A Final-Four preview? Not exactly. But that’s only because a body of water known as the Ohio River separates Kentucky powerhouse and 2014 final four participant Raceland High School from Ohio powerhouse and 2014 final four participant Valley High School.
Both schools have enjoyed sustainable success over their program’s histories and this season doesn’t appear to be an exception. Valley enters Friday with a 3-0 record while Raceland sports a 3-1 mark.
Indians head coach Darren Crabtree realizes the game isn’t a regular contest and isn’t masking the importance of this pivotal tilt.
“They were a final four team just like us last year,” Crabtree said. “For us, it’s an important game because of computer points. I believe that Raceland is going to win a number of games down the road. This is a game that is on the verge of a Wheelersburg or Portsmouth West type league game as far as the importance of it. Our kids have done a great job this week of preparation, watching film, studying their scouting reports. I think they are well aware of what they are about to face.
“I think they are excited to get this opportunity to play somebody that we haven’t played in the past, and to play somebody with the kind of record they’ve had, and the success they’ve had. It makes for an exciting evening.”
Due to a break in their schedule, Crabtree and his staff were able to live-scout Raceland when the Rams traveled to Paul G. Blazer High School during week two of the Kentucky Football slate — the only loss Raceland has suffered to date.
Even though Crabtree didn’t see the Rams play their best, he still came away with a good impression.
“They’re a very physical football team,” Crabtree said. “They’re very well coached. They have a lot of size. They have a lot of different players.”
Crabtree was also complimentary of Ram football after scouting the rest of their game films.
“Obviously the success they’ve had the last few years, the way they’ve played this season and from what we’ve been able to obtain off their films, they are a very good football team,” Crabtree said. “They are going to play hard for four quarters. They aren’t going to make a bunch of mistakes. They are very aggressive defensively.”
The Indians, who entered 2015 with an abundance of expectations, have not disappointed during the first three weeks of the season. Valley has won its first three contests by an average of 31 points, with the closest game coming last week — a 27-8 win over the Piketon Redstreaks.
“We’ve been able to do a lot of things offensively and get a lot of people involved, which is what we were hoping to do with the experienced kids we had coming back,” Crabtree said. “Defensively, I think we are much improved from the start of the season last year. Probably the biggest difference is we’ve scored a special teams touchdown in every game this year.”
Offensively, the Indians can still be considered a work in progress due to extenuating circumstances. Valley has returned three kicks in its first three games and has been involved in two running clock situations, therefore, the Indian offense has seen a limited number of snaps in game situations.
“Offensively, we have not had has many plays as we would like in each game,” Crabtree said. “We’re still wanting to get a little more touches as a team and that’ll equate to more touches for players in different situations. We just want to make sure that we don’t become so tendency oriented with certain plays in certain formations. That’s probably the biggest thing early in the year is not to fall into that trap.”
The advantage for Valley is the amount of weapons at Crabtree’s disposal. Whether it’s senior quarterback Brian Rolfe, senior running back Blake Howard, senior wide receiver Bryce Romanello or another skilled-position player, the Indians have the ability to strike from anywhere on the field with a number of different players.
“Our kids are very unselfish,” Crabtree said. “They understand if we find something that we feel like is working, we’re going to ride that horse whether it’s throwing the football, or giving the ball to Blake Howard, or getting the ball to our outside receivers. We do have quite a few people that contribute. We make a conscious effort to get everyone involved.”
As far as Friday is concerned, Crabtree believes the team that makes fewer mistakes will prevail.
“Whoever can come out and not turn the ball over, and not stop themselves with penalties is probably going to win the game,” Crabtree said.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7:00 p.m.
Reach Chris Slone at 740-353-3101, ext 1930, or on Twitter @crslone.