Valley falls at home to Benjamin Russell
Published 12:16 am Saturday, November 4, 2023
By Wayne Clark
VALLEY — With a 5A playoff spot secured, the Valley Rams closed the regular season with a 35-19 loss to the Benjamin Russell Wildcats Friday night at Ram Stadium.
Doomed by a slow start, the Rams fell to 7-3 for the season. The visitors scored on their first two possessions to lead 14-0 in the first quarter. The two teams played pretty much on the same level for the remainder of the game, but Valley could not pull out of that early hole.
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Benjamin Russell rode the passing of quarterback Gabe Benton (mostly to wideout David Lawson) and the running of T.J. Wilson to make the big plays that led to their scores. Valley countered with the passing of Cam Dooley to six-foot-six wide receiver Brandon Thomas to make it a close game.
Down by two scores in the second quarter, Valley drove 59 yards to get their first score on a pass from Dooley to C.J. Chambley. The running and passing of senior quarterback Dooley highlighted the drive. Newton’s point-after kick made the score 14-7 with 7:20 left in the half.
Following the kickoff, the Wildcats put the ball in play on their 30. It didn’t take them long to extend their lead back to two scores. On the first play of the series, T.J. Wilson exploded up the middle for a 58-yard run all the way to the Valley 12. They put the ball in the end zone a couple of plays later on a two-yard run. The PAT from their left-footed kicker was good, and with 5:50 left before halftime, Benjamin Russell led 21-7.
The Rams responded to that with a nice drive of their own. They moved the ball 75 yards to get back within a single score, 21-13, with 2:45 to go in the half.
The running of Dooley and Floyd along with some clutch receptions from Crim-Davis were big on the drive. The scoring play came on a beautifully executed 15-yard pass from Dooley to Thomas in the right corner of the end zone. The pass was a bit high, but not too high for Thomas to jump up and catch it. The PAT was wide left, leaving the score 21-13.
The Rams got the ball late in the half and managed to get it down to the Wildcat 25 with just nine seconds left in the half. On the final play of the half, Dooley got loose around the left end and looked as if he might score, but Wildcat defenders knocked him out of bounds around the 10-yard line.
Valley’s strong play in the second quarter raised hopes of a comeback win going into the second half, but the visitors dimmed those hopes on the first play of the second half. Benjamin Russell took advantage of some busted pass coverage to go 67 yards in one play. A pass from Benton to Sedarious Morgan made the score 27-13 with just 15 seconds elapsed in the half. The point-after kick pushed the lead out to 15 points, 28-13.
A good kickoff return by Jay Harper had Valley in business on their first possession of the half. Runs by Dooley and Floyd picked up a couple of first downs before Dooley found Thomas open on a 30-yard scoring pass. The PAT bounded off the upright to leave the score 28-19 with a little more than nine minutes left in the third quarter.
Benjamin Russell extended their lead to 16 points, 35-19, on a 73-yard drive midway of the final period. The big play was a pass from Benton to Lawson It came on a third-and-10 play with the receiver making some great moves and breaking several tackles all the way to the Valley eight-yard line. The Wildcats scored two plays later on a six-yard run from wildcat formation by backup quarterback Derrion Morgan. The successful PAT made the score 35-19 with 5:51 left in the game.
Both teams will be hosting playoff games next Friday. Sidney Lanier of Montgomery will travel to Alexander City to play Benjamin Russell.
It still wasn’t known late Friday who Valley would be playing but that should be straightened out by Saturday. Valley will be playing the No. 3 seed from 5A Region 1.
“We did some good things tonight,” said Valley head coach Adam Hunter. “Cam Dooley made some good throws, and Brandon Thomas, Ian Crim-Davis and C.J. Chambley made some good receptions. I thought we tackled better tonight than we have in some games. We just have to stay in front of them.”
This will be the first time Valley has been in the playoffs since 2019. “It’s good to be back,” Hunter said. “We’d like to be there every year.”