LUCASVILLE — Valley’s magical 2014 postseason run was a bittersweet one. They may have won their first-ever Regional Championship and made it all the way to the Final Four, but they had to do it all without their coach, Darren Crabtree.
In the week following a 34-20 loss to Portsmouth West — Valley’s first in 36 regular-season games — Crabtree checked into the hospital and underwent major heart surgery. He wouldn’t call another play the rest of the 2014 season.
Despite his weakened condition, Crabtree couldn’t stay away from his team. He was present for almost all of Valley’s three playoff wins, including the Indians’ 33-20 win over Centerburg in the Regional Finals.
Now a few pounds thinner but just as passionate, Crabtree is ready to help the Indians pick up right where they left off in 2015.
“I’m feeling good, I’m doing real well,” he said at Valley’s media day last week.
What makes last seasons’ regional championship game even more significant was the fact that it marked Valley’s 200th win since Crabtree took over the program in 1990. Since arriving in Lucasville, the Indians have reached the playoffs nine times, including five trips to the regional finals and last season’s final four appearance. Before he took over the program, Valley had never reached the postseason.
“It means I’ve been here a long time,” Crabtree joked. “We’re averaging eight wins a year. That’s pretty good pace. We’ve had quite a bit of success and we’d like to continue that run we’re on.”
Expectations for Valley football have been extremely high over the past half decade. But with the Indians returning nearly their entire roster and six All-District players from last season — including All-District Offensive Player of the Year, Bryan Rolfe — this season may be the most highly anticipated in program history.
However, the pressure to win isn’t just coming from the Valley fans.
“There’s self-applied pressure,” Crabtree said. “With how far we went last year in the playoffs, the expectations are there even more.”
This season, one of Crabtree’s biggest challenges will to keep his Indians grounded while making sure they play week-to-week, instead of looking ahead to the playoffs.
“Making them understand that they need to go out and preform every week can be a challenge. Hopefully, they’ll be ready to accept that challenge and they should be in good shape,” Crabtree said.
“People have noticed what you’re doing. If you give them the opportunity, they’re going to want to come out and beat you.
Reach Alex Hider at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931 or on Twitter @PDTSportsWriter.