Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The 2011 Preseason Sweet 16 Football Poll: No. 13 Sun Valley

 NOTE: Each day, the Observer will unveil a team ranked in its Sweet 16 football poll. We continue today with No. 13 Sun Valley. Thursday (Aug. 4) around 3 p.m, the No. 12 team will be unveiled and each day at 3 p.m. a new team will follow.

By Langston Wertz Jr.

INDIAN TRAIL -- This season, it won’t take long for Sun Valley High’s passionate football fans to know exactly how good their team is.

The Spartans generated some buzz last season, finishing 10-3 and reaching the second round of the N.C. 4A playoffs. Three stars from that team -- quarterback Ryan Smith, running back Jadarrius Williams and receiver Jody Fuller -- are all back. That trio accounted for more than 4,700 yards last season and Williams was the Southern Carolina conference offensive player of the year.

But with that kind of success and that kind of talent returning, sometimes scheduling can be a problem. When Spartans coach Scott Stein began calling around for games, he wasn’t getting many returned messages.

“What happened to us,” he said, “should not happen to anybody. We had six games to fill and all six from last year would not renew. I don’t recall that ever happening. At that point it made things difficult for us.”

So when state power Richmond Senior called, Stein jumped at the chance, even though it was a road game in Rockingham on Aug. 19, annually one of the toughest sites in North Carolina to win a game.

Stein also added nationally ranked Mallard Creek on Aug. 26, and would’ve had nationally ranked Butler on Sept. 2, but the teams couldn’t make it work because both needed a home game.
Playing Richmond and Mallard Creek in back-to-back weeks would’ve been tough enough, but adding a two-time defending state champ on a 31-game win streak in the third would’ve been brutal.

Stein said he didn’t mind.

“We’re not going to hide from an opponent,” Stein said, “but that’s not to say we’re a glutton for punishment. We didn’t put Richmodn County or Mallard Creek on the schedule to get beat. We feel we’re a talented team and that we can play with anybody. We’ll get to find out early this year and that’s exciting for us. People thought we were a little silly to schedule Vance and Olympic and Ashbrook and Asheville (last season) but I don’t believe you will get anywhere by beating everybody to death and not facing good competition until you get to conference play.”

Stein’s team started getting ready for this big season by getting together for a four-day team camp at UNC-Pembroke last month. Each player paid $200 to attend and Stein said 105 players went, staying in pairs in dorm rooms.

“We put them with their positions and try to put an old guy with a young guy,” Stein said. “It’s about building some comraderie and building into the type team we want to be. We have some talented kids.
The biggest thing is for us to get out of them the best that they can be.”

So far, Stein said he’s seeing the effort, and in a few weeks, thanks to that tough schedule, he’ll find out for sure.

“In a football-team environment,” he said, “it’s all about how they will come together. When you’ve got some names out there in the paper, you have to worry about egos and people not being team players but that’s what has been so pleasant this year. All these kids are great kids. We’ve gotten some leadership out of them. Great players can do great things, but you have to have a team in order to win.”

Langston Wertz Jr: 704-612-9716;;;

Last year:
What’s new: Sun Valley lost defensive coordinator Tim Carson who is now head coach at Weddington. Carson had been with the team for eight years. Rocky Richar, the school’s baseball coach, will take over the defense. Sun Valley also has to deal with big expectations, something the school isn’t necessarily used to.
Three to watch:
C Jarred Barr, 6-3, 270, Sr. College recruit has had a strong summer and will anchor the offensive line.
WR/QB Kevin Saxton, 6-3, 180, Jr. Big-time athlete who filled in for QB Ryan Smith last season and has great hands.
LB Luke Gill, 6-0, 190, Jr. Played a lot last season as sophomore reserve in multiple positions. Stein expects him to have a big year.
Bet you didn’t know: There’s been a lot of talk about Sun Valley’s offensive prowess but Stein said the team is young everywhere except its skill positions.
Preview analysis: This is a big year for the Spartans, returning three big-time offensive playmakers in QB Ryan Smith, RB Jadarrius Williams and WR Jody Fuller. More than 1,000 fans showed up for a special “Midnight Madness” start to practice last month and those fans will find out quickly how good their team is. Sun Valley has a tough schedule with Richmond Senior and Mallard Creek in the first two weeks. Flip side? Come conference season, the Spartans will be tougher and battle-tested.
Schedule: Aug. 19, at Richmond Senior; Aug. 26, Mallard Creek; Sept. 2, idle; Sept. 9 Garinger; Sept. 16, Red Springs; Sept. 23, at Clover; Sept. 30, at Anson; Oct. 7, at Marvin Ridge; Oct. 14, Parkwood; Oct. 21, @ Weddington; Oct. 28, Porter Ridge.

THE SWEET 16 (so far)

No. 12: ??? (to be announced at 3 p.m. Thursday at and in Friday's print edition)
No. 13: Sun Valley 4A
No. 14: Independence 4A
No. 15: Lincolnton 2A
No. 16: Albemarle 1A


Anonymous said...

If coach stein actually cared about the defense for once he would have a championship, but instead he will have to settle for playoff appearances with early exits. Take it from me I used to play for him.

Anonymous said...

Better not leave the juggernaut Belmont South Point Red Raiders off the list. You have a tendency to do that. Thats okay though, with only 9 conference championships and a couple of State Championships since 2000 in the bag and looking for another title this year, I can see why you forget them. Big Red Machine rolls on!

Anonymous said...

The "REAL" game is October 28th, against the Pirates of Porter Ridge. This year, the game is at Sun Valley, so it will be extremely tough for the Pirates to win two in a row.
This is turning out to be a great rivalry. Last year, you couldn't get a ticket unless you bought them in advance.

Anonymous said...

I'm pulling for Stein.. he was my coach back at East Meck during the early 2000's he had a great defense then and a terrible offense... so hopefully he can finally get that ring.

Coaches said...

It will be interesting to see how well they respond against such powerful opponents early in the season. But that might help the team gel, so they can have a better season down the stretch. How good is the trio for those that have wathced them play?