True winner hits Winnersville

Imagine winning 77% of your games and a state title and instead of a raise, you receive a pink slip. Welcome to football in Valdosta. Winning is an expectation, losing will send you out of town faster than you can ever imagine.

Former Wildcat coach Mike O'Brien won a state title in Winnersville as well as 77 percent of his games, but he still found himself out of a job.

Enter Rick Darlington, 2001 Georgia state football championship titlist.

The former Apopka Head Coach was the front runner for a job that had applicants from around the country, including North Florida Christian Head Coach Tim Cokely, a coach who took four of the last five state championships in Florida.

"There's not a lot of places I would have left Apopka for," says Darlington. "You can't say no if you have the chance to coach in Valdosta."

So far, he has won over the fans in Winnersville, but the true test will come if Valdosta beats Lowndes.

This weekend, it's Southwest Macon, just another roadblock in Darlington's freshman season. "You try to build a family", says Darlington. "It begins with unity, toughness, and family. Football is the slowest thing. You're just trying to adjust and it takes time."

In the Valdosta pressure cooker, Darlington is well aware of where the most pressure come from.

"No one can pressure us more than we pressure ourselves. The pressure comes from an interest by the community, the school board and the fans ... and that's a good thing."

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