “
The game moved away from the ‘Cats further midway through the third quarter as Jafredrick Perry returned a 59-yard punt at home to give the Demons a 34-14 lead with 5:44 left in the third. .
Despite the deficit, Valdosta has always fought to try to stay within striking distance. Entering the red zone, the ‘Cats performed a double backhand that saw Willie Almond hit quarterback Gardner for a one-handed touchdown late in the third quarter to reduce the lead to 34-20 after the botched conversion of two points. .
“Well offensively we haven’t played up to it,” said Felton. “We’ve had too many turnovers and they made some big plays, but we’re a better team than that. We have to come back and play better. We have to make plays. We have to be able to run the ball. first time since I’ve been here that we weren’t able to throw the ball so that was disappointing. We’re going to get it fixed and we’re going to get it fixed. “
Defensively, signs of fatigue began to appear in the fourth quarter.
Perry scored on a touchdown at close range to bring the score to 41-20 with 11:04 remaining in regulation, then in a fortuitous rebound, quarterback Christon Lane dabbled in a snap near goal only to get it going. right to Perry, who ran to the untouched end for the final margin.
“We didn’t play at our caliber on defense,” said Felton. “We were tired. We didn’t fly. We missed a lot of tackles. We have to do a better job. We’re a physical front line in defense, but we’re tired I think. And Warner Robins is a good one. team. A good team that relied on us and they were able to throw the ball. Hats off to them, they made plays that we should have made. We had a lot of plays there, we should. ” I did in defense, but it’s okay anyway. We will move on to the next one. “
For the ‘Cats, this is the first time they have started 0-1 in a season since August 18, 2017, when the team lost 45-0 to Lowndes in a season-opening interpretation of the Winnersville Classic.
Valdosta welcomes Madison County this Friday, August 27 at 8 p.m.
After a disappointing loss to Warner Robins, Felton promises a better product on the pitch in front of the home crowd at Bazemore-Hyder Stadium.
“We’re going to be tested,” Felton said. “That’s why in our area, who we are in Valdosta; we play these kinds of games. We have to show up and play our football style. We can’t wait to play Madison and get back to the drawing board. , make the fixes we need to fix and get ready for Madison. We’re going to perform better next week, I promise you. “
Shane Thomas is the sports editor of the Valdosta Daily Times.