“Anytime you get in the playoffs, it's good, especially around here. Our kids haven't had that kind of success lately. They achieved that last year, and the guys back on the team this year have kind of come to expect it. That's the reason for the hard work they're putting in this summer. They want to get back to that level and even further than that.”
- Buster Daniel, Valley head coach
After reaching the playoffs last year for the first time since 2013, Valley will need a new quarterback to step up to make it two postseason trips in a row.
Although he did not graduate, Eli Culpepper will not return as the Rams starting quarterback for 2019. The race to replace him is between juniors Will Kennedy and Gabe Harmon. Valley head coach Buster Daniel maintains both players are still in the hunt, though Harmon may have a slight advantage after playing the position last season.
“They're about on the same level right now as far as what they can do. One's not better than the other right now,” Daniel said. “They're both working extremely hard. The quarterback is a big issue right now, just having a guy who can lead our offense and lead us every Friday night.”
Whoever wins the Rams’ quarterback battle will be blessed with talent around him.
Sophomore running back B.J. Baker showed streaks of being an uber-talented tailback, which included a near-200-yard performance against Beauregard last season. He’ll be paired with Randall Brooks to handle the running back duties. K.D. Hutchinson and Jay Smith are two receivers that Daniel expects to use their speed to orchestrate big plays this year.
As important as the skill players are, Daniel stressed how big his offensive linemen will be. He credited Judson Garner and Daniel Osborne as two true team leaders this offseason, and he added that he has high expectations for Kenyion Barnes. All three started on the Rams’ offensive line last season.
“It starts with our offensive line,” Daniel said. “We’re expecting big things out of them.”
Valley graduated 21 seniors off its 2018 team, which left significant holes that needed filling for this fall.
One of Daniel’s primary concerns with this year’s team is in the secondary, which was decimated with the departure of last year’s upperclassmen. The outlook is promising, however, with Daniel pointing to K.D. Hutchinson and Josh Heath as the leaders on the back side of the defense.
As far as the linebackers go, Dalton Dunn stands out as a true difference maker who will be expected to help a young defense find its way. He’s joined at the position by Tino Linson, who will likely play outside linebacker and inside.
The Rams’ defensive front is headlined by Jaden Hamlin, a big body who has received some attention from college coaches. The senior Hamlin’s experience will be crucial, as Daniel anticipates sophomores Cross Colley and Dylan Earle playing defensive end for the revamped Rams.