Vidalia High ready for season opener at Sicily Island

Published 11:56 am Thursday, August 31, 2023

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VIDALIA — Vidalia High School’s varsity football team will have to wait a couple of weeks to play their home opener of the 2023 season at Dee Faircloth Field at Viking Stadium because the new field is not ready for play after getting new sod put in.

Which means the Vikings’ season-opener against the Sicily Island High School Tigers this Friday night will now be played at Sicily Island. Kickoff is still set for 7 p.m., but first-year head coach Josh West said Vidalia will still be the ‘home’ team.

“Of course, we want to play in front of our home crowd. But we’ll have a lot of fans going up there (to cheer us on),” West said. “Students are excited about the game. It’s a close trip. It’s not a long trip. We’re going to hop off the bus and play football. I don’t think it’s going to be a big issue at all.”

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The good news is for Vidalia is that this is not affecting where it practices. And it helps that cooler weather has finally invaded the region.

“We practice on the practice field,” West said. “We’re working on the game plan. Working on our identity. Working on what we do instead of worrying about the other team. Teaching the kids where they’re going to play. Coaching roles. Make sure the equipment works. Checking off all the boxes before we go.”

West said playing on the road instead of at home for the season opener should have no bearing on how the Vikings play come kickoff Friday night, adding, “It doesn’t matter where we play or who we play.”

As to what areas or units he has been pleased with and which areas need to get better before Friday night arrives, West said, “We should be able to run the football efficiently. The quarterback, Elmari “Juice” Lewis, he should be able to orchestrate the offense fluently. He’s a sophomore. He’s been trying to be a leader. He played defense primarily last year and a little quarterback at JV. This is going to be his first time to show what he’s capable of.

“Working on our secondary and depth. There’s always attrition with depth because of injuries and COVID. Knowing what we’re doing.”

Vidalia isn’t the only team with a new head football coach. So does Sicily Island. The Tigers’ new man in charge of their football program in Brandon Sims. And trying to figure out what each team will do offensively and defensively could be a challenge for both teams.

“He (Sims) was the basketball coach and they asked him to be the new football coach,” West said. “We don’t know what they’re going to do, what schemes they’ll run. But they don’t know what we’re going to do. All I can do is prepare for what they may see. Everybody likes to run a little spread. They did try to run the ball in the past. But we have to be prepared for the unknown.”

One thing West does know about the Tigers is that they still run a four-front on defense and that they have a big, strong lineman.

“They lost a few kids from last year up front. My whole thing is it doesn’t matter who we’re playing against. We have to execute. I heard that some teams in the past were soft. We want to impose our will on our opponents. I want us to have a dominant mindset from the beginning of the game,” West said.

In addition to Lewis, West said mentioned some other players for the Vikings will have to step up for them to start the 2023 season with a victory.
“Senior running back Kabari Davis will have to have a big game. John Jones on defense. He’s a senior linebacker. I want him to set the tone and be physical on defense. He’s the hammer to the bone. I want to see him go out and play,” West said. “Senior wide receiver Louis Jordan. I’m expecting him to have a big game. He’s the vocal leader. Extremely hard worker. He doesn’t complain. Excited to see him play his senior year.”

Vidalia’s home opener is now slated for Friday, Sept. 15 when the Vikings take on the Block High School Bears.