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Crashing the Class A party

By | Gazette-Mail High School Huddle
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Chris Dorst
Valley quarterback Raeshawn Breckenridge hits a hole in practice.

SMITHERS - Scan the Class A playoff rankings and you'll see the usual suspects hovering in the top 10.

Madonna, St. Marys, Moorefield, Man, Williamstown, Greenbrier West, Wahama, Wheeling Central.

All but two of those teams played in a state championship game during the last 10 years - many of them multiple times - and the two that didn't (St. Marys, West) both made it as far as the playoff semifinals since 2008.

So it's the same old, same old, you know?

But, whoa now, hold on there. Wait a second.

Who's that team holding down the No. 3 spot?

That would be none other than the Valley Greyhounds.

After taking care of some recent nemeses over the past month, the Fayette County team has risen to third with three weeks remaining in the regular season. All that's left between the Hounds and a rare 10-0 record are dates against Richwood (2-5), Midland Trail (3-4) and Gilmer County (5-3).

"It feels pretty good,'' said Steven Mitchell, a senior center-defensive lineman. "We've put in a lot of hard work toward that. We got a lot of guys over the summer coming in and working hard, and it feels pretty good.''

Unlike those other programs listed above, Valley's postseason history is a modest one.

Veteran coach Benny Hopkins, in his 35th season, has taken the Greyhounds to the playoffs nine times, with his lone postseason victory coming in the 2011 first round against Meadow Bridge, a 22-6 win at Laidley Field.

Hopkins has been around long enough to realize that the ratings are window dressing until the final regular-season game is played on Nov. 9.

"Rankings don't mean anything right now,'' Hopkins said. "Rankings are for [reporters] to write about. Rankings mean something at the end of the year, and that's what we're shooting for - the end-of-the-year rankings. We're playing one game at a time, trying to get through week to week, and hopefully it will pay off in the long run.''

It's certainly paid off so far for the Greyhounds, who have handed out some lumps to teams that normally have their number.

They defeated county rival Fayetteville 44-34, giving them back-to-back wins over an opponent that had beaten them 10 straight times.

A week ago, they topped Parkersburg Catholic 38-15, avenging losses to the Crusaders the three previous years, one by 23 points and one by 28. Last year, Catholic romped 37-14 over a Valley squad that started out 6-0 and was ranked No. 4 in Class A.

"It feels good to beat them,'' said senior running back Keyshawn Payne, the team's top rusher with 784 yards and seven touchdowns.


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