Rams ready for challenge against 6A Russell County

Published 11:16 am Friday, September 29, 2023

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The Valley Rams are well-rested and prepared for another battle as they face 6A Russell County on the road this Friday. 

Valley is 18-3 all-time against the Warriors. Last season’s matchup between the two teams was an absolute battle with the Rams scraping by with a 27-23 victory at home. 

Through four games, Valley is off to its best start since 2020 — Adam Hunter’s first season as the head coach. Russell County is coming into this matchup with a completely different season outlook. The Warriors are currently 0-4 with several tough matchups still on the schedule.
Despite Russell County’s lack of success this season, Hunter believes the Panthers’ offense poses several challenges for the Rams. 

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“They love to throw the RPO,” Hunter said. “They’ll burn you with it if you don’t stay disciplined on defense. They’ve got playmakers that can stretch the field and make big plays. We’ve got to make sure we keep everything in front of us defensively and not give up those big plays.” 

Valley’s offense has been productive this season. Over the past three games, the Rams are averaging 32 points. 

“We’ve got to continue to establish the run,” Hunter said. “We’ve got to be able to get the ball in space to our playmakers and see what happens.” 

There are specific challenges in this matchup that Valley is going to have to work through. With Russell County being in a higher classification, the Panthers will bring more depth to the table. 

The Rams play several key players on both sides of the ball, and their endurance will be tested on Friday. 

“Anytime you play a bigger school, depth comes into play,” Hunter said. “They’re going to have the advantage in the depth area. Our kids are conditioned well, and they’re ready for the challenge.” 

The coaching staff used the bye week to work on eliminating penalties. Valley was plagued with penalties to start the season against Handley, but the Rams have worked to make sure that is not an issue moving forward. 

“We’ve definitely got to clean up some of these penalties that we’ve gotten,” Hunter said. “That’s going to be key for us to be successful.” 

The bye week came at an opportune time for Valley. Several players were banged up and playing through injuries. The week of rest provided helped the players to heal and get back to full strength. Injuries have hampered Valley for the past few seasons, but now the team is healthier than it has been for most of Hunter’s tenure. 

“The off-week couldn’t have come at a better time,” Hunter said. “I think overall we probably are healthier at this point than we had been last year.” 

Veterans on the team are playing on both sides of the ball, the Rams have needed younger players to step up and take the load off of the starters. 

Stability at quarterback has been a key improvement for Valley. Cam Dooley dealt with injuries last season, but he’s kept himself on the field this season. 

“The good thing about this year so far is we’ve been able to take a little bit off of Cam,” Hunter said. “We haven’t had to rely on him and his legs as much as we have in the past.” 

Dooley’s athletic ability is always there should the Rams need it. The emergence of running back Tilyn Carrell has helped Valley establish the run without Dooley being forced to carry the load. Over the past two games, Carrell has rushed for 366 yards and two touchdowns. 

“Tilyn has stepped up, and he really worked hard in the offseason,” Hunter said. 

Several players have stepped up to make Valley’s defense even more stifling than most expected. Hezekiah Avery, just a sophomore, has become the Rams’ leader at inside linebacker. CJ Chambley has stepped up to sure up the outside linebacker position. Those two positions were concerns before the season, and now they are positions of strength. 

If Valley keeps up its stifling defense, allowing just 15 points per game, and the offense continues to surge, the Rams are in good position to push their winning streak to four games.