October 21, 2003
Valdosta--Oh how times have changed. The Winnersville Classic between Valdosta and Lowndes dates back to 1968. But when the 42nd meeting between these two schools kicks off Friday night, the two men in charge of their respective programs, will have coached in just one Winnersville Classic between them.
"Yeah, I'm sure this is going to be on a whole different scale than anything we've been apart of, so it's very exciting," Valdosta head coach Rick Darlington said.
"All I can tell you is that it feels a little different this year than what it did last year," Lowndes head coach Randy McPherson said.
But Darlington and McPherson aren't totally unfamiliar with the rivalry, having both coached nearby in Florida. And if they ever need to be reminded of just how important this game is, they look no further than the players themselves.
"It's a cross-town rivalry. We've been brought up on this and we get our turn and then we want to go after each other so bad, it just makes it so intense," Valdosta senior wide receiver Cedric Hill said.
"It's amazing. I mean everyone dreams to play on the college level but it's almost like that, you have like over ten thousand people watching you play so it's almost like that," Lowndes senior defensive back Brad Johnson said.
And just as it has in so many seasons before, Friday's Classic carries playoff implications. Valdosta and Lowndes are the lone undefeated teams in the region, and the winner will stand alone as the favorite to take that all important top seed for the playoffs.
"I think it's going to come down to whoever can execute best and whoever makes the least amount of mistakes," McPherson said.
"We're trying to put a plan in place that gives us a chance to win. And if we go in there in the fourth quarter and make the plays, you know hopefully we're going to come out on top," Darlington added.
And both coaches are quickly finding out how important this game is to the community. Coach McPherson had to lock his telephone in his desk drawer this week because of the amount of ticket requests he was getting.
But if McPherson wins his first Winnersville Classic Friday night, he can expect that phone to be ringing well into next week.
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