Four Questions with Valdosta head coach Alan Rodemaker

Bazemore-Hyder Stadium in Valdosta holds 11,249 fans. It was built in 1922 and is home to the Valdosta Wildcats.
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Bazemore-Hyder Stadium in Valdosta holds 11,249 fans. It was built in 1922 and is home to the Valdosta Wildcats.

Credit: DENNIS HERRINGTON / VALDOSTAWILDCATS.COM

Credit: DENNIS HERRINGTON / VALDOSTAWILDCATS.COM

Today's interviewee is Valdosta coach Alan Rodemaker, whose team defeated Colquitt County 50-49 last week. Valdosta is ranked No. 1 this season for the first time since the final poll of 2016, when the Wildcats won the Class AAAAAA championship.

Alan Rodemaker, Valdosta head coach 

1. What was the difference in the game Friday? Where or how was the game won? "Our kids just hung in there for 48 minutes. We jumped out to a 21-0 lead on a couple of turnovers by Colquitt County. That really helped give our players the confidence that they needed to pull off the upset. We needed that because we had lost the last six to them, four of those six games had not been that close. We did not play well defensively, but the scoop and score by Quinton Wade and an interception and return by Elijah Norwood to their 8-yard line really helped. Coach Josh Crawford and our entire offensive staff did a great job preparing our kids, and other than three turnovers, we played really well offensively."

2. You decided to go for two with 1:05 left. Why make that call? "We line up in the 'water bucket' or 'swinging gate' after each touchdown, and Colquitt County never really put enough defenders over the center to handle each of our options all night. Normally, I will run it in any part of the game if the other team does not line up right, but I didn't want to somehow not get one of those and end up chasing that one point all night, so I held it until the last drive, so it was really an easy decision for me at the end, especially since we had not really stopped them on defense all night."

3. What does the win mean to Valdosta? What's the most important thing that you take from this victory? "The confidence that we can play with anyone, and that is major for our players. In 2016, when we won it, early wins versus Lowndes and Tift County really helped us mentally as we entered region play. Going undefeated in region play that year and then ultimately winning state all goes back to the confidence that we gained in that first game vs Lowndes. This win over Colquitt County could do the same. That is why we play such a tough non-region schedule."

4. How does this year's team compare to the 2016 team? What does it have that the 2017 and 2018 teams did not? "All of the teams are different. In 2016, we had nine returners on defense. This year we have eight. Offensively, we are much different than 2016, so they are hard to compare, but we have our quarterback, Tate Rodemaker, and two other top producers on offense, Jaheim Bell and Tyrell Roberts, back from last year, and that really helps. The 2017 team lacked leadership and some talent, and we really had a hangover from 2016's success. The 2018 team had good leadership and nine returning starters on offense from the year before, but our defense was wiped out and not able to compete at a high level. Hopefully, we will continue to grow and be able to compete at a high level when region play begins in a few weeks."

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