Changing Sides in Winnersville - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Changing Sides in Winnersville

October 18, 2006

Valdosta -- The last time the Valdosta high school football team had a five game losing streak, Richard Nixon was resigning as President, 8-tracks were cool, and the Godfather Part II was king at the box office.

The year was 1974, and the Wildcats made rival Lowndes an offer they couldn't refuse, snapping the losing streak with a 20-3 win over the Vikings.

Valdosta is on a five-game skid heading into the Lowndes game again this season, and the rivalry even has some added intrigue on the coaching sidelines this year.

Friday nights meeting between Valdosta and Lowndes high school is an annual rite of passage for the community.

Viking head coach Randy McPherson says, "If you're a kid growing up in Lowndes County, whether you're a Cat or a Vike, you got to be thinking about playing in this ball game."

Wildcats head coach Rick Tomberlin adds, "They're our friends. They're our neighbors. We go to church with them. A lot of these kids grew up with those folks. A lot of us are related, and you don't want to beat anybody any more than your family sometimes."

Tomberlin is in his first year with Valdosta, but was the head coach at Lowndes 15 years ago.

"It's been a long time," says Tomberlin. "I'm a Valdosta Wildcat now. I bleed black and gold. I'm glad to be here and honored to be here."

Tomberlin would like nothing more than to secure bragging rights his first year on the Wildcats sideline.

"It's not life or death, but it's pretty important," says Tomberlin about the game.

Lowndes will be bringing a lot of fans up the road Friday night to Bazemore-Hyder Stadium.

McPherson says, "You're gonna be nervous, but if you're any sort of competitor at all, after that first lick the butterflies will go out the window."

The Wildcats have lost their last five games by an average of less than three points, and McPherson knows the 1-6 record is deceiving.

"I think you can throw records out the window," says McPherson. "Anything can happen in the game. They have a fine ball club, very well coached. Should be a good one."

Valdosta hasn't had a losing season since 1973.

Lowndes has won the last two state championships.

Kick off for Friday night's game is 8 o'clock.

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