By Steve Keenan
For The Register-Herald
Ten up, 10 down.
Now it’s time to wipe the slate clean and start again.
The Class A No. 3 Valley Greyhounds, who completed the first undefeated football regular season in school history last Friday, turn their attention to the postseason today.
The Greyhounds face No. 14 Magnolia at 1:30 p.m. at UC Stadium’s Laidley Field in Charleston. The survivor of that first-round game plays either No. 6 Moorefield or No. 11 Meadow Bridge in the second round.
“They’ve got a good football team,” Valley coach Benny Hopkins said of Magnolia. “They’re good in all phases of the game.
“They’re single-A, but they’ve just been single-A for two years.
“Their tailback, No. 21 (senior Drew Keller), gets back in the wildcat (formation) some,” he added.
Magnolia finished the regular season with a 6-4 mark, with losses to Linsly, Williamstown, Wheeling Central and No. 2 St. Marys, the latter an 11-9 verdict on Oct. 18. At one point, the Blue Eagles stood at 2-3. “They lost to some good programs,” said Hopkins. “They have played well in the last half of the season.
“We’ll have to play well.”
Jacob Brill is Magnolia’s quarterback, and he’s thrown for 1,023 yards and 11 touchdowns, while tossing only a single interception. His favorite target is Eric Smith, who has caught 33 passes for 582 yards and seven touchdowns.
Hopkins realizes that, while Magnolia will offer a stern test, his Greyhounds field a pretty good team, too.
“The last couple of weeks, we’ve played pretty well,” he said. “Against Gilmer (last week), we probably played as well as we’ve played all year.
“When you get this far, there are 16 teams that are all going to be good.”
Greyhound senior center/defensive end Steven Mitchell said the team has progressed remarkably from a tough-to-swallow 1-8 showing in his freshman season.
“We had a lot of guys quit, and we (freshmen) had to step in (and begin filling roles),” he recalled of his freshman year. “It motivated me to do better.
“I think if we play hard each and every game, we could go all the way,” Mitchell added. “We have enough talent.”
The main key to improvement, he says, has been the weight room. “Most of our players not playing another sport have been in the weight room working hard. That’s been the difference.”
“All of us have been together since little league,” said senior linebacker/fullback Casey Stewart. “We want to come in and try our best and hopefully we can get a win.”
A first-round loss to Clay-Battelle in 2012 was disappointing, he said. The team worked harder in the weight room and “our coaches got us better prepared,” he said. “We are more athletic,” Stewart added, and he feels the current team is better than last year’s squad “not only physically, but mentally.”
Valley has had a variety of offensive threats this season. Running back Keyshawn Payne (84 points) has rushed 110 times for 1,104 yards, a 10.0 yards-per-carry average, and 12 touchdowns. He has also caught three passes for 130 yards. Donte Wilkerson has 637 yards and nine TDs on 59 ground attempts, as well as catching five passes for 118 yards and another score. Raeshawn Breckenridge has passed for 773 yards and ran for 367 more, scoring 94 points in the process. His primary receiving threat is Druw Bowen, who has 16 receptions for 428 yards, a 26.8 average, and three TDs.
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