Rivalry game close for Lanett, Valley

Published 8:09 pm Monday, August 27, 2018

LANETT — There is nothing quite like a hometown rivalry.

Both the home and away stands were filled with spectators at Lanett High School’s football stadium last Friday night to watch the Valley Rams defeat the Lanett Panthers, 28-22. Nearby neighbors were even watching from across the street.

The energy for the defending 2A state champions was high but the away team’s energy was matched with the optimism of a new season.

Email newsletter signup

“Oh, it was great,” Valley head football coach Buster Daniel said of the atmosphere. “Great crowd. I didn’t expect anything else from Valley. They support anything you do, everywhere you go and it’s always been like that.”

Lanett opened the game with a pass-heavy drive that was capped off by a touchdown pass to junior running back Zion Lynch.

On defense, the Panthers swarmed the Rams’ backfield and stuffed standout freshman running back B.J. Baker before reaching the line of scrimmage. A couple of plays later, Valley fumbled the ball and the Panthers recovered with good field position.

In the stands, Valley’s drumline played a cadence in-between plays. Lanett’s drumline followed the Rams’ lead by playing the same cadence back to Valley’s drumline. The two drumlines continued playing the same cadence until the other one folded.

Back on the field, some players from both teams had a pair of scuffles on the Lanett sideline.

“I just called timeout,” Lanett head football coach Clifford Story, Jr. said. “I told those guys, ‘look. You’ve got on $500 or $600 of equipment on. Swinging fists, hitting guys, doing stuff like that doesn’t make sense. It’s all about discipline. We’ve got to settle down and they were able to play. It was a good, hard-fought ball game.”

Lanett junior quarterback Kristian Story fumbled the ball to end a first quarter, a turnover that ultimately led to Baker scoring his first touchdown for Valley at the beginning of the second quarter.

After a summer of having a quarterback competition, junior Eli Culpepper started under center for the Rams while senior athlete D.J. Dunn saw some snaps in wildcat-like plays as well during the night.

“They did well,” Daniel said. “We just had one bad read out there on the pass interception, that’s my fault for putting him into the situation, I’m going to take the blame for that one. I thought the kids played well, they
did a great job. We just have to get better every week.”

There was a questionable pass-interference no-call on the last play of the game when Lanett senior wide receiver Tifton “Dee” Dobbs was knocked to the ground by Valley defenders before the ball got to him.

Lanett senior safety and wide receiver Trikweze Bridges walked gingerly throughout the night after getting banged up and he laid on the field after the loss for a few minutes. Bridges was expected, however, to be fine, Story said.

Valley is now hosting Smiths Station this week, a 2017 winless team who defeated Russell County 28-9 in last Friday night’s season-opener. Lanett is traveling to LaFayette, the preseason 2A No. 5 in a battle that Story said he feels is even more intense than the rivalry with Valley High School.