McEachern 28, Valdosta 7

The McEachern Indians react to a recovered fumble against Valdosta in the second half of their game Friday, September 22, 2023. (Photo by Daniel Varnado/For the AJC)

Credit: Daniel Varnado/AJC

Combined ShapeCaption
The McEachern Indians react to a recovered fumble against Valdosta in the second half of their game Friday, September 22, 2023. (Photo by Daniel Varnado/For the AJC)

Credit: Daniel Varnado/AJC

McEachern struggled to get anything going in the first half of its game Friday night against Valdosta but managed to go into the break tied 7-7 against the No. 9-ranked team in Class 7A.

The Indians broke the game open in the third quarter, however, turning three consecutive Valdosta turnovers into 14 points in a 28-7 victory in the teams’ final tune-up before heading into region play.

The victory was McEachern’s first all-time against Valdosta, which had won the previous six meetings, including 24-14 last year. It was also the Indians’ second consecutive win this season after starting the year 0-4.

“We came out and played some hellacious teams and we got our integrity and our character tested a little bit, but these kids kept fighting,” first-year McEachern coach Kareem Reid said. “They believe in what we do. We’ve practiced really well every week, and it was just a matter of time before the fruits of our labor came to fruition.”

McEachern had just 72 total yards in the first half, 65 of which came on a touchdown pass from Jaydon Kinney to Jayreon Campbell. Otherwise, the Indians managed just seven yards on 20 plays.

Valdosta (4-2), meanwhile, rolled up 228 yards in the first half and got into McEachern territory on six of its eight possessions, including five times inside the 40-yard line, but came away with just seven points of its own, a 9-yard touchdown run by Prince Jean to tie the score with 1:05 to play in the half.

The Wildcats almost took the lead going into halftime, but Jean was knocked out of bounds at the 1-yard line on a 43-yard pass from Robinson on the final play of the half.

Valdosta fumbled on the first play of the third quarter at the end of a 21-yard run, and Kannen White recovered to give the Indians the ball at the Valdosta 41. A 40-yard pass from Kinney to Robert Echols on the next play moved the ball to the 1, and Seth Parker scored from there to make it 14-7.

Valdosta fumbled again on its next possession, this time at the McEachern 17, and the Indians cashed in five plays later on a 52-yard pass from Kinney to Kayden Peterson for a 21-7 lead with 4:47 to play in the quarter.

The Indians’ other score, a 13-yard run by Kinney with 4:33 to play, came at the end of an 81-yard drive that started when Valdosta turned the ball over on downs.

In all, the Wildcats had the ball in McEachern territory on nine of their 13 possessions but came away with just the one touchdown.

“It was 7-7 at halftime, and our kids were playing hard,” Reid said. “We loved our plan all week that we had defensively and offensively, we just had to get a little bit of momentum, a little help, and we knew we could pull it out.”

Kinney finished with 232 yards passing on just eight completions, an average of 29 yards per completion. That helped offset the inability to get the running game going, as the Indians had just 46 yards on 29 carries.

Valdosta had 436 total yards (231 rushing, 205 passing). Todd Robinson was 10-of-18 passing for 195 yards and rushed for 67 yards on nine carries. Freshman Deron Foster rushed for 88 yards on 20 carries.

Both teams will be off next week. McEachern will begin its Region 3 schedule on Oct. 6 at home against undefeated Harrison. Valdosta will play its Region 1 opener that night at home against rival Lowndes.

“I feel great. This was a great win,” Reid said. “It was the first time McEachern’s ever beaten Valdosta. So going into a bye week, getting ready for region play now, which is a whole new season, you couldn’t script it any better.”

Valdosta - 0-7-0-0 - 7

McEachern - 0-7-14-7 - 28

Second quarter

M - Jayreon Campbell 65 pass from Jaydon Kinney (Jonathan Rodriguez kick), 4:56

V - Prince Jean 9 run (Franklin Garcia kick), 1:05

Third quarter

M - Seth Parker 1 run (Rodriguez kick), 10:44

M - Kayden Petersen 52 pass from Kinney (Rodriguez kick), 4:47

Fourth quarter

M - Kinney 13 run (Rodriguez kick), 4:33

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