MOULTRIE — The Colquitt County-Valdosta game will feature not only the No. 1 and No. 3 teams in the state facing off, but also the best two defenses in Region 1-AAAAAA.
Valdosta, 7-0 overall and 2-0 in the region, has already pitched four shutouts and has surrendered just 44 points in the other three games.
Colquitt County running backs coach Zach Grage has made it plain to his players that the Wildcats will present the best defense the Packers have seen so far.
And he can tell you why.
“Their linebackers are very physical,” Grage said Tuesday. “They fill downhill and come downhill hard.
“And their defensive line has such tight technique that they don’t leave a lot of gaps. And their corners and safeties are physical as well when you get to the second level.
“It’s going to be a great challenge.”
And Grage said he thinks the Colquitt County offense will be equal to that challenge.
“It seems our kids play better when they know that if they don’t play well, they might get beat,” he said. “They definitely have their antennas up this week.”
The Packers will offer the best offense that Wildcats have faced this season.
Colquitt has the region’s leading rusher in Sihiem King, who has 772 yards in 108 carries this season. He also leads the region in touchdowns with 14.
Grage said King is mostly unimpressed with his own stats as long as the Packers are winning and playing well.
But he clearly would like to have a big name in front of what is expected to be a large crowd at Bazemore-Hyder Stadium.
“When Sihiem has had to show up, he has,” Grage said, adding that the All-State running back knows he will likely be on the field all four quarters on Friday.
Rafael Merritt and Ty “Grump” Jones have been getting some reps in the games that have not been close.
Jones displayed his potential on a 29-yard touchdown run and an 82-yard kickoff return against Lee County.
“He hits the holes so hard,” Grage said. “And he gets zero-to-60 right now.”
The Packers have lost their last two games at Valdosta. Interceptions were key in those games and Grage said he expects junior quarterback Chase Parrish to continue to play well and keep the Packers in the game.
In his first seven starts, all victories, he has completed 108-of-147 passes for 1,323 yards and 14 touchdowns.
He has been intercepted just three times.
Parrish will have two of the top three receivers in the region at his disposal on Friday.
Kiel Pollard leads the region with 31 catches for 437 yards and five scores.
Parrish and Pollard combined on three scoring passes against Lee County last Friday.
Ty Lee is third in the region with 26 catches and Marquan Greene has 18.
The Packers have begun to get tight end Shaun Bonner more involved in the offense as well.
The offensive line, which will have its hands full, includes center Micah Edwards, guards Will Matney and Noah Moore and tackles Alfred Brown and Cade Blackburn.
The Colquitt County special teams have done an outstanding job this season giving the Packers excellent field position, but Grage warns that Valdosta will likely put its kickoff into the end zone.
“We’ll have to be prepared to start at the 20 and make some long drives,” he said.
The two teams feature outstanding kickers with Colquitt County’s Luis Martinez producing 47 points.
Valdosta’s Brennan Goodson has hit eight field goals and has 44 points.
Grage said the Packers, who are ranked as high as No. 3 in one national poll, appear to be focused.
“There’s a different aura when they are playing Lowndes and Valdosta,” he said.