Westwood leaders, from left, Chason Worsham, Jamie Davis and J.T. Edore have the Wildcats back in the GISA Class AA state playoffs. (Staff photo: Tim Morse)
CAMILLA — The image is still planted in Westwood senior Jamie Davis’ mind.
On a cool, December evening, Valwood ended Westwood’s dominance at Goddard Field in Valdosta, snapping the Wildcats’ streak of two consecutive GISA state championships.
It wasn’t the fact that Westwood lost. It was how the Wildcats lost: 48-13.
To make matters worse, it was the Valiants who hoisted the gold trophy instead of Davis’ Wildcats.
“Of course you celebrate when you win, but watching them hoist that trophy after the game was tough,” said the senior tight end/linebacker. “It left an impression on us that we’ll never forget.”
Junior Chason Worsham has watched video of the game — many times. It’s still tough for him to watch.
“There was nothing fun about it for us,” the junior running back/safety said. “It’s kind of hard to watch that.”
The Wildcats are striving to get back to the state championship game, which would be a fourth trip to the finals for several seniors. Westwood has already captured the Region 3-AA No. 2 seed, regardless of Friday night’s outcome against Terrell Academy.
Westwood (6-2-1) knows that after Friday night’s game, it becomes a one-game season — win and you move on, lose and the season is over.
It isn’t as much about getting another crack at Valwood for the Wildcats as it is tasting another state championship.
It’s been a strange ride for the Wildcats, who started the season 0-1-1 but have reeled off six wins in their last seven games. Senior JT Edore, a Herald Dynamite Dozen running back, said starting the season that way wasn’t in the plans.
“As a team, you don’t want to lose,” he said. “After going through those seasons where we won all those titles, losing the games we did leaves you with a bad feeling.”
After Friday night’s regular-season finale with Terrell, it becomes a new season for the Wildcats.
And they want a return to the state championship game and have a chance to win another title.
“It’s goes from a 10-game season to a one-game season,” Worsham said. “So every game is important.”
The month of October was a dramatic one for Westwood. Not only did the Wildcats drop a 28-7 setback to Valwood on Oct. 18, denying them the Region 3-AA title, they also survived two nail-biting games against Brookwood and last week’s 21-14 victory over Southwest Georgia Academy that clinched the No. 2 seed.
But Westwood is hoping those close games will pay off in the postseason.
“Our practices have been pretty intense,” Worsham said. “I would say losing that state championship last season has motivated us even more.”
Westwood hasn’t tasted losing much. In its last 49 games, the Wildcats have lost just five times with a tie, which happened in their first game of the season against Piedmont Academy this year. Three of those losses in the span came against Valwood.
“We believe we could always accomplish more,” Edore said. “We felt like we should have won (the first two games of the 2013 season). But that’s in the past.”
Just like last season’s state championship loss.