SUWANEE, Ga. — Valdosta scored three second half touchdowns to turn a 7-0 lead into a 28-7 win over North Augusta on Saturday at the National High School Gridiron Challenge at North Gwinnett High School.
Valdosta (1-0), a perennially-strong Georgia Class AAAAAA program, accumulated 410 yards of total offense. North Augusta (2-1), a state semifinalist in South Carolina in 2011, was held to 184 yards of offense.
“I thought our kids played well, played good physical football, and I thought we executed some things really good,” Valdosta head coach Rance Gillespie said. “We played a quality football team today. North Augusta’s got a good football team.”
Valdosta’s Nelson Herring rushed for 140 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries and Malcolm Joseph had 135 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries. Quarterback Shelby Wilkes completed 12 of 18 passes for 104 yards and a score.
“Our running backs did a real good job,” Gillespie said.
North Augusta’s DeVonte Pressley had rushed for over 100 yards in each of the Yellow Jackets’ first two games, but Valdosta held him to 72 yards on 18 carries, with 51 of those yards coming on one run. Cody Turner completed 13 of 23 passes for 99 yards.
Valdosta took the lead on its second possession. Tyler Ragan’s fumble recovery gave Valdosta the ball at its 49-yard line. The Wildcats quickly moved the ball into Yellow Jackets territory, and Joseph’s seven-yard run on fourth-and-1 prolonged the drive.
Then on third-and-5 from the North Augusta 30, Wilkes hit Alex Cason in the back of the end zone for the touchdown. Brennan Goodson’s extra point gave the Wildcats a 7-0 lead.
In the second quarter, Joseph had a 27-yard touchdown run called back when Valdosta was penalized for an illegal block. Then in the final minute of the half, the North Augusta defense stopped Joseph at the 1 on fourth-and-goal.
Valdosta headed to the locker room at halftime still leading 7-0.
On the third play of the second half, Joseph took the handoff, followed his blockers on the right side, found a hole and raced 53 yards for a touchdown and a 14-0 lead.
After North Augusta went three-and-out, Valdosta drove 72 yards in seven plays for another score. Three consecutive Herring runs gained 28 yards, then two 10-yard runs by Joseph and a 15-yard facemask penalty on North Augusta moved the ball to the Yellow Jackets’ 10. On second-and-goal from the 5, Herring scored, making it 21-0.
Pressley’s 51-yard run and a 19-yard pass from Turner to Logan Woodward moved the Yellow Jackets down to the 1. After a false start penalty, Trey Morgan took the snap out of the wildcat formation, faked the handoff, went right and ran untouched for the score. Dylan Davis’ extra point cut Valdosta’s lead to 21-7.
But early in the fourth quarter, Valdosta put the game away. Three consecutive Herring runs gained 40 yards, and moved the Wildcats into the red zone. Then Joseph came in and gained five yards, down to the North Augusta 10. On the next play, Joseph went left, followed his blocks and scored, to give Valdosta a 28-7 lead.