Sep. 30—VALDOSTA — Twenty-four hours.
That's the amount of time Valdosta head coach Shelton Felton gave his Wildcats (1-4) to mourn their 21-0 loss to the Lowndes Vikings in last week's Winnersville Classic.
This week, the 'Cats face another Region 1-7A rival when the Tift County Blue Devils (5-1) visit Bazemore-Hyder Stadium Friday at 8 p.m.
The Blue Devils are off to their best start since 2017 following a 24-14 win over the Worth County Rams last week.
Tift got touchdowns from Zach Carter, C.J. Henley and Mike Taylor and were able to preserve the victory with a Za'morian Brown interception late in the game.
Valdosta sits at 1-4 — its worst start since 2017. So far, the 'Cats have a 52-0 win over Madison County (Fla.) to their credit as well as a near-victory in a shootout against Colquitt.
Against Lowndes, Valdosta put up 255 yards of offense with 173 of those coming from its rushing attack. With the running game held in check in the first half, the 'Cats fell behind early and never found its footing offensively.
Defensively, however, the 'Cats were stellar against the Vikings in spite of the final score. The defense recorded 22 tackles for loss and found a way to keep the Vikings out of the end zone the entire second half due in large part to their aggressive blitzing. The 21 points for the Vikings matched a season-low.
The 'Cats come into to Friday's game allowing 23.6 points per game, while the Blue Devils score 23.3 points per game on average.
Valdosta running back Terrell Denson had 14 carries for 68 yards last week and currently ranks fourth in Region 1-6A in both carries (43) and rushing yards (271). Denson was key in Valdosta's two lengthy second-half drives on the Lowndes defense, but the offense stalled once in the third quarter then got stopped at the goal line early in the fourth.
The 'Cats will also be looking for a bounce back game from quarterback Joseph Gardner. The junior struggled mightily against the Vikings, completing 6 of 21 passes for 82 yards with two interceptions.
Through the last two games, Gardner has completed just 13 of 43 passes and is completing 38.4% of his passes this season.
Valdosta is 50-10 all-time against Tift County, having won nine of the last 11 meetings.