Rams face Tallassee with a chance to clinch a playoff berth

Published 11:25 am Thursday, October 12, 2023

It’s homecoming week for the Valley Rams, but perhaps more importantly the team has the opportunity to clinch its first playoff berth since 2019. 

Valley fell on the road against Clay Central 47-0 last week in what could have been the region championship. Now, the team is regrouping and focusing on accomplishing the goals that they set before the season began. 

“I think we’ve had a good week of practice so far,” Valley coach Adam Hunter said. “Monday and Tuesday were real physical days. Our team from top to bottom, our scout team and our starters, they’ve all got on the same page. Our kids are flying around and making it really physical. Our kids bounced back pretty well.” 

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The loss last Friday shocked the team and most people who have paid attention to the Rams this season. However, Valley will not spend any more time licking its wounds. The kids and the coaching staff are using the loss as an opportunity to get better. 

“What you’ve got to do is take it, learn from it and learn that you’ve got to play very physical against very good football teams,” Hunter said. 

“You take a look in the mirror and say, look, we’ve got to this a little better. I think our kids did that. They know now that we’ve got to practice better. You can’t take things for granted.”

Valley High School has already begun to have some of its homecoming festivities and more are planned throughout the week. The festivities can be a lot of fun for everyone involved, but it can also create some challenges. 

Every football coach battles with keeping their team focused during homecoming week. Now, with so much on the line, Hunter is making sure his guys are ready for Friday night. 

“You want your kids to have fun and enjoy the activities that are planned for homecoming, you’ve also got to realize and let them know that homecoming is not for us,” Hunter said. “Once they become alumni, that’s what homecoming is for. You’ve just got to reiterate that to the kids. It’s just another game for us. We’ve got to go out there and play.” 

Tallassee and Valley have had very different seasons. The Rams come into the week with a 4-2 record, and the Tigers come in with a 1-6 record. 

Still, this matchup is about as important as it gets for Valley. With a win on Friday, the Rams clinch the third seed in 5A-Region 4, and it would be the team’s first playoff appearance since 2019. 

“You want to get in the playoffs, our kids want to get in the playoffs,” Hunter said. “If we can win this one, it gives you a chance to have the ability to win next week and host a playoff game. If you do win this one, you’re in automatically.” 

Tallassee presents a similar offense schematically to what Clay Central runs. The Tigers look to run the ball often. 

“Defensively, we’ve got to be in the right spot to make plays,” Hunter said.

 “We can’t get out of position. We’ve got to play really well upfront. We can’t sleep in the secondary because they will slip a tight end out and hit you with a big play. We’ve got to make them be in long yardage situations and throw the ball, something they don’t do as well as they do running the ball.”

Offensively, Valley looks to establish the ground game. Tilyn Carrell has been a force at running back this season. The coaching staff hopes for him and Cam Dooley to have big games on the ground this week, and they look to get the ball out in space to the playmakers on the outside. 

“We’ve got to have some big plays with Cam throwing the ball, but we’ve also got to have some big plays with him running it,” Hunter said. “He’s got to run the ball well, Tilyn’s got to run the ball well, and we’ve got to play up front.”

At this point in the season, the Rams are healthier than in previous seasons. Several players are dealing with knicks and bruises, but all the key players are going to be suiting up on Friday.