Ashley Henderson stepped up in front of the crowd at the Holiday Inn coming off a perfect 14-0 season and a state championship in his first season as Valwood head coach, so it would have been easy for him to become complacent, but from listening to Henderson’s news conference no one would have dared to think so.
Henderson complimented his team’s character first and foremost. He discussed how last year’s championship team’s work ethic had been inherited by the younger players on the roster.
Henderson, who came to Valwood after leaving the Valdosta coaching staff, explained how he has attempted to bring the work ethic and drive of the bigger public schools to a GISA team like Valwood.
Once he began dissecting the roster, Henderson declared that the Valiants will hang their hat on defense, particularly, their secondary. Mark Merine and brother Char Merine are the two of the guys that make the defensive backfield of Valwood tick.
Henderson singled out linebacker as the team’s position of weakness on the defensive side of the ball after the graduation of do-it-all stud Khary Paige. The Valiants have moved players to linebacker hoping to find one that sticks.
On offense, same as the defense, the Merine brothers will be the anchors of the unit.
Henderson described Char as a playmaker at the receiver position. Mark will play at runningback and at slot receiver.
“Probably the most dynamic player we have, Mark Merine,” Henderson said. “He’s lightning in a bottle; I’ve described him as somebody you’d have a hard time tackling in a telephone booth.”
At the quarterback spot, Lowndes transfer Seth Carlo will battle with Carter Elliot.
Despite winning the state championship, Henderson says he would have done somethings differently as well. In particular, Henderson cited cramps as an issue from over working kids in practice and games with their up-tempo style of play.