Two additional letters.
But a world of difference.
The Valley Greyhounds enter this week’s first-round Class A football playoff opener against defending state champion Williamstown on the heels of a 42-14 beating of not-quite-as-stout Williamson.
And veteran Valley coach Benny Hopkins is fully aware that the No. 13 Greyhounds will be facing a squad superior to last week’s foe when they tangle with the No. 4 Yellowjackets (8-2) at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Williamstown High School.
“They won it all last year, and they’ve got a lot of those kids back,” said Hopkins, whose team carries a 7-3 record into its first postseason appearance since 2002. “When you get this far, you’re going to have to play good teams.
“Parkersburg Catholic (a 28-14 Williamstown win last week) played with ‘em, so we’re going to show up and see what we can do.”
In a No. 16 versus No. 1 matchup, Valley lost to Williamstown 46-12 the last time it advanced to the playoffs.
Williamstown coach Terry Smith said Monday he was still reviewing Valley game films, but he said the Greyhounds appear to have a capable offensive attack.
“From what I’ve seen, they look pretty big, and we know their fullback and quarterback are good athletes,” he said. “They move the ball well on offense.”
The Yellowjackets, who defeated Madonna 23-7 in last year’s single-A final at Wheeling Island Stadium, outscored their opponents 368-135 this fall. Big wins came over defending Class AA champ Grafton (28-13) and single-A rival St. Marys (50-13), while the two setbacks were both two-point decisions to Class AA playoff qualifiers Magnolia and Point Pleasant.
In those two losses, protecting the ball — or the absence of it — doomed Williamstown, Smith said. “We had four turnovers against Magnolia and five against Point Pleasant.”
The team’s main strength has been on the prevent side. “Our defense has been pretty consistent, while our offense has been pretty inconsistent,” he said. “I wish we’d gotten our offense going for four quarters.”
Running back Joe Palm (145 total points) leads the Yellowjacket offense with 174 carries for 1,275 yards and 14 touchdowns, while Matt Hendrickson follows with 524 yards on 100 attempts. Palm has also kicked four field goals.
Quarterback Adam Kerns, one of four offensive starters back from the 2008 title team (three defensive starters also returned), has completed 78 of 132 passes for 999 yards, 11 scores and 10 interceptions. The primary receiver is Lane Knost (34 receptions for 476 yards and eight TDs).
Aaron Jones leads the defense with 127 total stops, while Knost has four interceptions.
As it does with other teams, Williamstown will gear its defense toward stopping Valley’s running attack.
“We look at trying to slow down the run and make other teams pass,” said Smith. “Valley got into a shootout with Richwood.
“That tells you right there they have a good team.”
Of Williamstown, Hopkins says, “They’ve got a big old fullback, and the tailback runs well. They’ve got 50-some kids on the team. And they’ve got some big old horses inside on their defensive front.”
Although the VHS offense is geared toward running the ball, quarterback Jack Simms and other passers have experienced some success through the air. Simms is 38-of-105 for 817 yards, 10 touchdowns and five interceptions. The leading receiver is flanker Dillon Ganoe, who has hauled in 16 aerials for 410 yards (a 25.7 average) and eight TDs. Nick Acord is next with nine catches for 161 yards and a score.
Junior Marcus White leads the Valley backfield. As the season has progressed, the bruising White has been featured more prominently in the offense — at least in part due to the fact that running mate Petey Foster, a senior, has been sidelined for two games by injury. In nine-game totals, the 5-foot-8, 218-pound White has amassed 827 yards and six TDs on 100 carries. Simms has also been a factor on the ground, rushing 92 times for 502 yards and 10 scores. In seven games, Foster had 81 totes for 494 yards and six TDs.
The Valley-Williamstown survivor plays either Wheeling Central or Moorefield in the quarterfinals next weekend.
Two additional letters.