LOWNDES VS. VALDOSTA
THE COACHES: For Valdosta, Mike Herndon (1924-1931)
and Bobby Hooks (1932-1940) established the foundation.
Wright Bazemore (1946-1971) and Nick Hyder (1974-1995)
became legends during their tenures. Rance Gillespie
(2010-2014) is now at the helm. For Lowndes, Joe Wilson
(1976-1988) got the Vikings in the right direction. Milt Miller
(1992-2001) and Randy McPherson (2002-present) turned
the Vikings into a powerhouse.
THE PLAYERS: Both schools have placed a number of
athletes into the NCAA and NFL ranks. For Valdosta, those
include Luther Blue, Rhett Dawson, Brice Hunter, Todd
Peterson, Dexter Daniels, Willie Gary, Stan Rome, Buck
Belue and Coleman Rudolph. Representing Lowndes at
the next levels are Randall Godfrey, Jay Ratliff, Carl Parker,
Buddy Moor, Vincent Burns and Telvin Smith.
THE HISTORY: Valdosta began playing football in 1913
and has a staggering 867-217-34 all-time record. Lowndes
began playing in 1966 and is 350-201-3. The two schools
started playing each other in 1968, with Valdosta holding
a 35-18 advantage. Since 2000, 11 games between both
Valdosta and Lowndes have had a margin of victory of less
than 10 points.
THE TOWNS: The Valdosta and Lowndes high schools
are only seven miles apart from one another. Both
communities are football-obsessed, routinely packing each
stadium each Friday night. And when these two teams play,
the area becomes a ghost town. With no pro team to root
for in the general vicinity, the city rallies around their local
high school teams.
THE FANS: As Valdosta coach Rance Gillespie said, it’s
easy for residents to latch on to this rivalry. “Football is
important to this community on a lot of different levels, but
on an individual basis, there’s still a lot of principles and
values learned through the game that are embraced by this
community, that are important to this community,” he said.
THE STAKES: As former Lowndes linebacker and current
Jacksonville Jaguar Telvin Smith said, the Winnersville
Classic is considered the area’s Super Bowl. Bragging rights
are on the line in what’s more so a friendly rivalry on the field,
since the kids on each side grew up around each other. No
one wants to lose in front of 12,000 screaming fans.
THE FUTURE: The rivalry probably hit its peak in the
late 1990s and early 2000s. As a result, former Lowndes
linebacker Randall Godfrey is concerned about the game
moving forward. “I don’t think that tradition is being passed on
to the youngsters, and they don’t really know the importance
of the history behind it like they should,” Godfrey said.