It's no secret that Valdosta, located off I-75 in south Georgia heading toward the Florida border, has long been a hotbed of high school football.
The play of Valdosta High School (23 state titles from 1913-2004) and most recently Lowndes High School (four state titles since 1999) helped earn the city "TitleTown USA" honors on ESPN.com. This year, a group of talented defensive backs at Lowndes is writing its own chapter in the tradition-rich history of the sport.
Speedy cornerback Greg Reid is committed to Florida. Safety Gerald Demps will be playing college football at Florida State. Defensive backs Darius Howell and Marcus Solomon are two solid seniors who also have potential to get to the next level.
The quartet has a familiarity. Howell and Demps are cousins, and Reid and Demps have known each other for six years. Solomon transferred in from Valdosta High during the group's ninth-grade season.
"Our freshman year, we played together and we really thought we got along well," Reid said. "We felt that we would set ourselves up for an undefeated season and we just kept winning."
Demps echoed Reid.
"We just had this chemistry in ninth grade that sparked from nowhere," he said. "It was like we were born to play on the same team."
Loyalties will be divided starting next season when Reid will head to Gainesville to wear the orange and blue and Demps to Tallahassee to don the garnet and gold.
"It will be strange not having him on my team," Demps said. "But we've played against each other before. In middle school, we were on different teams. We also have played against each other in spring practice."
Big plays galore have many in the Peach State whispering about Reid being the Most Valuable Player in all of Georgia high school football this season. The 5-foot-9, 175-pounder is the nation's No. 115 overall prospect. This year, the explosive Reid has starred on both sides of the ball for Lowndes, turning in 99- and 75-yard runs from scrimmage along with a 95-yard fumble return in recent weeks. Lowndes will play crosstown rival Valdosta on Friday at 8 p.m. on ESPNU.
"He's just a spontaneous player," Demps said. "You never know what he's going to do next. He plays hard every game, and when we need somebody to step up, he's up to the challenge."
Reid, who has a team-high four interceptions, gives credit for his individual success to the team.
"Our team has a lot of speed," Reid said. "We are powerful and we have a lot of speed. Our coaching staff really does a great job of getting us ready to go play and getting guys in position."
Demps is tied for second on the team with 39 tackles, aided by playing closer to the line of scrimmage this season in Lowndes' defensive scheme.
"They moved me up from safety to linebacker this year to help out our defense," he said. "It's a quicker read when you are playing there. The play develops faster and you can key on the ball more."
Solomon is a physical corner who has 25 tackles, and Demps and Reid praised Howell for being the ultimate team player. Both are getting looks from college programs.
JC Shurburtt covers recruiting in the Southeast for ESPN.com.