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Vidalia High’s Townsend helping lead team with athleticism

Vidalia High School sophomore quarterback J.T. Townsend carries the ball downfield against Ferriday High School Friday night at Dee Faircloth Viking Stadium. Townsend’s athletic ability makes him a key part of the Vikings’ offense this season. (Justin Sellers \ The Natchez Democrat)
Vidalia High School sophomore quarterback J.T. Townsend carries the ball downfield against Ferriday High School Friday night at Dee Faircloth Viking Stadium. Townsend’s athletic ability makes him a key part of the Vikings’ offense this season. (Justin Sellers \ The Natchez Democrat)

VIDALIA — When Vidalia High School snaps the ball, it’s usually going to sophomore J.T. Townsend.

The Vikings’ all-purpose athlete has become the team’s go-to guy in running and passing the ball. In last week’s game against Ferriday, Townsend had six passing attempts for the Vikings and rushed the ball 22 times.

“He’s going to touch it just about every play,” Vikings head coach Gary Parnham Jr. said. “He may not run it every play, but he’ll touch it. We feel like we can run different formations with him, and he picks up really easily the concepts we’re trying to teach. He can run under center or out of the shotgun, and we can also put him in at defensive back.”

Vidalia High School sophomore quarterback J.T. Townsend carries the ball downfield during practice Tuesday at Dee Faircloth Viking Stadium. (Justin Sellers \ The Natchez Democrat)
Vidalia High School sophomore quarterback J.T. Townsend carries the ball downfield during practice Tuesday at Dee Faircloth Viking Stadium. (Justin Sellers \ The Natchez Democrat)

All of that means, of course, that opposing teams will key in on Townsend, but after seeing extensive playing time in 2012, Townsend said he’s already used to the attention.

“It’s really nothing new,” Townsend said. “It’s just time for me to step up and work harder for me and my teammates and to be a leader.”

In order to do that, Townsend said he would have to do more than just lead the Vikings’ (2-1) offense every time it steps onto the field.

“It’s about how I carry myself with my teammates, in the classroom, in the weight room and through the drills,” Townsend said. “I have to have a positive attitude.”

It also helps to have an excellent skillset as an all-purpose back, Parnham said.

“He’s one of those special athletes,” Parnham said. “He has the skills, and he’s a smart player, too. He seems to be in the right place at the right time and is able to make the right moves (on the field).”

After winning their first two games of the season, Vidalia hit a stumbling block in a 40-0 at home to Ferriday High School last week. Townsend said the players would have to respond to the loss by working harder in practice this week.

“Last week, we weren’t prepared,” he said. “There wasn’t enough intensity, so we have to go harder in practice and be more physical.”

Townsend himself doesn’t have much choice but to be a physical player. Being such a major part of the offense, Townsend said he knows he’s going to get hit a lot on Friday nights.

“It’s not easy getting everyone in your face,” Townsend admitted. “Once you touch the ball, it’s on you and your teammates. You have to give 100 percent and not leave the field until it’s over, win or lose.”

With Vidalia struggling in recent years, getting off to a 2-0 start generated a lot of positive momentum for the Vikings. Townsend said the positive start is a testament to the players’ chemistry with one another.

“We have faith in each other and don’t put each other down,” Townsend said. “We let each other know that the next play is going to be better than the last.”

Vidalia vs. Bolton

The Vikings will travel to Bolton High School Friday in Alexandria, La., to face a Bears team that has yet to win a game after three weeks. But Parnham said he’s wary of the Bears, a Louisiana High School Activities Association Class 4A squad, and his team cannot afford to take them lightly.

“They have some great skill people, and they have an elusive quarterback,” Parnham said. “If the play is broken down, it’s not really broken down, because he can scramble and find someone open. We’re going to have a big challenge in stopping him.”

After last week’s tough loss, Parnham said in order to avoid another loss, he said the team would have to keep the ball off its own side of the field.

“Last week, we put the defense in some bad situations,” he said. “We played on our half of the field the whole game. Hopefully, we’ll do better this week and good things will happen.”

Kickoff is at 7 p.m. Friday at Bolton.

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