By Tim Chambers
Happy Valley’s spring football practice proved to be a shuffling act for head coach Larry Shively and his staff just recently. The Warriors topped out at the 50-player mark but that number was misleading.
The Tribe only had two days with the baseball players while track and field athletes tried to shuffle their schedules to get in some football time as well.
Still everything was positive according to Shively, who was pleased with what his team was able to accomplish.
“That’s a nice number when you consider we only have a little over 500 kids,” said Shively. “That’s about 10 percent of our student population. We were tickled when everyone was there. We got a good idea as to who could block and tackle and who could follow directions, plus we established a practice tempo.
“We found some people who we believe can be rough-and-tumble football players. We knew who some of them were but we had some others emerge as well.”
One of those was senior running back Christian Mathes, who started as a slot back last season.
“He came in with a great attitude — a coach’s dream,” said Shively. “We’re going to rely heavily on him and lineman Jesse Henley for leadership. Tyler Jones and Tyler Adkins also stepped in and did a good job. We have others who’ll be in that mix now that spring sports are over.”
Another is senior quarterback Colton Haun, who also manned the hot corner on the baseball diamond.
“We know what Colton can do but not having him out there gave us time to look at a couple of others at that position,” said Shively. “Tyler Marlowe took about 75 percent of the snaps under center and sophomore Stephen Barnett took the others. It will bode well for good competition at that position over the summer.”
According to Shively, Haun is a thrower while Marlowe’s strength is running the football. He feels like Barnett, who can do a little of both, will be a good one in due time.
“They all have their strengths,” said Shively. “Quarterback is a glorified running back in our offense. He’s going to get us in the right play or make us a good read. I am not against using duel quarterbacks if the situation calls for that.
“As a staff we’ve sat down and come up with what we thought were our 15 best football players. We’re going to try and find a place for all of them on the field. Kids might be asked to play a different position than what their used to, but it’s about where the team needs them most.”
Eli Hyder and Jake Griggs had excellent spring practices on the line in addition to Henley. The head coach is expecting both juniors to help out in those leadership roles.
“We plugged some younger kids in who we didn’t get to see much last year,” added Shively. “We lost nine seniors and a lot of them never came off the field. But this junior class has been a joy to watch thus far. They never missed a day in the weight room. They provided the rah-rah in the locker room and helped out the younger kids with their hustle and positive attitudes.
“You really can’t tell until July when you get into the meat of your practices and put the pads on, but I can assure you that all of them are excited about putting on the maroon and white.”
Shively and his staff also stressed the importance of playing for the name on the front of your jersey as being far more important that playing as an individual.
“We have a lot of good kids at Happy Valley throughout the school,” added Shively. “We probably had the best strength and conditioning off season program since I’ve been there. I think our kids have something to prove. They love each other and they want to play for Happy Valley. They count it an honor to wear the school jersey and the spear on their helmet.
“This school has a rich football tradition and we don’t want to let any of our fans or former players down. We’re going to coach them up and we want everyone on the same page. We’ve won 14 games over the past two years and that hasn’t happened since 2003. I believe these kids are building a strong foundation for some good years to come.”