The next edition of the Valley Lanett rivalry
Published 10:30 am Wednesday, August 30, 2023
It is hard to find any game this week that will be more important than Valley and Lanett’s matchup. The Rams will host the Panthers this Friday for the 92nd meeting between the two teams.
Valley and Lanett had opposite starts to their season. Valley opened the season with a loss against Handley, and Lanett opened its season with a dominant win over Notasulga.
Valley’s biggest issue in the opener was with cramping. Valley had several players spend time on the sideline dealing with cramps.
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“If our kids can’t figure out after Friday night’s game that we’ve got to do a better job hydrating ourselves, then we’re not as far along as we thought we were,” Head Coach Adam Hunter said. “It’s important that they know that, and we’ve harped on it.”
Valley leads the series with 57 wins, and the Rams have not lost to Lanett since 2019. Both coaches know how big this game is for the community and the players.
“The kids on both sides know each other,” Hunter said. “It’s always been Valley versus Lanett was a huge game. It’s exciting for our kids. They like to see the guy across from them, know them and play against them.”
Although it is a big rivalry, neither coaching staff is changing much about what they do in practice this week. Lanett head coach Chip Seagle believes in worrying more about improving his team than focusing on the other team.
“We’re going to do what we do,” Seagle said.
The same can be said for Valley’s coaching staff. The game is a big rivalry, and there’s no downplaying that, but it’s still just another game on Valley and Lanett’s schedule.
“It’s just a fun game for our community,” Hunter said. “It’s more for our community than it is for us. We treat it just like a normal game.”
Both Lanett and Valley are led by dynamic playmakers at quarterback. Cam Dooley is committed to play football for Missouri, and the coaching staff knows he’s the player that the defense will have to focus on.
“Number one is the dude, that’s why he plays quarterback,” Seagle said. “We’ve got to stop him. He’s an SEC prospect, that says enough about him right there. That line is so big, we’re going to have to find a way to neutralize that line and figure out a way to slow No. 1 down. I don’t know that you can stop him, but maybe slow him down.”
While Lanett is looking to neutralize Valley’s offensive line and stop Dooley from running, Valley is looking to see improvement from their offensive line this week.
“We’ve got to sustain blocks better than what we did last week,” Hunter said. “We’ve got to play better up front than what we did last week. That’s going to be key.”
Lanett is led by Alajawon Whitfield. Whitfield split snaps last week with Riontae Zeigler. Even when Whitfield is not at quarterback, he still makes plays. Last week, Whitfield had a receiving touchdown and a kickoff return for a touchdown. Hunter expects Lanett to get Whitfield on the edge.
“I think they’re trying to use the quarterback a little bit to stretch the field,” Hunter said.
Valley will look to be balanced on offense this week. Valley’s biggest advantage may be their size on the outside. Brandon Thomas is a key playmaker at wide receiver. Thomas made some big plays last week, but he was limited due to issues with cramping. Lanett hangs its hat on defense, but size could be an advantage for Valley.
“We’re going to have to play sound technique because we can’t grow between now and Friday night,” Seagle said.
Both coaches believe that turnovers will be the ultimate deciding factor in who wins the game on Friday.
Last week, Valley had two turnovers. Tyilyn Carrell fumbled on Valley’s first drive, and Dooley fumbled near the end zone later in the game. Hunter said that the fumble was uncharacteristic for Dooley, and he believes Carrell’s fumble could be attributed to jitters. Ball security has been and will still be a priority for Valley.
Despite Valley being a 5A School and Lanett being a 2A, Seagle does not expect depth to be a major issue. Both teams will have players play on both sides of the ball.
Beulah (1-0) vs. Loachapoka (1-0)
Beulah faces arguably its toughest test of the season as they host Loachapoka this Friday. Last week, Beulah started off hot with a 35-12 win over Abbeyville.
The key to this matchup will be the battle in the trenches. In their season opening win against LaFayette, Loachapoka’s defensive line was dominant in stopping the run and in rushing the quarterback.
The mobility of Beulah’s quarterback, Demarion Foreman, could help Beulah limit the Indians’ pass rush.
On defense, Beulah will have to stop Loachapoka’s run game. The Indians force feed their running backs, and they did not pass the ball much in their first game.
Chambers Academy (1-1) at Edgewood Academy (0-2)
The Rebels begin region play on the road against Edgewood Academy. Last season, Chambers Academy beat Edgewood 49-14.
Chambers Academy bounced back last week after losing to Lee-Scott Academy in week one. Edgewood lost both of its first two games by more than 20 points.
“They will be well coached and will play hard,” Head Coach Jason Allen said after last week’s game. “We had better be ready to play.”
The Rebels will lean on their run game that features Luke Tarver and Jacob Norgard. When the Rebels look to pass, they have a dynamic playmaker in Koreen Henry. Henry had 190 yards receiving and four touchdowns last week.
LaFayette (0-1) vs. Bullock County (1-0)
LaFayette had a rough start to the season last week against Loachapoka. The Bulldogs struggled to stop the Indians’ pass rush. The Bulldogs turned the ball over four times in the second half, and they lost the opener 32-12.
LaFayette has played Bullock County 21 times, and the Bulldogs have won 15 of the matchups. Last season, LaFayette won their matchup against Bullock County 30-21.
Springwood (2-0) vs. Evangel Christian Academy (0-1)
This will be a rematch of last year’s championship game, which Springwood lost 38-28. In their matchup in the regular season, the Wildcats won 52-32.
Springwood has started off the season hot as they’ve won both of their games by double digits. On offense, the Wildcats will rely on Luke Hudson at quarterback and CJ Johnson at running back.
Johnson broke on the scene last week as he had more than 200 total yards and five touchdowns.