Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Helping Hand from Rival; Valdosta Coach Goes to Lowndes for Help in Preparing for Westside

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Helping Hand from Rival; Valdosta Coach Goes to Lowndes for Help in Preparing for Westside

Article excerpt

Byline: MATT STEWART, Times-Union correspondent

ATLANTA -- Valdosta High head coach Rick Darlington got inside information on the Wildcats' Class AAAAA semifinal opponent from what most would consider an unlikely source.

Darlington got the scoop on Macon Westside, his opponent at 9 p.m. today at the Georgia Dome, from crosstown rival Lowndes High coach Randy McPherson.

"[Darlington] called me," McPherson said. "He was just asking general questions about Westside, what I thought about them."

McPherson's Vikings beat Westside 23-19 in the season opener. And even though Lowndes' season ended two weeks ago with a loss to No. 1-ranked Camden County in the second round, McPherson felt obliged to give Darlington, whose Wildcats beat his Vikings 28-26, the lowdown on Robert Davis' crew.

"I'm pulling for anybody in Region 1 [AAAAA]," McPherson said. "I feel like it's going to be a good game. [Westside] is more of a power running team. They're probably more of a power running team than anybody we've played. We felt very fortunate to beat them."

Valdosta will be playing away from home for the first time in the postseason, and Darlington said, "We ain't looking at it like it's a freakin' trip to Disneyland," Darlington said. "We ain't going up there to go sight-seeing."

Macon Westside (11-2), the No. 2 seed from Region 2-AAAAA, and Valdosta (10-3), the top seed from Region 1-AAAAA, aren't familiar foes. So, the focus of the conversation between the two Region 1-AAAAA coaches was Seminoles senior running back Travis Evans.

Evans, who has run for 2,300 yards and 28 touchdowns this season, has punished opposing defenses with his bruising style.

Evans ran for 209 yards and two touchdowns on 35 carries against Lowndes. Evans needs 129 yards and two touchdowns to break his own single-season school record for rushing yards and touchdowns.

"[McPherson] said [Evans] is a real good back and he enjoys being hit," Darlington said.

"When you hit him he smiles. He says he likes to get hit, so I guess we're going to give him what he wants."

Evans is complemented by running backs Wanza Williams (1,350 yards, 21 touchdowns) and Kareem Jackson (434 yards, seven touchdowns).

"[Evans] is as good as we've ever seen," Darlington said. …

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