Proximity, history, success on both sides — when it comes to
Georgia high school football rivalries, Lowndes-Valdosta has
all the ingredients necessary to be the biggest and best.
BY JASON BUTT
THE CIT Y OF VALDOSTA DIDN’T GET THE MONIKER Winnersville for no reason. A ton of history exists between this football-ob- sessed town of over 56,000. Friday nights are spent
at one of two places — Valdosta’s Bazemore-Hyder Stadium
or Lowndes’ Martin Stadium. The town goes crazy when it’s
Winnersville Week. The city shuts down, with 12,000-plus
showing up to catch one of the biggest high school games in
not only the state, but the country.
“There are pro teams in Georgia, but in Valdosta, Winners-
LOWNDES’ FIRST VICTORY OVER VALDOSTA
ville week, that’s what everybody talks about,” local sports
radio host Chris Beckham said. “Because of how things
have changed, there are a lot of players whose fathers have
played for one of the other schools and people switch sides.
I’ve tried to describe it to people, and there are other great
rivalries, but Valdosta-Lowndes is just so much bigger than
the game. It’s all people talk about all week and you can’t
The schools have combined for 1,217 wins, most of which
are Valdosta’s since the school’s football team can be traced
back to 1913. Opening its doors in 1966, Lowndes built
its foundation over 10 years before taking South Georgia
by storm. And all it took was someone very familiar with
Valdosta to take Lowndes to that next level.
A lot occurred in 1977. The lone president of the United
States from the state of Georgia, Jimmy Carter, took office.
Seattle Slew became the 10th horse to win the famed Triple
Crown. Construction on the World Trade Center finished. And
in the consumer marketplace, the first Apple II computers were
revealed and sold to the public.
None of those stories were as
important in Valdosta as what
occurred on Oct. 21, 1977.
Valdosta entered the game 6-0,
averaging over 31 points a game.
The Wildcats seemed poised to
win their 10th game in a row over
the Vikings. Lowndes was 5-1 and
vying for its second consecutive
winning season under coach
Joe Wilson — his second year on
the job. Wilson was Valdosta’s
offensive coordinator before taking
the Lowndes job in 1976.
As that day would hold,
Lowndes’ defense played one of
its best games in school history.
It was the first of five times where
the Vikings kept the Wildcats’ offense from scoring in a 7-2 victory.
From there, Lowndes would go on
to become one of the state’s more respected teams.
VALDOSTA’S H YDER YEARS
Arguably, Nick Hyder is the greatest coach in the history
of Georgia high school football. From 1974-1995, Hyder
produced three teams named national champions and was
a consistent contender, winning seven state championships.
His record against Lowndes was astounding too. Under
Hyder, Valdosta-Lowndes really wasn’t much of a rivalry as
the Wildcats went 22-5 against the Vikings, including playoff
games, under his guidance. This included winning his last 13
against Lowndes from 1986-1995.
Hyder died suddenly after suffering a heart attack in May
of 1996. His legacy still reigns in the halls of Valdosta High.
LOWNDES SEIZES CON TROL
For the rivalry’s first 28 years, it was all Valdosta. Since
1996, the Vikings are 13-5 against the Wildcats. Lowndes
coach Randy McPherson lost his first two games against
Valdosta in 2002 and 2003 before leading Lowndes to seven
consecutive wins and nine victories in the past 11 games.
Valdosta, however, won last season’s matchup 13-10 in front
of its home crowd.
For former Lowndes linebacker Telvin Smith, who attended
college at Florida State and now plays for the NFL’s Jackson-
ville Jaguars, the rivalry meant a lot growing up.
“You’re either a Lowndes Viking or a Valdosta Wildcat. It’s
split down the middle,” Smith said. “And all season it’s the
talk, and when that week comes, that Winnersville Classic,
that’s what we grew up — that’s our Super Bowl. That’s what
we grew up living for, to play for. That’s it. That’s everything
we looked forward to. So to be one of the players that played
in that, it’s just great, that culture.”
DISSECTING A RIVALRY
Lowndes vs. Valdosta