Valley looking to continue momentum against Benjamin Russell

Published 11:55 am Thursday, November 2, 2023

The Valley Rams are in the midst of one of the team’s best seasons in recent history. Valley looks to keep that momentum heading into a matchup with Benjamin Russell this Friday. 

The Rams are 7-2, and the vibes are through the roof for each player on the team. Valley has already clinched a home playoff game for the first time since 2019.

The energy in practice is what you would expect for a team that got its school back to the playoffs, but the Rams are still looking to improve on several aspects. 

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“The kids have bounced around really good,” Valley coach Adam Hunter said. “They’re excited. We’ve got to do a better job in the first half. We’ve got to correct that stuff. That’s what we’ve harped on this week, but the kids have bought in.” 

The matchup is not considered a rivalry, but the two teams are very familiar with each other. The Rams have faced Benjamin Russell 50 times, with the Wildcats winning 30 of those matchups. Last season, the Wildcats beat the Rams 48-7 at home. 

Benjamin Russell comes into Valley with a matching record in 6A, and the Wildcats are region champions. The game does not affect any sort of playoff seeding for either team, but both teams are looking to keep their current momentum heading into next week. 

“We’ve got to understand that we’re playing a very good Benjamin Russell team,” Hunter said. 

“They’re really good, they’ve got some playmakers. You want to have a good showing. We’ve got to keep our guys healthy going into the playoffs. This game is not going to determine our season. We want to play well. We want to get better in the first half than what we have the past two weeks. Regardless of what the scoreboard says at the end, if we’ve done those things, we can take some good momentum going into the playoffs.” 

Every football player is naturally hyper-competitive, and a loss always stings. Hunter is trying to make sure his guys do not put too much pressure on this game. 

“You just discuss it with the guys, and they’re smart,” Hunter said. “They know that we’ve got a tall task ahead of us Friday. They know that we need to get better at certain phases of the game.” 

Benjamin Russell is led by Gabriel Benton at quarterback. As a senior, Benton is one of the more dynamic dual-threat quarterbacks in Alabama. As of now, Benton has thrown for 20 touchdowns and ran for another four. Benton also carries a completion percentage of just under 68%. 

Malcolm Simmons is another playmaker to watch out for. Simmons currently has 10 receiving touchdowns and four rushing touchdowns. 

“We’ve got to blitz,” Hunter said. “We’ve got to make the quarterback uncomfortable. They do a lot of quick-game stuff. They get it out to Malcolm pretty quickly. We’ve got to be in a position to make plays. We just can’t give up big plays. We’ve got to make them drive the field.” 

The Rams bring in their own plethora of talent into the matchup. Ian Crim-Davis, Brandon Thomas and Jay Harper are all pivotal players for Valley on the outside. Cam Dooley has been on a tear recently, completing all of his passing attempts last week for 147 yards. 

“They’ve played athletes all year in 6A football,” Hunter said. “We can give them some looks that maybe they couldn’t do with other ones.”