Valley stumbles in season opener

Published 11:23 pm Friday, August 25, 2023

The Valley Rams got off to a disappointing start to the season as they were beaten by the Handley Tigers 22-8. 

“I thought we played pretty good in the first half,” Head Coach Adam Hunter said. “We had too many turnovers offensively, couldn’t get some things going. The second half, we came out flat. Gave up two big drives there, and we just didn’t overcome it.” 

The turning point in the game came late in the third quarter as Cam Dooley went out of the game with an injury. CJ Chambley stepped up in his place, but the offense struggled in Dooley’s absence. Dooley did not return until late in the fourth quarter. 

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“Anytime you’re starting quarterback who’s a dual threat, and that’s what our offense is built around, when he has to come out it’s going to limit what you can do. We’ve got to have some guys step up,and CJ stepped up in that spot.” 

Early on in the game, Valley’s offense struggled. On the first play from scrimmage, Tyilyn Carrell’s fumble was recovered by Handley at Valley’s 40 yard line. Handley used just a few plays to find the endzone with an 18-yard run. The Tigers converted the 2-point conversion to take an 8-0 lead with 9:33 left in the first quarter. 

Valley’s offense stumbled again on the next drive. Cam Dooley’s pass intended for Jayden Thomas was intercepted at Handley’s 13 yard line. From that point on, Valley’s defense stood tall. For the rest of the half, Valley forced Handley to punt three times, and the Rams’ defense also forced a turnover on downs on a 4th and 2. 

Up to that point in the game, Valley’s offense still could not get going. After Handley’s last full drive in the first half, Dooley found the endzone on a 2-yard rush to cap off a 37-yard drive. Valley converted on the 2-point conversion as Brandon Thomas beat the defensive backs to the jump ball. 

Valley left just 46 seconds on the clock, and at the half the game was tied up 8-8. 

The thorn in Valley’s side in the first half was turnovers. Valley had three in just the first two quarters. 

“We’ve got to be able to move it and be consistent,” Hunter said. “We gave up some big plays, didn’t make some big plays. All those things, they’re going to bite you when you play a good team.” 

Handley came out in the first drive and made a statement on offense. 

Handley scored in less than two minutes on a 57-yard rushing touchdown. 

Handley capped off a 57-yard drive with an eight-yard rushing touchdown to push the lead to 14.  

Valley’s offense completely stalled in the second half. 

On defense, the Tigers shutout the Rams in the second half. 

Valley’s best chance to get back in the game came with just 10 minutes left on the clock. Handley was called for roughing the kicker. Valley was 35 yards away from the first down marker, and that penalty gave the Rams a new set of downs. 

The Rams were unable to capitalize, and Valley punted the ball away just four plays later. 

“The second half was sloppy,” Hunter said. “We’ve got to clean that up. We’ve got to be better at that. We can’t play like that the rest of the season. 

Up next for Valley is a home game against Lanett next week. That matchup will be the 92nd installment in the longtime rivalry. 

Hunter knows that there’s several things that Valley needs to improve on going into next week. 

One thing Valley struggled with on Friday was with endurance. Several players had to come out for cramping and other heat related issues. 

The offense is where Hunter wants to see the most improvement. 

“We’ve got to sustain drives offensively, and we’ve got to get a lot tougher.