High school football: Valley, Clay-Battelle look to rebound from losses in finale
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Valley and Clay-Battelle football teams don't have a lot in common, but there are some similarities shared by the two programs as they prepare to meet in the first round of the Class A playoffs.
The biggest commonality between the two is that both enter the postseason having suffered stinging defeats in their regular season finales.
No. 8 Clay Battelle (9-1) dropped its regular season finale in a 40-2 loss at Madonna last Friday, while No. 9 Valley (8-2) dropped a turnover-filled 28-20 decision at Summers County.
For both Clay-Battelle Coach Ryan Wilson and Valley Coach Benny Hopkins, the biggest challenge this week will be making sure their respective players forget about the past and concentrate on their first round matchup scheduled for University High in Morgantown at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
"It was a tough night for us, but I see 16 football teams here today and we're one of them," said Wilson, whose team finished 9-1 for the second consecutive season. "Everyone else is putting their stuff away and we're still playing. We've been in the playoffs in seven of the last nine years so that says a lot about our program.
"We've put last Friday night behind us. Everyone's record right now is 0-0, so we'll move on from there. We're not going to talk about Friday night ... it's history."
"Turnovers are the key for us," said Hopkins, whose team also matched last season's 8-2 finish. "We had six turnovers Friday night, with four of them inside the 20-yard line. You can't play like that and beat anybody. We've got to take care of the ball.
"We played pretty well against Summers County, but we turned the ball over. We outgained them, but you have to do everything well to win and we didn't.
"The thing I like about our kids is that they know they're going into a second season now. We've moved past last week. Now we just need to get ready for season two."
Preparing for the postseason will be made more difficult than normal given that neither coach knows much about his opponent.
"We play a team called Valley-Wetzel in our conference, but that's about it," Wilson jokingly said when asked about his knowledge of the Greyhounds. "This is a whole different Valley for us. I looked at their roster and their roster and I'm sure they have a good team. If not, they wouldn't be here."
Hopkins' knowledge of the Cee-Bees is equally limited.
"I don't know a whole lot about them," said Hopkins, who has guided the Greyhounds to the playoffs in three of the last four seasons. "I know they were undefeated until they got beat last week, so I'm sure they've got a really good team. I've got their game film in my pocket so we're going to have to get back and go to work."
When the two coaches do begin breaking down game film this week, they'll undoubtedly notice more similarities between the two programs.
"We're more of a running team, but we won a couple of games by spreading things out and throwing the ball a little bit," Hopkins said. "We've got some guys out wide that can run a little bit this year, but we'll do whatever it takes to get the job done."
Senior Matt Whiteside and junior Raeshawn Breckenridge have both played under center for the Greyhounds and will more than likely share snaps against the Cee-Bees.
Senior Cody Winter will shoulder most of the load on the ground for the Greyhounds after moving to running back this season. A slot receiver a year ago, Winter, a 6-foot, 223-pound bruiser, has impressed Hopkins.
"He's been a pleasant surprise for us this year," Hopkins said of Winter. "He was a slot back last season, but he picked up a little bit of weight and done a nice job at running back for us.
"I know if I was a safety I would not want to come up and tackle him. He's about 220 pounds and he runs hard."
The Cee-Bees will also likely rely on their own ground attack.
"Offensively we can do a little of everything, but we like to run the ball first," Wilson said. "We can spread it out and throw the ball and we can line it up with a two-back set and do some things. We also have a power set, depending on what the defense is giving you."
Senior Shayne Hinkle leads the Clay-Battelle ground game, with help from sophomore Jacoby Steele and junior Trenten Dille.
Junior Tristan Haught is a two-year starter at quarterback for the Cee-Bees, with his top receiving targets being senior Nathan Tolley, senior Ben Wade and sophomore Tanner Bragg.
"Execution will be the key to this game," Wilson said. "When you get to the playoff level, every team is a good team and they're all playing hard, so you have to execute well. The team that does that will have the best chance to win the game."