The Valdosta Daily Times
Players sprinting from station and an already hoarse Ashley Henderson barking directions from a megaphone can only mean one thing, Valwood football is gearing up for action.
The Valwood Valiants are coming off a perfect 14-0 season which culminated in the fourth state title in school history.
Despite losing a great deal of the championship team to graduation, Henderson believes the Valiants offense, which averaged more than 41 points per game a season ago, is ahead of where they were at this point last year.
“For what we’re trying to do offensively, we are way ahead of where we were,” Henderson said.
“We feel like we have some good kids at positions, we gotta do a good job spreading the ball around right there. We’re able to do it in some ways this year that last year we might not of had to or we didn’t have a kid that can make plays at that position.”
When pressed further about the team’s new talent, Henderson gave a bit of a surprising answer.
“Well everyone asks about (Khary Paige), what are we going to do without him,” Henderson said. “I think we have three kids right now that we can win with at runningback, Zane Edmondson, Zack Edmunson, and Marik Merine in any kind of order. All three are gamebreakers, all three can take it the distance. We feel we will be able to rely on those three in the running game pretty heavily.”
Valwood featured all three backs at various points during practice Monday.
The Valiants also had three quarterbacks tossing the pigskin at Monday’s practice.
Earlier in the offseason, Valwood fans awaited the decision on which quarterback would take over for the graduated Jake Lastinger.
Henderson and his staff were stuck deciding between the 6-foot-7 senior, Carter Elliot, and the Lowndes High transfer, Seth Carlo for the starting spot, but it looks like both kids will be on the field for a majority of the offensive snaps.
Henderson decided Carlo will take over at starting quarterback and he will toss the ball to Elliot. Henderson said Elliot will play offense nearly every snap.
“It’s almost what Carter Elliot did at wide receiver,” Henderson said when asked about his decision.
“Elliot is a 6-foot-7 wide receiver and he’s made a lot of plays for us in passing league. He understands the offense, he knows how to get open, Carter can play every wide receiver position we have and provide a tremendous mismatch. So it’s not what he did wrong at quarterback, it’s what he did right everywhere else.”
While Elliot was establishing himself at wideout, Carlo put on a strong showing for the coaches in his own right.
Henderson raved about Carlo’s arm strength, work ethic, and leadership just minutes after Carlo could be heard urging players to hustle out to the field following a water break.
Despite having the starting lineup decided for all intents and purposes, Henderson said there were still some positions where the depth needed to be sorted out.
“We gotta couple of nicks and bruises after camp and after the first couple days of full, we gotta couple kids sick, so we could tell you who the starters will be, it’s kinda the role players, the guys that are going to roll in when someone needs a breather,” Henderson said. “It’s those spots that are still up for grabs.”
The Valiants have been pushing hard all Summer long to ensure they are ready for a chance to repeat as state champions, and that is something the entire team is taking very seriously.
According to Henderson, 37 Valwood players missed less than three workouts this Summer, which included conditioning and weightlifting.
With a dedicated roster, and a coaching staff that is very familiar with success, expect the Valiants to make another deep run in the GISA playoffs this season.