By Steve Keenan
The week started in pretty normal fashion.
There was weightlifting, some film work and a shorter practice on Monday, followed by a junior varsity game at Clay.
The Valley Greyhounds entertain high hopes the week will result in an extraordinary finish.
This Friday at WVU Tech’s Martin Field, the Greyhounds will end the 2013 football regular season against the Gilmer County Titans. Class A No. 3 Valley enters the contest with a 9-0 record, and a victory over Gilmer (5-4) would give the Greyhounds the first unbeaten football regular season in Valley High history (Valley’s predecessor, Montgomery High, logged a magical 10-0 campaign in 1969, the school’s first and only unbeaten football season).
Two Valley squads (1986 and 1999) have posted 9-1 regular season records.
The 1986 team, which featured current VHS assistant John Frisby as a player, was the first Benny Hopkins-led Valley squad to advance to the playoffs. That team lost to Sissonville 19-7 in the season opener, won the next nine, then fell to Tucker County 34-13 in the postseason.
The 1999 unit dropped a 42-8 decision to Fayetteville on Sept. 24 and went on to finish 9-1 before falling 24-0 to Matewan in the first round of the playoffs.
“We’ve been 9-1 a couple of times and 8-2 several times, but never undefeated (at Valley),” said Hopkins, who has been the head coach since 1979.
Although he knows the players and the community have been talking about a possible undefeated season, Hopkins himself has tried to keep the 10-0 chatter to a minimum. With his team preparing for another postseason run, he figures the Greyhounds could do without the distraction.
“I never mentioned it,” he said Monday. “For the first time after the game the other night, I just told them they have the chance to do something that’s never been done (at Valley).
“I’m sure it’s been in the back of their heads.”
The campaign’s been a good one so far, Hopkins said while expressing pride in his squad.
“We’ve got several people with a lot of skills, and there are guys who have worked hard in the offseason to make themselves better,” he said. “We’ve had some ups and downs; we’ve had a few games we had to fight back.
“But they keep playing.”
To achieve regular season perfection, Valley must first dispose of Gilmer County Friday.
“They spread you out and never get under center,” Hopkins said. “They’re in the shotgun all the time.
“They do a lot of quick passes. We’ll have to have a good, sound game on defense.”
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The 1969 Montgomery High School team, led by head coach C.E. Lanham, assistants Charlie Bob Dotson and Dave McNeil and standout athletes such as Larry Watkins, advanced through a memorable 10-0 regular season that wasn’t followed by a playoff appearance because the number of postseason squads was limited to two at the time. A pair of other unbeaten teams, Charleston and Buckhannon-Upshur, met in the title game, with Charleston winning 6-0, according to wvwoodman.com.
Montgomery, competing in Class AAA at the time, posted wins in the following games leading up to the final outing against East Bank: Cedar Grove, 40-6; Fayetteville, 26-6; Oak Hill, 14-8; Greenbrier East, 6-0; Scott of Madison, 22-0; Mount Hope, 28-12; Gauley Bridge, 38-8; Richwood, 30-6; and DuPont, 24-4.
On Nov. 7, 1969 in front of a crowd estimated at 4,000 in a report in The Montgomery Herald, the Greyhounds manhandled East Bank 30-0 to finish 10-0.
“This is by far the best team I ever coached and without my two great assistant coaches, C.R. Dotson and Dave McNeil, along with a great bunch of ball players and a great following by our student body and faculty, we couldn’t have done it,” Lanham said in the Herald.
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Valley defeated Midland Trail 48-26 last week to keep its dream season going.
The Greyhounds got two touchdown runs (47 and 31 yards) from Keyshawn Payne, who finished with 106 yards and two TDs on six carries, in addition to returning an interception 37 yards for another six points.
Ryan Wilson carried the ball 27 times for 183 yards and three touchdowns to pace Midland Trail. Christian McGuire added 49 yards and a touchdown for the Patriots, and Austin Burdette caught five passes for 37 yards.
Midland Trail (4-5) will travel to PikeView tonight for its final game of the season.
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Besides the Valley-Gilmer matchup and Midland Trail’s game tonight at PikeView, two other local squads will be in action in the final week of the regular season.
Class AAA No. 9 Oak Hill (7-2), fresh off its 34-6 thumping of rival Woodrow Wilson, will entertain No. 20 Greenbrier East (5-4) Friday at John P. Duda Stadium.
Fayetteville (3-6) hopes to close its season on an upswing at Class AA Independence.
Class A No. 10 Meadow Bridge (8-2) is idle this week after last week’s drubbing of Sherman.
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