Aug. 30—Following the Valdosta Wildcats' 34-7 win against Cook last week, head coach Shelton Felton said, "A win is a win, no matter how it is."
While the offense was completely out of sorts, the 'Cats (2-0) found other ways to put points on the board.
Here are a few of my extra points...
1) Cashing in
Of the five touchdowns Valdosta scored against Cook, three of the scores came directly off of defensive stops on fourth down. A fourth touchdown came on a pick-six on third-and-long.
With the Hornets struggling to handle snaps on punts, Valdosta took full advantage of favorable field position.
In the first quarter, Valdosta backed Cook up fourth-and-11 from their own 19 and the Hornets fumbled away the punt to give the 'Cats first and goal from the 1. Two plays later, Eric Brantley powered in for the first score of the night just 4 seconds into the second quarter.
Following a sack and a 15-yard loss on second-and-11 from the 19 that made it third-and-26 from the Cook 43, Valdosta cornerback Tim Roberson picked off Drew Folsom and took it to the house for six to make it 14-0 with 4:33 left in the second quarter.
Another bad snap by the Hornets on fourth-and-12 gave the 'Cats the ball first-and-10 from the Cook 16. In just 5 seconds, Brantley found a hole and marched unimpeded into the end zone to make it 21-0.
Following a 1-yard touchdown by Folsom to get the Hornets on the board, the 'Cats returned the kickoff to the 30.
On the first play of the drive, Charles Williams found a seam along the right side and rolled 70 yards to score in only 11 seconds.
The 'Cats forced another 3-and-out early in the fourth quarter and after jumping offsides, the Hornets set up to punt on fourth-and-5 from their own 6. The 'Cats blocked the punt and once again set up shop on the 1-yard line. Brantley walked in on first down in the final offensive play of the game before lightning and rain forced the game to be called with 9:30 left to play.
Call it defensive success on fourth down or just plain lucky, but Valdosta's ability to immediately capitalize on Cook's miscues is something Felton has preached since the team's preseason game against Thomasville Aug. 12. He said after that game, "Football 101, you can't turn the ball over and we've got to cash in on turnovers."
Two weeks into the season, it appears that Felton's message didn't miss its mark.
2) Two-way terror
Four-star junior defensive end Eric Brantley broke on the scene last season as Valdosta's top pass rusher.
This year, Brantley now moonlights as Valdosta's most reliable touchdown source in the red zone. While the 6-foot-2, 250-pound defensive anchor has only rushed for 22 yards on four carries in the first two games, every time Brantley has touched the ball, he's scored.
After his three scores against Cook last week, it's safe to say Brantley has solidified a role for himself on the offensive side of the ball.
"Brantley is a big kid," Felton said with a laugh. "He's a man among boys. He's athletic and does a lot for us. He's very talented, and he's our power back. We're going to give him opportunities to score touchdowns and when he gets it, he's been successful. He's 4-for-4 on the season and we're gonna keep giving it to him."
3) Roberson a rising star
With all the attention Brantley and fellow four-star defensive lineman Omar White generate on Valdosta's vaunted defense, it's not just those juniors that make things happen for the 'Cats defensively.
Enter senior cornerback Tim Roberson.
Through the first two games, Roberson has emerged as one of Valdosta's best playmakers on defense with two interceptions (including the aforementioned pick-six on third-and-long against Cook), a sack and a fumble recovery.
The sample size is small — two regular season games and a preseason game — but Roberson has also shown the dexterity to factor in on the punt team as a punt blocking threat.
As the season rolls on, Roberson's ability to make big plays in key moments makes No. 11 in black and gold a player to watch when the lights brighten in region play.
4) Williams' big night
A week after going for 344 yards against North Miami, Valdosta went for just 169 yards of total offense against a well-prepared Cook defense.
Senior running back Charles Williams had seven carries for 105 yards, none bigger than the 70-yard touchdown run in the third quarter that put Valdosta ahead by three scores.
Through the first two games, Williams is second among Region 1-7A performers with 168 yards.
5) Pump the brakes
In Week 1 against North Miami, sophomore quarterback Todd Robinson made his first career start and played well — throwing two touchdowns and rushing for a third.
Last week against Cook, Robinson went 3 of 7 passing for 10 yards while carrying the ball eight times for 8 yards.
After a confident opener, Robinson's game took a step back in Week 2. The upside is Valdosta still scored a ton of points and didn't need Robinson to play well to win. Something to watch is how the sophomore responds in Week 3 against Banneker. With young players, the saying is, 'Confidence is everything.'
Robinson has shown confidence, yes, but the next step for the young QB, and perhaps the most important one, is consistency — something he has ample time to build on.
Valdosta (2-0) hosts the Region 5-5A Banneker Trojans (2-0) this Friday at 8 p.m.
Shane Thomas is the sports editor at the Valdosta Daily Times.