'Cats gamble pays off - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

'Cats gamble pays off

August 6, 2002

The goal at Valdosta High every season is to win a state championship. With 12 starters from a team that made it to the state semifinals last year,

The Cats could be ready to re-stake their claim as the king of the football mountain in the peach state.

Head coach Mike O'Brien said "We've always been a senior laden team but last year we played and started alot of sophomores and juniors there were mixed in the lineup. The bad thing last year is that they had to learn on the run but the good thing this year is they are all back."

 Valdosta's championship seasons are usually dominated by defense. The Cats did lose two time region defensive player of the year Andrew Braley at linebacker but return the other six of the seven front posistion players. Senior Eric Williams is back at cornerback and will lead the secondary.

Defensive lineman Travis Bailey said "Because there are ten other guys, we can fill up for one player with the rest of the team. So, I think our defense, especially with a bunch of experience, I think we will be pretty good."

The Valdosta offense will feature running back Corey James who is looking to improve on what was an outstanding sophomore season.

Opening holes for James is an offensive line that returns virtually intact from last season.

Quarterback Jarrod Alford is gone but his back up Cedric Hatten appears ready to inherit the starting job.

Senior offensive guard Mike Williams said "Even though he is just a junior, he can come in and do his job. That is all we need from him."

One advantage to the Valdosta tradition is that the Cats know last year's success will mean nothing when they line up for their first game.

Coach O'Brien said "As long as we workd hard and do a good job coaching, we have got a shot not only at the region but playing for the state. Now there is 14 games in front of us that have a little something to say other to say than about that."

Defensive back Eric Williams said "If we have leadership and we want to win, we can take it.

The first of those 14 games for Valdosta High is August 30th against Wayne County.