In state football championships, Valdosta leads Brooks County, 21-1.
In region championships, 35-5.
In head-to-head matchups, 6-0.
So what does comparatively tiny Class AA Brooks have to lose by traveling Friday to face AAAAAA juggernaut Valdosta?
“You’ve got to have your chin strap on, your jock strap tight, and your whits about you,” Brooks coach Maurice Freeman said of playing in a place nicknamed Winnersville just 22 miles up the road. “Valdosta is the big dog. If there’s a program you want to be like, it’s Valdosta. You can’t get anything but better by playing a team like that. You’ll find out what’s good about your program and what’s bad about it.
“If you’re going to be a great football team,” he added, “you have to play great football teams and beat great football teams like Valdosta’s.”
Freeman said scheduling the ninth-ranked Wildcats (1-0) for his third-ranked Trojans (2-0) came somewhat of necessity. There simply weren’t many small schools nearby, prior to Brooks embarking on its slate of six Region 1-AA games beginning on Sept. 28. Along with opponents one and four — Class A Clinch County and Mitchell County — he booked AAAA Monroe in Week 2 and the Wildcats this week.
Freeman, Brooks’ coach of four seasons in the mid-1990s and now another five, said he believes in challenging his players. He even developed a rap song named by the team’s slogan, “Bring the Hammer,” in which he mentioned several opponents, though he said not derogatorily. To his surprise, in a good way, the song has everyone riled up.
“The intention was to inspire my own team, not call anyone else out,” he said.
The Trojans come in led by the pass-catch combination of Malcolm Parrish and Deric Herring. In last week’s 21-18 win over Monroe, Parrish threw for 217 of his 523 yards, including the winning, 55-yard touchdown to Herring in the final minute. Herring, a wide receiver, has six TD receptions.
Valdosta comes in after beating North Augusta (S.C.) 28-7 with 140 rushing yards from Nelson Herring and 135 from Malcolm Joseph, as well as 104 passing yards from Shelby Wilkes. The Wildcats blew open a 7-0 lead with three second-half touchdowns.
But Friday, despite the odds, Brooks hopes to break through against a team it’s never come within a touchdown of beating.
Interestingly, though, Freeman likes Valdosta. He even gets hair cuts there.
“It might not be a good week for me to go over there, though,” he joked. “They might give me a bad one this week.”