IN AN ERA of pass-happy football, coach Miles Aldridge came to Spring Valley with an old-school plan to revive a once-proud program that had fallen on hard times.
Aldridge, an A.C. Flora graduate who coached on the high school, college and professional levels for 38 years before returning to the Midlands, announced his team would run a modern variation of the wishbone offense that dominated college and high school football in the 1970s.
“I always said that if I ever got the chance to be a head coach, I’d run the triple-option offense,” Aldridge said. “I knew how tough it was on a defensive coordinator in college to get a team ready to defend the triple option. It made it a very difficult week of preparation because it required so much discipline from the players on defense. It took some of the aggressiveness away that can give a defense an edge.”
But the offense is not necessarily a popular one for today’s players, who grow up exposed to the college and pro obsession with the spread offense.
“If I had a 6-foot-5 quarterback with a strong arm and a bunch of tall, track guys as a receivers, I’d be OK with throwing the ball all the time, too,” Aldridge said. “But the triple option seemed to be the best fit for the talent that was here. I can’t say if there was a selling job I had to do. I guess there was discussion about it in some circles because there always is when a new coach comes in with different ideas.”
Three years into the Aldridge Era, there is no debate about committing to a triple-option offense at the Class 4A level. Spring Valley went 3-8 in 2010, improved to 5-6 in 2011 and had its first winning season in six years last fall, 8-4.
All the while, the Vikings’ offensive numbers steadily improved.
This season has been the breakout campaign. Spring Valley enters this week’s Region 4-4A finale with archrival Richland Northeast with a 10-0 record and a chance to go undefeated in the regular season for the first time in program history.
The Vikings’ big-play offense, which features veterans John Miller and Chris Adams, is averaging 442.9 yards per game, 390.7 yards rushing per game and 41.2 points per game.
“Good things don’t happen by accident,” Aldridge said. “No matter what kind of offense you run, it still comes down to blocking and tackling. We’re not an overpowering team, but we’re a good team because the players have bought into what we’re trying to accomplish.”
Adams, a three-year starter at quarterback, wasn’t sure what to make of the offense.
“In middle school, I was in the shotgun and wanted to throw the ball, but I have to admit that I’ve really come to like the triple option,” he said. “It was like learning a whole new position, but I’m a lot more confident now as I’ve gotten better making the right reads.”
Adams has run for 1,082 yards and eight touchdowns, while netting 527 yards and eight scores on 52 passing attempts.
“We don’t throw it a lot, but when we do we are confident we can make big plays,” Adams said. “The great thing is the potential for a big gain is there whether we run or throw.”
Plays of 50 or more yards have become commonplace for the Vikings, and the fleet Miller is usually the man breaking free.
“I think it took the team a while to get into the triple option because it was so different, but I can say we all love it now,” said Miller, the senior slot back who is averaging 10.1 yards per carry, 159.3 yards per game and has scored 28 touchdowns.
Fullback Alec Koon is the third option, and he has rushed for 608 yards.
Coach honored: Aldridge has been selected by the South Carolina Football Coaches Association as a Palmetto Champions All-Star Coach of the Year. He will be honored at the Palmetto Champions banquet on Dec. 5.