With two of the top scoring teams in the state facing off, points were expected to come in bunches when M.L. King hosted Valdosta Saturday night.
The teams didn’t disappoint. Unfortunately for M.L. King (3-2), state-ranked Valdosta had more firepower. The Wildcats (6-0), ranked No. 8 in Class AAAAA, scored 29 unanswered points over the second and third quarters to pull away from the Lions and claim a 43-28 victory at Hallford Stadium.
M.L. King quarterback Jonquel Dawson passed for 445 yards, but Valdosta quarterback Ryan Whilden was the star, completing 20 of 32 passes for 343 yards and five touchdowns, two to AJC Super 11 tight end Jay Rome.
M.L. King started the fireworks as senior receiver DeMarco Robinson took the opening kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown. On the Lions’ next drive, Dawson hit Robinson with an 18-yard touchdown pass to put M.L. King up 14-0.
The Lions started in the shadow of their own end zone early in the second quarter after a 45-yard punt by Valdosta. The poor field position — at the M.L. King 5-yard line — proved costly when Blake Tibbs caught a hitch pass but was tackled in the end zone for a safety.
The play ignited the Wildcats’ offense, as Valdosta went on to score 20 more points in the quarter in just over four minutes to take a 22-14 lead into halftime.
Valdosta went up 29-14 on its first drive of the third quarter on a 32-yard pass from Whilden to Phillip Moore.
M.L. King answered on its ensuing drive as Dawson hit Tibbs with a 68-yard touchdown pass.
After the two teams exchanged punts, the Wildcats put the game away for good when Rome put the finishing touches on a 60-yard drive, catching a 15-yard touchdown pass — his second of the game — from Whilden.
The Wildcats win sets up a big game next week in Valdosta, against rival Lowndes. Lowndes beat Valdosta 57-15 last season.