RYAN SCOTT OTTNEY
PDT Staff Writer
LUCASVILLE — Valley High School has enjoyed an outstanding year of athletics, thanks in no small part to the senior class who gave the school a solid scoreboard advantage.
Valley Athletic Director Bob West said it’s unusual to have so much talent in one class.
Just to name a few successes — Luke Keller was the Division V Co-Offensive Player of the Year, scored an average of 8.8 points per game in basketball, and also played baseball; Blake Yates was the SOC II Football Co-Offensive Player of the Year, the all-time points leader in Valley basketball, and was part of an undefeated in SOC II tennis squad; Tyler Rowe was First Team SOC II football and also played baseball; and Patrick Riehl had a 6-2 baseball pitching record and also played basketball.
“Since I’ve been here, it’s been one of the best years for success that I’ve ever seen. I think we’ve won six or seven Southern Ohio Conference (SOC) titles and the overall attitude of the athletes and coaches is one of success and confidence. It’s been a great year for sports programs at Valley High School,” West said.
Aside from the talent of their players West believes the teams have blossomed this year thanks to the overwhelming support they have received from the Valley community, with a winning football season being the catalyst early in the school year.
“We had that tremendous run into the tournament, to the regional finals. I think that kind of set the tone for the year and I think the community really got involved and with the team doing so well I think they just caught on and carried over into our other programs. It kept that success up for the entire year,” West said.
Assistant football coach Scott Rolfe said this group of seniors has been playing since their freshmen year, and have made tremendous progress in four years. He said the senior team members led their underclassmen by example — starting even before the first game, conditioning in the weight room.
“Each day at practice, they were the ones that kept everybody going. Then when you get to Friday night, they set the tone as far as what we were going to do as a team,” he said. “I think a lot of that goes back to the foundation of their families, as far as having good parents and families to work with. They’ve been very supportive throughout the year.”
For lineman Curt Crabtree, football and family were sometimes one and the same. His father, Darren Crabtree is the head football coach. Coach Crabtree said they were special moments to watch his son on the field each week.
“I got the benefit both sides. Not only as a parent watching his son get through a great season with his friends, but also the coach witnessing the same thing. So I got twice as much pleasure out of the season as a lot of people,” Crabtree said.
The Valley Indians football team went 12-1 last year with an appearance in the Division V Region 19 Championship.
Rolfe is also the head coach for Valley Boys Basketball, and he said it was an equally impressive year for his high school team on the hardwood. At 6-feet-6-inches tall, center Rob Dwyer averaged 8.3 points per game and made Third Team Division III. The Valley Indians finished 16-4, overall, and 12-2 in conference play in which they took home the title.
Even more impressive when you consider the late start of the basketball season, due the extended winning football season.
“Overall this has been a great class (of seniors). With their leadership ability, not only verbally but it was a showman-type of leadership as far as hard work. They led by example,” Rolfe said.
Rolfe had five seniors on his boys basketball team last season. He hopes not only their talent, but also their attitude, has rubbed off on the returning players, which includes two juniors who are now the team’s incoming seniors.
“The biggest thing for next year is going to be replacing the big bodies. We’ve kind of handled the lane against anybody that we’ve played, and next year is going to be more of a speed, defensive trap, and getting up and down a little bit more than this year,” Rolfe said.
The Valley senior girls also had an amazing year of athletics.
Whitney Bear was a dominating force in Valley girls basketball, finishing her high school career with First Team SOC II honors as the all-time leading girls scorer, with an 82 percent free throw average.
“Whitney was a big part of our 18-5 season. She started as a freshmen, and our program was about .500 when she started and we continually got better on her abilities; and we had some nice supporting cast to go along with her,” said girls basketball coach Mark Merritt.
He said it was going to be difficult losing Bear next season, and the rest of his departing senior players — Carrie Coriell, Courtney Crabtree, Katie Goins, and Megan Rayburn.
“We’ll be fairly young (next year) but we’ve got a good supporting cast with Bethany Conley coming back as a starting center in the SOC as a sophomore. She’s a big contributor. We brought up Taylor Skaggs who contributed a lot, and Darby High will be assisting my two- and three-guard; and they’ll be juniors. So we’re looking forward not really to rebuilding but just seeing who is going to step up and be our leader this year,” Merritt said.
Away from the basketball court, Carrie Coriell also shined brightly on the track field last year, throwing discus for 117-feet in the Division III State Championship. Basketball players Katie Goins and Courtney Crabtree also contributed to a 26-1 softball season, where pitcher Braiden Dillow finished her final season with a 25-1 record and close to 80 career wins.
“It was pretty much like playing with my brothers and sisters,” Dillow said. “It was a very outstanding year and I wouldn’t want to be part of any other class. We couldn’t have done any better. I’m so proud of everybody.”
Dillow was named a Division III All-State first team performer by the Ohio High School Fast Pitch Softball Association Wednesday. She also signed to pitch at the college level for Bowling Green.
Also advancing to play college sports, Keller is signed to play running back for Bowling Green football, Riehl is signed to pitch for Mars Hill College baseball, Rowe is signed to play linebacker at Kentucky Christian University football, and Curt Crabtree is signed as a lineman for Fairmont State football (where his father, Coach Darren Crabtree, also played).
“Everybody worked really hard and even though us three and maybe a couple others are going on to play (football) in college, everybody worked really hard this season and it took the whole team to have the season we had,” Curt Crabtree said when he signed to Fairmont in February.
Classmate Patrick Riehl said he enjoyed his senior year at Valley and was also impressed by the accomplishments of his classmates.
“We were humbled. We didn’t didn’t take anything for granted, and we were very proud of the accomplishments of the whole senior class and everybody in every sport,” he said.
As this group of seniors said goodbye to Valley High School this summer, West said there will be a need to rebuild their rosters but he doesn’t foresee that being a big problem.
“We’re fortunate enough that we still have some good talent left. Our sophomore class will be becoming juniors, and they are very strong,” West said. “I think we’re going to have to rebuild, but I don’t think the rebuilding process will be a long one.”
Riehl left some simple advice for the next class of seniors to walk onto the fields.
“Just work hard,” he said.
The new year of Valley sports begins Aug. 25, when Valley football hosts the Portsmouth Trojans to open the 2012 season.
Ryan Scott Ottney can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 235, or firstname.lastname@example.org.