Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Valdosta Facing Plenty of Questions in '96

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Valdosta Facing Plenty of Questions in '96

Article excerpt

This year's Valdosta team is more of a question mark than any

the tradition-rich Wildcats have had in at least 22 years.

Because it has been that long since Valdosta has lined up to

play a season under a new coach. Mike O'Brien, an assistant at

the school for 15 years, has taken over as the successor to the

legendary Nick Hyder, who died last spring.

Though the Wildcats still have the usual talent and the

tradition that includes a 732-145-33 all-time record with six

national and 22 state championships, the question remains: How

well can they adjust to a new head man, even one who says he's

not changing much on the field from the way his predecessor did


The last time Valdosta changed coaches -- when Hyder replaced

Charlie Green in 1974 -- the Wildcats finished 3-7, one of only

six losing seasons in the school's 82-year history.

A losing season isn't very likely this year. Twelve starters,

including Times-Union Super 11 picks Dusty Bonner at quarterback

and Willie Gary at defensive back, are back from last year's

11-2 Region 1-AAAA runner-up.

In '94, the Wildcats made it to the state championship game

only to lose to old nemesis Colquitt County. Last season,

Valdosta lost to Forest Park 22-21 in the state quarterfinals.

So this year, Valdosta, as usual is aiming for another state

title. Whether the 'Cats can do that may depend not on their

proven offense and skill-position players, but on how fast a

traditional strength can be rebuilt.

The only experienced players on the defensive front are senior

tackle Kevin Carter (6 feet 1, 200 pounds) and junior end Ben

Register (6-0, 190). …

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