Coaches are full of clichés and one of their favorites is “it isn’t how you start, but how you finish.” That really could be the regular season stories for our two Region 1-AAAAAAA rivals meeting for the 41st time Friday night on GPB.

The sixth-ranked Lowndes Vikings were blown-out by their rival Valdosta Wildcats 38-13 in their season-opener. That is the biggest rivalry game in the state and maybe in the nation. The “Winnersville Classic” as they like to call it. A demoralizing beat down at the hands of your crosstown rival to start the year just might be enough to destroy the rest of the season. The Vikings have rebounded to win eight straight.

The two-time defending state champion Colquitt County Packers had their two-year, 30-game winning streak end humbly with a 0-4 start to this 2016 season. The seventh-ranked Packers have since won five straight.

Now keep in mind it was a very, tough four game schedule for the Packers against the likes of top-ranked Mill Creek in the Georgia Dome (who Colquitt beat in last year’s semifinals), Plantation, Florida’s American Heritage on ESPNU, ninth-ranked (AAAAAA) Tucker and then a rematch with last year’s state championship game opponent Roswell.

The second-ranked Hornets took it too them on GPB 34-3 on that Friday night seven weeks ago, but the Packers’ other three losses were by a combined 11 points. So even though Colquitt is a very unimpressive 5-4 going into their showdown with Lowndes, everybody knows this Packers team could easily be a one- or two-loss team, perhaps even unbeaten had Coach Rush Propst chosen an easier non-region schedule.

Coach Propst promises us that we’re going to get a true taste of what South Georgia football is all about Friday night and that this game will be no less than “one for the ages.” That’s a lot to live up too! Lowndes Coach Randy McPherson says every game in Region One is a rivalry game. Coach Propst goes a little farther and says he doesn’t think there’s a team Packers’ fans would like to see Colquitt beat more than the Vikings.

Since Propst arrived the Packers are 4-4 against the Vikings but have won three straight in the series by a combined score of 124-54 and have won four of the last five with Lowndes only win in the last five years coming in 2012 with a 17-14 victory in Moultrie. Before that the Vikings had won 14 of 15 in the series. That was before the balance of power in the region (and the state) moved north to Colquitt.

The Region One championship will be at stake on Friday night but more than just a trophy. Playoff bracketing is also at stake. A region championship means the potential of at least the first two rounds of the playoffs on your home field and the possibility of playing all four rounds at home. The loser will be guaranteed only one home playoff game.

The trophies are important too. Lowndes has not won the region since 2010. That was the last of seven the Vikings won over a ten-year period in which Lowndes also won three of its five all-time state championships. A victory for the Packers would give Colquitt its third straight region championship to go along with its current streak of two state titles. Prior to this run, Colquitt had won only four region titles ever with all of those coming in the 1990s along with their only other state championship in 1994.

There should be a lot of points scored (which means I just guaranteed a defensive battle). The Vikings are the highest scoring team in AAAAAAA averaging over 43 points per game behind junior QB Michael Barrett, who was a starting LB last season. He is Lowndes leading rusher and is averaging 210 passing ypg with 18 TD and just 3 INT. Unfortunately the Vikings will be without their biggest recruiting prospect Xavier Jenkins who injured his knee in last week’s win vs Camden County. The ESPN 3-star senior WR has been offered by Georgia, Louisville and Mississippi State and the Vikings hope to get him back for the playoffs.

Of course we all know about the Packers high-powered offense that set the state scoring record last season. Since their 0-4 start, Colquitt has scored no less than 37 points in game, three times scored 52-plus and is averaging 49 points per game during their five-game winning streak. The Packers QB Jay Saunders is averaging 199 passing ypg with 12 TD and 5 INT.

So it should be a lot of fun. Join us from Mack Tharpe Stadium in Moultrie. They call it the Hawg Pen! With a name like that, I’m expecting some goooooood Bar-B-Que!

Here’s the prospects that you need to be watching Friday night:

Colquitt County Packers

J.J. Peterson – ESPN 4-star and #2 ranked junior OLB in the nation – Eight offers including Georgia, Clemson and Florida

Shawn Shamburger – ESPN 3-star senior safety (plays CB for Colquitt) – Six offers – Auburn is his leader

Tirise Barge – Safety – Committed to Troy

Willie Debruce – LB – Committed to Troy

John Shenker – TE – Recruited by Sun Belt and C-USA programs

Quan Stokes – OG – Offered by UAB

Ian Brinson – OL – Recruited by Navy

Tory Ponder – WR – Recruited by Valdosta State and West Georgia

Jamarius “Quan” Walker – CB – Offered by Jacksonville State

Lowndes Vikings

Xavier Jenkins – ESPN 3-star senior WR – Offered by Georgia, Louisville and Mississippi State (injured and will not play)

Tucker Barnes – OL – Committed to Brown

Michael Barrett – QB – Recruited by Power-5 programs but no official offers yet for the junior