Game of the Week: Valley hosts the Handley Tigers
Published 11:00 am Wednesday, August 23, 2023
Football is now back in full force as Chambers County looks forward to a full slate of games this week.
The highlight of the week will be Valley’s matchup against the Handley Tigers at Rams Stadium. The Rams have faced the Tigers 38 times over the course of their history. Valley has 29 wins in the series.
The two teams matched up for the first time since 2004 last season. The Tigers took home the 22-20 win.
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The toughest challenge for Valley may be the coach on the opposite sideline. Head Coach Larry Strain has won 67 games in nine seasons with Handley. The Tigers have also won two state championships during his tenure.
“You know Larry is going to have his guys ready,” Valley’s head coach Adam Hunter said. “They’re gonna be physical. They’re gonna be big up front. They’re gonna come off the football. He’s going to establish the run. He’s an old school football coach, and really good at what they do.”
Valley faced Handley for the season opener last season. It was one of Valley’s best performances of the season, and a few plays made the difference in the game.
“I think we started off slow,” Hunter said. “Special teams hurt us in the beginning. We didn’t take care of that. It ended up probably evening out special teams wise. They had three big plays special teams wise. We had two. It kind of put us in a bind early.”
To have an opportunity to beat Handley, Valley will have to stop the run. The Tigers will mix things up with different formations to set up their ground game.
“They’re gonna be big up front,” Hunter said. “We’ve got to stop the run. They like to run the quarterback a little bit. A lot of formations. They’ll throw a tight end in, so we’ve got to recognize that stuff defensively.”
On offense, Valley will look to be balanced. The key to the offense will be Valley’s players on the outside.
“We’re gonna have some matchups we’ve got to win on the perimeter,” Hunter said. “We’re gonna get some man coverage stuff, we think. We’re gonna have to win those. We’ve got to get the ball in space and loosen them up a little bit.”
Valley has several playmakers on the outside. Brandon Thomas, Ian Crim-Davis, Jay Harper and Cam Dooley will all likely have to make big plays on both sides of the ball. Thomas is a newcomer to the team that the coaching staff expect to make an immediate impact.
“I think the key is going to be BT,” Hunter said. “He’s gonna have a big role in our offense. We’re looking forward to him.”
Expectations have been raised for Valley this offseason in large part due to the recruitment of several players. Crim-Davis, Dooley and Harper are all three-star prospects in the Rams’ secondary. Harper and Dooley are committed to Wisconsin and Missouri respectively.
“We want to be there in the fourth quarter and have a chance to win the ballgame,” Hunter said. “We’re playing a really good Handley team. They’re well coached, and they’ve got a lot of people back from last year. You want to put yourself in position to be in the game in the fourth quarter and try to win that game. If we can win it, it sets us off for a good season.”
Several young players will be expected to step up and play a larger role this season than they have in the past. Tykelvin Carrell and Hezekiah Avery will both be starting at inside linebacker for Valley this season.
“Those two guys at inside linebacker are young, but they get after it and they’re going to have to have really good games,” Hunter said.
The discipline and effort that Hunter has seen has varied. The team has been battling the severe heat just like every other team in the area. Overall, Hunter feels the team has responded well.
“We’ve done a good job at times, and we’ve done a bad job at times,” Hunter said. “This week’s been pretty good. Hopefully, we can overcome it and keep working hard.”