Valdosta Daily Times

May 10, 2013

Valiants back at work

Ed Hooper
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — There will be no disappointing season for the Valwood Valiants in 2013. Not if head coach Ashley Henderson has anything to say about it.

The Valwood football team returned to the practice field Monday, opening spring practice, for the first time since winning the GISA Class AA state championship in December.

In his second season as Valwood’s head coach, Henderson could see an obvious difference from last year’s spring practice to this year.

“We have the system in,” Henderson said. “Last year we went out there and introduced our base sets and felt like we were crawling at a snails pace. Back then it felt fast. But this year we come in and you start calling out your base sets and there is no looking around. Everybody is jumping to it.”

Valwood opened spring practice Monday and has been working every day with 33 players on the field. Despite losing some key seniors from last year’s state championship team, the Valiants have a core nucleus of players back for the 2013 season, including Marik and Char Merine and Zane and Zach Edmonson.

“We have a good core of players back that are good players and better people,” Henderson said. “They are a lot of fun to be around. So it has been a fun three days.

“We may lack the star power from last year, but we have a lot of good players, that’s for sure.”

Char Merine returns at Valwood’s top returning receiver, hauling in 30 passes for 540 yards with eight touchdowns last year.

Marik Merine is the team’s top returning rusher, after 531 yards with seven touchdowns in 2012. Marik will be faced with the daunting task of replacing Khary Paige, who finished last year with 1,684 yards and 26 touchdowns following up his 1,900-yard season in 2011.

“Both of the Edmondson brothers have had a good three days, Carter Elliott has had a good three days, obviously the Merine brothers have had a good three days,” said Henderson before Thursday’s practice.

Along with the obvious returners, Henderson said there are several returning players that will play a key role this season, too.

“James Braswell, that is a name you will be hearing this year at linebacker,” Henderson said. “Thomas McTeir has been a big leader for us and has stepped into two roles he wasn’t in last year. He has been a leader and he isn’t just on our special teams anymore. He is on our offense and

defense. We have some kids that have been called upon and they have done it.”

Henderson said Monday’s spring practice wasn’t the start to the upcoming season. Instead, he said that began when the team started meeting at 6 a.m. for workouts in the gymnasium prior to the start of school.

“We did a month’s worth of workouts at 6 a.m. in the gym and had perfect attendance,” Henderson said. “The kids have bought in. They are used to working hard and they know what it takes. They are putting in the work.

“They know what it takes to win. They understand the plan and there is a reason behind it and it is not just witchcraft. Everybody  out there knows our goals for the spring and what we are trying to get accomplished. We want to play all of our kids this spring and get done and sit them down and when ask you, ‘Coach, what do I need to do to get better?’, we are able to tell them.”