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High school football notebook: Once-woeful Valley makes quick progress

| Thursday, Oct. 11, 2012, 7:02 p.m.

On Monday, Valley first-year coach Chad Walsh welcomed his second child into the world — Tyler Joseph.

In a year or so, Walsh might be helping the new baby walk.

Walsh's football team has had a much quicker progression when it comes to development. And the Vikings haven't taken baby steps. They've sprinted to a 4-2 start, bringing optimism to the program for the first time in years.

“I think it started in camp when we went (to Slippery Rock University),” Walsh said. “We had kids who didn't talk to each other last year hanging out. They have bought in. They believe they can win now. There's not a lot of ‘I' going on any more. They pick each other up.”

Valley, which dropped to Class AA this season, hasn't had a winning season or made the WPIAL playoffs since 2008 when it went 7-3.

Since then, Valley is 7-26, with four of those wins coming in the past six weeks.

To think a team that started the season on a 22-game losing streak could have five wins by mid-October is almost unfathomable.

Valley (4-2, 3-2 Allegheny Conference) hosts Summit Academy (2-4, 1-4) tonight.

“Everyone's glad to come to practice and work,” said Valley senior linebacker Dale Lasko, a fourth-year starter. “Everyone's putting everything into it. We're having fun again.”

There's no doubt that the recent return of starters Jaden Walker (RB), Devin Houser (DE) and Dylan Clarke (LB) have given the team a boost. But Walsh thinks the team is clicking schematically, as well.

“We're running the ball well, which has opened the pass some, and our secondary has been more disciplined,” he said. “My assistant coaches have been excellent and have helped make my job easier.”

Valley is in fourth place in the Allegheny Conference with three conference games remaining. The top four teams in each conference make the WPIAL Class AA playoffs.

“We're knocking on that door; now we have to take care of business,” Walsh said. “It's been great to see people filling the stands again. Our student section is filling up, and the kids stormed the field twice.”

Quarterback Ty Matthews will sit tonight because he had his appendix out this week. Dan Farinelli or Chaz Cheatham will start.

Cover boys

When Burrell's Cole Bush, Springdale's Sean Dugan, Knoch's Mike Cunningham and Highlands' Allan Cratsenberg posed for the cover photo of the Valley News Dispatch football preview tabloid this summer, they were lauded for their skills as linebackers.

Turns out, they have been just as effective — perhaps even more so — on offense.

Bush has rushed for an A-K best 1,186 yards and 20 touchdowns; Dugan has 995 rushing yards and has cleared the 3,000-yard mark for his career; Cunningham has been a solid complementary and big-play back to Ben Tackett; and Cratsenberg has passed for 100 yards and two touchdowns, run for two scores and caught passes for 284 yards.

Efficient drives

Highlands didn't take long to score last week against Derry.

The Golden Rams put up five touchdowns, and none of the scoring drives took more than two plays in a 41-13 win.

In addition, all of the drives took less than a minute. Totaled, Highlands only needed eight plays and 2:32 to score five times.

Liput out

Burrell senior quarterback James Liput (concussion) will not play Friday against Ford City. Junior Cody Wolfe, who relieved Liput late in the first quarter last week against Freeport, will get his first start.

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