O'Brien takes playoffs in stride

Valdosta Head Football Coach Mike O'Brien would like to turn back the clock to 1998. The Valdosta Wildcats were on top of the world, winning their 23rd Georgia state championship and feeling good about the future.

Now the Cats are coming off a loss to Coffee Co. for the first time in 31 tries and will have to bounce back.

It's been a milestone season in Winnersville. Valdosta notched its 800th all time victory this season, and they now sit at 803, a high school record. With 6 national championships under their belts, the Cats are poised and ready for their post-season opener with Riverdale.

We spoke with Coach O'Brien about Valdosta football and what to expect on Friday night...

Q: Do you prepare your kids any differently for a playoff game than for a regular season game?

O'Brien: It's the same preparation as it would be for the regular season. The difference is that the kids understand the finality of it; if you lose, you're done. We don't practice like that. We stick to what got us here.

Q: Is this Valdosta team as good as any of your other state champions?

O'Brien: We've had some good teams that have won the state title. On the other hand, we've had some even better teams than those who didn't win a title Somehow we have to stay free from injuries, but the bottom line is if you win 5 more games, you're champs.

Q: You guys are at home this weekend. Is there such a thing as home field advantage anymore?

O'Brien: I like the fact we are home. I'd much rather play at Cleveland Field. But there is no real home field advantage. Every field is the same size.

Q: One of TheInsiders.com top players, John Weatherington is a very important part to this team. How important is he? O'Brien: John Weatherington is a very good defensive lineman. He's not that big, but he makes up for it with his quickness. John uses his quickness to help on the defensive front. As far as next season goes, I really think he has a good shot at playing on Saturdays, but the knock against him is his size. Q: Valdosta is known for its fans. Have you received any additional rah-rah this week because it's the playoffs? O'Brien: We have very good fan support, but our fans have been here so much that they know what's going on. This isn't new to them. In fact, a lot of times, there aren't a lot of fans coming out for the first couple playoff games.... Hopefully they'll come out because we're going to need them.

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