Preview: Valdosta Wildcats

Excitement is in the air in Valdosta, Georgia. The Cats enter the 2006 season with a new head coach, and a new attitude. Coach Rick Tomberlin comes to Valdosta from Washington County, after 14 seasons as the head man of the Golden Hawks.

He brings with him 3 new assistants. Jeff Arnette, John Thompson, and Michael Pollack have been added to the Wildcat staff, after successful stints at Elbert County, Gainesville High, and Appling County. Arnette was the head man at Elbert County. Thompson was the strength, conditioning, and special teams coach at Gainesville High, and Pollack was the offensive coordinator at Appling County. Thompson and Pollack will hold the same positions at Valdosta, while Arnette will run the defense. All 3 assistants, along with Tomberlin bring a world of experience to the winningest high school team in the nation. Combining the new coaches with the current Valdosta assistants that remained on the staff could put the Cats back in the hunt for their 24th state title. Valdosta returns 6 starters on offense and 8 starters on defense for the 2006 season. On offense, look for big # 71 Lawrence McCoy to be pre-season all state at the tackle position. Lawrence is a senior that is 6'7" tall and weighs 270 lbs. He is being sought after by many major colleges in the USA. Also, returning on offense is 2 time all region center, #50, Alex Hall. This will be his 3rd year starting at center for the Cats. to help bolster the line will be returning starter, #75, Calvin Burgess, #73, Kenny Durrah, and #67, Brandon Greenhaw. Quarterback Alfrie Johnson, #2, and quarterback, Michael Turner, #16, both upcoming juniors will be competing for the nod this fall. Turner, has started at QB in both his freshman and sophomore years, but was replaced by Johnson after the Lowndes game in 05 due to a knee injury. Johnson led the Cats to the 2nd round of the playoffs with his athletic ability. Some compare him to the Texas QB, Michael Young, who was recently drafted by the Tennessee Titans. Running backs, Demetrius James, #1, and Jamil Chandler, #22, both upcoming seniors should be in the backfield come September 1st. James has been a 2 year starter, and Chandler saw plenty of action as a junior. Returning to the team after a year layoff, will be punter/tight end Tuzer Chism. Tuzer was the all region punter in 2004. The kicking duties are up for grabs, as the Cats have 3 young men trying to nail down this position after Trey Miley graduated. His shoes will be tough to fill. At the wide receiver position, there are 5 players that are vying for 2 positions. Artavius Mathis, #88, 6'6'' is among the leaders after spring training. On the defensive side of the ball, there is a host of returning Cats. James Boyd, #85 will hold down one side at defensive end. He started as a junior and saw ample playing time as a sophomore. On the other side is rising junior, Jamal Hunter, #91. This young man has come on strong. He was a major player as a sophomore and should be a power on the D-Line. Look for Lawrenece McCoy to go both ways and play D-Tackle. His size and strength should help the Cats in this area. Another promising player on the D-Line is Chris Daniels, #90. He is an upcoming junior, and should play well. Coach Tomberlin runs a 4-4 defense, so during the 06 season, we will be looking at 4 linebackers. Returning at the linebacker position is Curtis Ewings, #46. He started as a junior, and was a tremendous player last season. Derrick Sharper, #44 is a rising junior and brings size and strength to the linebacker position. He could be a player. Curtis Weatherspoon, #13 is a returning starter as well. He broke his leg at the end of last season, but after watching spring practice, he seems to be back at full speed, and is a head hunter. Josh Barnes, # 49 should be the 4th linebacker. He will be a senior and is looking forward to his last year as a Cat. Darius Roberts, #3 is an upcoming junior and will be in the strong safety position. He saw playing time as a freshman, and started as a sophomore. He may be the fastest man on defense and is certainly a heavy hitter. The corner positions may be the area that the Cats will be looking to replace some fine talent that graduated last season. There are 8 to 10 young men that are fighting for 2 spots on the field. The Cats will be a junior laden team in 2006. Coach Tomberlin introduced a new offense and a new defense in the spring. There were 150 young men that participated in spring drills. With only a few weeks left until summer camp, the Cats are working hard in the weight room and looking forward to a season that could very well be the best that Winnersville has seen since 2003. The Cats may be playing the toughest schedule in the state. They open with Jordan High from Salt Lake City, Utah. The "Beetdiggers" as they are called have won 11 state titles in Utah, and are suppose to have one of the top running backs in the nation. The Cats then travel to Camden County to tangle with Chattahoochee. The following week, the Cats are back at Bazemore Hyder to take on perennial power, Brookwood. The Linclon Trojans of Tallahassee, Florida are next before the tough schedule of Region 1-AAAAA teams begin. It will not be an easy road, but with the never, never, never, never, never quit attitude, the Valdosta Wildcats could make a lot of noise in AAAAA football this season.

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