Trying to end a string of losing seasons, a rarity for the tradition-rich program, even Valley View football coach Kris Ketron had to chuckle at the question: After a 4-0 start, is Valley View back?
“I don’t ever want to say Valley View is off the map,” said Ketron, in his second season with the Spartans. “You look back at those two years and those guys were in just about every game. I don’t know if it’s a matter of Valley View is back. Valley View is starting to learn how to finish again.”
Still, entering this season the Spartans were approaching nearly uncharted territory. Until last year, not since the late 1970s had two straight Spartans teams failed to post at least five wins in a season.
Win No. 4 — matching the Spartans’ total all of last season — came on a sloppy Mack Hummon Field. Valley View proved to be the better mudders in a 42-14 win over Oakwood, which at 2-2 has matched its win total from the past two seasons combined.
A handful of football games Friday were postponed due to the heavy rains and threat of lightning. Oakwood might be waking up today wishing its game had been one of them. On a cleaner field the game might have been closer.
As for Valley View, you get the feeling they’re having so much fun they’ll play anytime, anywhere. They might even play at the bottom of a swimming pool.
For awhile Friday that seemed like a possibility. Heavy rains saturated the field. Runs down the sideline were at players’ own risk. Hidden pools suddenly splashed up with each tackle, with no lifeguards on duty.
It’s too early to proclaim a 17th playoff appearance for the Spartans or even a winning season. But after going 2-8 in Jay Niswonger’s last season in 2011 and 4-6 (including three losses by three points or less) in Ketron’s first season in 2012, the Spartans will take it.
Ketron will continue to preach finishing strong. Fast starts? They’ve got those down.
Valley View has outscored its four opponents 110-34 in the first half. The Spartans racked up a 35-14 lead Friday, punctuated by junior Clay Smith’s dump-off pass that senior Tyson Skidmore took 70 yards for a touchdown. Clay completed 11-of-15 passes for 252 yards and two TDs. He also ran for a 13-yard score.
Senior Cole Johnson kept his footing on the sloshy field for 120 of the Spartans’ 218 rushing yards. Included in those was TD runs of 25 and 60 yards.
“It’s hats off to their kids and their grittiness Monday through Thursday. It’s their effort in practice,” Ketron said of the turnaround. “There’s a long way to go. There are things we need to improve on as a team.”