Working with a small number of student-athletes at the Class 1A level, the strength — and conditioning — of those numbers is paramount.
Perhaps nobody understands that better than Valley Head football head coach Heath Vincent. The coach entering his fourth season at the helm of the Purple and Gold’s gridiron gang has witnessed how a proper offseason strength and conditioning program can make all the difference during the grind of a varsity football season.
“I am very excited about the challenges of the 2021 football season and our team here at Valley Head,” Vincent said. “But (the players) know that the weight room and our conditioning program have and always will be the key to any success. The work that you put in during the summer will reflect the success of the fall.”
The Tigers were incredibly successful in the fall of 2020, a season full of challenges on and off the field with the surging COVID-19 pandemic forcing many football programs into quarantine and forfeits.
Through it all, the Tigers pulled together for an 8-3 overall record and a 6-0 mark in Region 7 play, claiming the region championship, making the program’s first postseason appearance since 2015 and its most successful season in terms of wins since the 2013 season, when Valley Head went 9-2 and played in the first round of the state playoffs.
In 2020, Valley Head won seven games in a row and flexed its offensive capability with a potent run game, highlighted by a 70-38 victory against Coosa Christian on Oct. 8. According to the Alabama High School Football Historical Society’s website, the combined 108 points was a record for most points scored by Valley Head and an opponent in a single game.
The Tigers have weight training sessions on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Athletes can choose between a 7 a.m. or 5 p.m. session, Vincent said.
Valley Head also has two 7-on-7 football workouts being planned in July, Vincent said.
As the Tigers groom themselves for this fall’s slate of games, their opponents will be doing the same, with half of them doing so under new leadership.
Into the Unknown:
Of Valley Head’s 2021 opposition, Ider, Woodville, Ragland, Cedar Bluff and Appalachian have new head coaches preparing their respective teams this summer.
“That throws a lot of mystery into trying to prepare for these teams and not knowing what type of new [offensive and defensive] schemes we may see from them,” Vincent said. “Especially since we will face three of these teams in the first four games.
“...Our team will need to be able to adapt to anything new that occurs during the game and overcome it with sound fundamentals and adjustments.”
With no fall preseason game, Valley Head will open the season with two home games, the first of which coming against Ragland on Friday, Aug. 20, also known as Week 0 of the AHSAA’s 2021 football schedule. The Tigers follow by hosting Section on Friday, Aug. 27; the Tigers lost 19-14 in last year’s meeting.
“I know, as a player, it is always great to get to play in our home stadium in front of our home crowd and student body,” Vincent said. “I know it will really set our season off by playing the first two weeks at home. But from a coaches’ standpoint, I want our players to be ready no matter where we play. Anytime that scoreboard comes on we are ready.”
Vincent expects region rivals Coosa Christian, Appalachian and Sumiton Christian to have many experienced players back on the field this fall. He said Cedar Bluff will also have several key athletes returning.
As for non-region foes, Vincent said Section and Ider will be among the teams bringing back the most experienced personnel.
“Regardless, the teams that can come together with quality leadership from the upperclassmen and develop the younger players to play at a high level and gel as one complete unit will be successful,” Vincent said.