4 Questions with Football Friday Night Show host Chris Beckham

Today’s interviewee is Chris Beckham, the host of the Chick-fil-A Football Friday Night Show, a six-hour scoreboard show that broadcasts on several stations throughout south Georgia. He has covered or reported on the past 33 Winnersville Classics between Valdosta and Lowndes. The crosstown rivals play tonight at Lowndes’ Martin Stadium.

1. What do you see happening in this game? Who do you favor, and why? “I think the offenses are very similar in that they’ve both shown some flashes but are still fairly young and improving. Valdosta’s defense has been more consistent, but the turnaround in the Vikings’ defense between the loss to East Coweta and the win over Grayson was remarkable. I think it will be a low-scoring game, and this series is filled with wild plays in the fourth quarter that spelled the difference. I wouldn’t be surprised to see that again.”

2. Given what has happened to Valdosta in recent years, with a divisive coaching change and a recruiting scandal, are you surprised they’re in this position - undefeated and ranked in coach Shelton Felton’s second season? “I’m a little surprised they’ve been as dominant as they have been defensively, but I’m not surprised that they’re undefeated. Realistically, their schedule hasn’t been great. Cook is strong but a Class 2A team. The Florida schools are a combined 1-9, and Warner Robins is way down. But more than that, I think this team was so tired of everything that happened last year that they really committed to coming back strong this year. And get used to it because most of their top players are underclassmen, so they should be even better next year and probably years to come.”

3. How do you view Lowndes football right now as it goes through changes, a new coach, a new quarterback. What can we expect from Lowndes going forward? “I thought Zach Grage’s first year might be a little rough because they are really young. And the offense relied so much on Jacurri Brown the last several years, you can’t help but have a drop-off. It’s worth the price of a ticket sometimes to just watch Grage on the sidelines most nights because he’s fiery and all over the place. But I think his biggest strength is how he runs the entire football operation, from hiring coaches, to practice schedules, to how players dress, etc. Details like that can separate good programs and great ones, but that’s tough to implement like he wants in the first year, especially since he was hired so late. In every measurable way, Lowndes is set up to contend every year, and I think he’ll have them back in that position.”

4. What’s the state of the Winnersville Classic now? Is it still all that? “I can promise you those people who got up early and stood in line for tickets this week think it is. It’s always been a big deal, and it always will be. The community is still football-minded, and they fold so many other things into this game during the week. But I think starting with this game, it’s going to be even better in the coming years. It adds a lot to it because they’re back in the same region and classification for the first time in seven years. Both programs should be more stable going forward and more competitive. As great as The Classic is, its history has had a lot of runs of one team dominating. Valdosta owned it for a long time, like they did against just about everybody. Then Lowndes had a good run, then the Cats won three in a row, and now Lowndes has won five straight. I’d be surprised to see that over the next few years. I mean, it’s a big deal no matter what the records are because it’s such a community thing. But when they’re both really good, it’s special.”

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