’Wolves expect to be in hunt for AAA title
SPRING VALLEY — Spring Valley is coming off a season when the Timberwolves advanced to the Class AAA championship for the second consecutive year.
Many of the pieces are back from that 2017 team, which might lead people to think head coach Brad Dingess doesn’t have many worries going into 2018.
There has been one area of concern where he just can’t find the numbers, however. That is, the number of jerseys he needs for Friday nights.
Dingess and the Timber-wolves have more than 100 players —107 was the official number given — in the program as the season gets going.
“I can’t find enough jerseys for everyone,” Dingess joked. “We’re going to have to double-up on some numbers and some guys may have to be in JV jerseys, too.”
Other than that, Dingess would be hard-pressed to find many areas of concern as his Timberwolves are expected to be among the short list of those expected to compete for a Class AAA championship at season’s end.
Spring Valley’s returning contingent is led by Ohio State University commitment Doug Nester, a 6-foot-7,312-pound mauler who will anchor the offensive line.
For Dingess, it goes well beyond the size of the Buckeyes’ future recruit who is ranked in the top-125 players nationally in the Class of 2019.
“Especially with Doug’s leadership and the way he is, you can’t put a mark on what it does for the team when you have an Ohio State-bound guy leading things,” Dingess said. “He started since he was a freshman and he’s played in almost 40 ball games already going into his senior year. You can’t put a tag on that.”
The experience on the offensive line does not end there.
University of Louisville-committed Zach Williamson is back after a broken leg sidelined him late in the 2017 season. The 6-6, 303-pound lineman worked hard to get back from the injury, and has potential as another high-FBS caliber lineman.
Joining Nester and Williamson are Luke Jarrell, Jake Hutchison and Cody Stanley — a trio of players that will likely make up the interior after gaining valuable experience in 2017 in starting and reserve roles. Experience isn’t limited to the offensive line, either.
Running back Owen Chafin returns, along with fullback Isaac Howard and do-it-all threat Graeson Malashevich, whom Dingess said is his best play maker.
“That guy doesn’t get a lot of attention, but he’s really good,” Dingess said.
If there is one unknown, it is at quarterback where Dingess said he will fill the position based on personnel needs within a game. The candidates are Will Adkins and Nate Ellis with Malashevich also getting some work.
“It just depends on what path we take,” Dingess said. “If we end up as a big power running team in which we need our quarterback to run, it might be Nate. If we turn into a play-action team that can throw the ball a bit, then it’ll be Will. We’ve been working some as an option team
and have put Graeson at quarterback some, too. Don’t be surprised if all three of them play there on Fridays.”
Defensively, there are a pair of notable voids to fill at linebacker where the team lost a pair of NCAA Division I athletes in Owen Porter and Jacob Cassidy to Marshall University. Porter was the 2017 Howley Award recipient as the state’s top linebacker while Cassidy provided a strong complement.
“Losing two Division I kids at linebacker is going to be tough, but with Hunter Bellomy, he got meaningful minutes on Friday nights, and Howard is going to finally get to play some linebacker,” Dingess said. “We’ve got some kids with a lot of experience. It isn’t like the cupboard is bare.”
The defensive front will be a major strength with all four starters returning in Nester, Stanley, Cody Sharp and Tanner Ferguson.
On the back end, Malashevich will man one safety spot and Parker Elmore will be at another, providing more experience at each level.
That experience, plus the team’s style of play, will be counted on to tackle a rigorous schedule that features six consecutive playoff opponents to open the year and eight of 10 on the schedule in all.
Dingess said his team’s mentality, combined with its physical presence, will be what is necessary to continue the string of success and potentially make another trip to Wheeling.
“Those kids know how to play through pain and injuries and adversity,” Dingess said. “That’s what Spring Valley football is about. We’re going to be physical and we’re going to get after people. That’s the kind of mold of kids we’ve got and that gives us our best chance to win.”
Spring Valley opens its 2018 season with a 7:30 p.m. Friday contest at home against Class AA power Wayne.
“I can’t find enough jerseys for everyone. We’re going to have to double-up on some numbers and some guys may have to be in JV jerseys.”
Brad Dingess head coach
Location: Spring Valley
Classification: Class AAA
Stadium: Wolves Den
2017 record: 11-3