PINE GROVE – Coach Logan Miller and his Valley football team have gone through their share of growing pains over the last few years, however, with 20 of 22 starters returning in 2022 optimism is high entering the new campaign.
“This is the most experience we have had since 2017 when we finished 6-4,” Miller said. “These kids have really transformed and grown both physically and mentally and the community and the kids are very excited about the opportunity to field a good team.”
Leading the way is sophomore quarterback Gavin Derby (5-9, 160). As a 130-pound freshman that had never played the game before, Derby threw for 750 yards and three touchdowns and led the team in rushing with 550 yards and seven more scores a season ago. Senior Patrick Higginbothom (5-10, 160) will be the backup.
Senior Tristan Bates (5-10, 170) started the last three games at running back last year and rushed for 400 yards and three touchdowns and will get the bulk of the carries this year with junior Lane Dallison (5-8, 170) also available.
A trio of veteran receivers are back in Higgenbothom (20 catches-300 yards), junior Sean Bates (6-1, 170) (10-200) and sophomore Joey Barr (5-9, 155) (10-150). Dallison will also see time at receiver with backups in senior Gavin Goodrich (6-0, 255) and sophomore Landon Jerico.
The offensive line will be one of the biggest team strengths with four senior three-year starters leading the way including guards Virgil Dorian (6-2, 220) and David Brown (5-10, 270) and tackles Brigg Anderson (6-3, 240) and Chris Kennedy (6-5, 220). The center position will be occupied by either sophomore Aidan Daniels (6-0, 250) or classmate Ramey Harrison (6-1, 210).
Backups on the line will include Goodrich, sophomores Cameron Derico (5-11, 185), Owen Morgan (5-10, 240) and Creed Scyoc (5-9,180) and freshmen Ethan VanCamp (6-0, 190) and Sam Brown (5-10, 200).
The Lumberjacks seldom use a tight end, but when they do expect to Jerico in that spot.
Sean Bates is penciled in the handle punts while Anderson is slated to handle the kicking chores.
The defense is led by Kennedy and Derico at the ends, with Harrison and Jerico also available, and Brown, Anderson and Goodrich at tackle, with help from sophomore Alan Cain (6-1, 280) and Morgan.
Dorian could also be used at linebacker along with senior Daniel Bradley (6-0, 165) and Dallison with Goodrich offering relief. Sean Bates and Higginbothom will be the corners with Barr lending a hand while Derby and Tristan Bates will be at safety with sophomores Gabriel Royer (6-0, 160) and Gaige Royer (6-0, 160) also available.
Gone from last year’s squad are Billy Kuhn, Mark Liggett, Isaah Bassett, Ryan Wade and Brian Wade.
Miller will be assisted by Jeff Derby, Dave Palmer and Tanner Wright.
“The great thing about this team is that it isn’t going to be a one-man show,” Miller added. “We are going to have the ability to move the ball around and get a lot of different kids involved. Tristan Bates is the fastest kid on the team and has been our leading receiver the last two years, but I finally got smart and we are moving him to running back, something we should have already done.
“We are expecting a lot of production with 20 of 22 kids back and that starts with the offensive line, which should be extremely strong. Our quarterback also has a year of experience under his belt which is going to be huge.
“I really love this team, how hard they work, and they look good. At the same time while we have just about everybody back the teams we play all return most of their kids as well. It is going to be a challenging schedule, but we are focused on game one against Tygarts Valley, which we believe is going to be a huge measuring stick for our season.
“We are just looking at getting better every day and improving on last year’s 3-7 record.”