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SET: Valley quarterback D.J. Dunn prepares to take the snap on Friday night against Benjamin Russell. Photo by Rashad Milligan

Valley falls short on senior night against Wildcats, playoffs next

VALLEY — Valley’s offense was frigid in Friday night’s cold temperatures. On the final game of the regular season, the Rams fell to Benjamin Russell 14-2.

“It wasn’t very good,” Valley head football coach Buster Daniel said. “The defensive guys pretty really well, kept us in the game, we just couldn’t do a whole lot on offense. We just didn’t click tonight. We didn’t do things that we were coached to do. A couple of times, we did our own thing, which got us in trouble.”

Senior D.J. Dunn played a majority, if not all, of the game at quarterback for the Rams. Junior Eli Culpepper, the usual starter, had a slight limp on the sidelines. He suffered a high ankle sprain, but should be good to go next week in the first round of the playoffs, according to Daniel. Sophomore quarterback Gabe Harmon didn’t see the field much throughout the night.

“We just went with the older guy. We thought that he could’ve gotten us back in the game,” Daniel said of playing Dunn at quarterback. “Gabe works hard, he’s a good guy. He’s going to get his chances down the road.”

Valley’s offense struggled to get past midfield for most of the night, as starting running back B.J. Baker was taken out of the game early. Baker is another Ram who should be good to go next week, and he wasn’t injured on Friday night, Daniel said.

Benjamin Russell quarterback Landon Cotney scrambled for a 36-yard touchdown, and Jaikobee Gamble caught a 17-yard pass for a touchdown on the Wildcats’ two scores on the night.

A bad snap with 2:50 remaining in the fourth quarter gave Valley two points on a Benjamin Russell safety.

The Valley seniors were recognized shortly before the matchup kicked off, as fans toughed out temperatures in the mid-40s. This is the first year the senior class will be in the playoffs since the group entered high school. The program’s last postseason appearance came in 2013.

“They got this thing turned around,” Daniel said of the seniors. “With their leadership and hard work, they’ve gotten Valley back on the map. They set a trend now for guys in the future. They’ve done a great job, and I’m proud of them.”

The Rams are heading to the playoffs in the second season that Daniel returned to become the head coach at his alma mater. This season’s 5-5 record was a vast improvement over the team’s combined record of 3-17 in 2016 and 2017.

“It feels great,” Daniel said. “It was a lot of hard work from coaches and players buying into what we are teaching. We’ve got things going in the right direction, and the kids are starting to be excited about that.”

Valley is traveling to face 8-2 Briarwood next week in round one. Doing things the right way is the main key for the Rams to pull off the upset, according to Daniel.

“Not making mistakes. We can’t turn over the ball now,” he said. “Everyone that you play now is good. There are no off weeks. We’ve got to control the ball, and we can’t have silly penalties. We had a lot of those tonight.”

Daniel said that he hopes to see some of the Ram faithful take the trip to Birmingham next Friday to see the big game.

“I hope they see what we’re doing out here,” Daniel said. “See what the kids have done in turning this thing around. They need to come to support us. They need to come to support these kids. They work 365 days just about. They need to come to support.”