PINE GROVE – There are eight starters returning on offense for Head Coach Logan Miller and his Valley football team. Unfortunately, one of the three players Miller needs to replace is four-year starter Gavin Streets, who was a multi-dimensional threat with his blazing speed.
And while having to replace a talent such as Streets is hard enough, going into the season with a freshman quarterback in his place is an even bigger challenge.
“Gavin Streets was a four-year starter and we really made everything pretty much about him last year,” Miller admitted. “And while we are going to be a young team with just seniors, we are definitely going to be a lot more rounded and spread the ball around this season.”
The Lumberjacks finished a pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign with a 2-5 record and will look to improve on that with freshman quarterback Gavin Derby (5-7, 140) leading the way this year. Derby should have lots of help with all of the veterans around him on the offensive side of the football.
Leading the way will be senior running back Billy Kuhn (5-10, 210) and a trio of wide receivers in senior Isiah Bassett (6-2, 175) and juniors Patrick Higginbotham (5-9, 160), who is also the back-up quarterback, and Triston Bates (5-10, 160). A total of four returning offensive linemen will be paced by senior Mark Liggett (5-7, 220) and juniors Virgil Doiron (6-1, 225), Chris Kennedy (6-4, 225) and David Brown (5-10, 220).
Coach Logan Miller on the upcoming campaign
The remaining two spots will go to sophomores Shawn Bates (6-1, 160) at wide receiver and Jayden Howell (5-10, 250) on the offensive line.
Key back-ups will be sophomore Lane Dallison (5-8, 155) and freshman Joey Barr (5-7, 140) at running back; sophomore Layden Martin (5-9, 160) at wide receiver and junior Gavin Goodrich (5-10, 220) on the front wall.
Others available include seniors Bryann Wade (5-11, 170) and Ryann Wade (5-11, 170) and freshmen Alan Cain (5-10, 250), Adden Kuhn (5-10, 220) and Ramey Scyoc (6-1, 220) on the offensive line; junior Daniel Bradley (5-10, 175) and freshman Cameron Derico (5-10, 160) at running back and sophomore Ethan Goodrich (5-10, 160) and freshmen Gabe Royer (5-10, 145) and Cage Royer (5-10, 145) at wide receiver.
There are also only three spots to fill on the defense with Doiron, Brown and Kennedy all back on the front wall, Billy Kuhn, Liggett, Bradley and Bassett returning at linebacker and Higginbotham back at one of the corners. Dallison takes over at the fourth linebacker spot with Shawn Bates at corner and Derby the safety.
Gavin Goodrich will see time on the line with Martin a key contributor at linebacker and Barr at cornerback.
Others who could see playing time are Bryann Wade, Ryann Wade, Howell, Alan Cain, Adden Kuhn and Ramey Scyoc on the defensive front; Triston Bates, Ethan Goodrich, Derico and Creed Scyoc at linebacker and Gabe Royer and Cage Royer in the defensive backfield.
Bassett will handle the punting chores while Derby will be the placekicker.
Assistant coaches will include Jeff Derby, Dave Palmer and Tanner Wright.
“We have 28 kids on the roster and a lot of talent,” Miller added. “There is a lot of good competition going on and we expect every kid out there to continue to get better every day. We are going to have a lot of interchangeable parts at a lot of positions.
“I believe our biggest strengths are going to be the size of our roster and our speed, a couple of things we haven’t been able to put together in recent years. When we have won in the past a lot of that has usually had to do with team speed. At the same time if there is a weakness it has to be lack of experience at a few key positions.
“There are going to have to be some younger kids step up, especially with so few seniors on the roster.”
While the early season schedule does not seem to favor Valley, with the first three games, and four of the first five, on the road, Miller believes that could very well be a blessing in disguise.
“With a younger team, and a young quarterback, maybe starting off with that many games on the road will help us grow a little bit and avoid the pressures of playing on the home field,” Miller said. “The biggest thing we are looking to do is to go out and take care of game one and then continue to do that weekly.
“It’s a good schedule with some newer teams, and plenty of meat, on it. But at the same time there are definitely teams we should be able to compete with. Our main goal is to finish at least .500 this year and compete in every game. If we are able to do that we know the future will definitely be bright with so many kids coming back next year.”