May 17—HAHIRA — The Valwood Valiants wrapped up their spring schedule with an intrasquad spring game Friday.
After going 3-7 and missing the playoffs, the Valiants gave their home crowd the first look at their 2021 roster. The offense looked sharp as starting quarterback Dru Womack ran for a touchdown and hooked up with wide out Demetris Rosier on a score. On defense, the team looked fast and physical as several big hits were levied throughout the game.
Overall, head coach Justin Henderson was pleased with what he saw from his team to cap the spring.
"I'm excited," Valwood head coach Justin Henderson said. "I think we're going to be able to run the ball really well with a couple different backs back there. Noah Pettigrew, he ran the ball hard. Demetris Rosier is gonna be a threat back there. (Chris) Manwell. I feel like we've got a couple guys that can run it.
"At the end, against the scout D, if we wanted to run power we would've scored every play so we decided to start throwing it. We've got some weapons out wide, too. Eli Pay is gonna be a good one. Worth Kimbro had a couple nice catches. I feel like we're gonna be pretty balanced on that side of the ball. Kids are working hard. They've killed it all semester in the weight room. Next week, we'll be able to have proof of that with our maxes. Everything seems to be going in the right direction."
One area the Valiants have emphasized this spring is being a tougher, more physical team. Since Henderson took over as head coach in 2018, he has maintained that the team could be more physical and would like to dish out more punishment.
As the last two seasons have shown, the Valiants became a team that could be pushed around and worn down physically in latter parts of the season. After Friday's spring, Henderson said he believes his team has put its best foot forward to establish a tougher and more aggressive mindset heading into the summer.
"We're still talking about it, aren't we?" Henderson said with a grin. "This year, we've kind of put our best foot forward. We're gonna run two back with a tight end and we're gonna get in your face right now. Linemen have embraced that challenge. They love pushing the sled every day. They've taken that mentality on that they're going to have to play tough man football this year. That'll just do nothing but makes us better on the other side of the ball as well. We're going to get that done this year."
Not only were the Valiants hard-hitting on defense, they were always opportunistic. There were two interceptions by the White squad as Eli Pay and Rosier each forced takeaways with Rosier going all the way for a pick-six.
With the secondary and linebackers playing well, Henderson is looking to develop the team's front four on the defensive line.
"Our back seven is as talented as we've had in a while," Henderson said of his defense. "The front four still needs some work just because we're really thin. We do have a lot of two-way guys right there right now. We're about two linemen short of having two full platoons. Our linebackers are exceptional. I think our cover guys are pretty special, too. So, it's the same thing I'm saying on offense. We've just got to get these young kids — because they're all young — we've got three sophomores on the offensive line right now. We've got to get them tougher and get them stronger and we've got about two and a half months to get it done."
As the spring slate comes to a close, the Valiants now look forward to the summer months with a dedication to being physically and mentally prepared for the preseason and regular season in early August.
"We're just going to keep pushing this toughness mentality," Henderson said regarding the team's plans for the summer. "We're going to hit the weight room hard in the summer. We need to be in really, really good shape when we start because we are going to platoon some guys — especially up front, so we can't be tired. We're going to bust it pretty good this summer and keep pounding away as much as you can with just helmets, but you can drive a sled with just a helmet so that's what we're gonna do."