Spring Valley turned a corner in Miles Aldridge’s fourth season as coach.
The Vikings finished 8-4 last season and made the Class 4A state playoffs. It was the first time since 2006 Spring Valley finished in the black and qualified for the postseason.
“We’ve tried to build a program that has longevity, and I can say we’ve gotten better every year,” Aldridge said.
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The Vikings were in contention for the Region 4-4A championship last season and hope to do so again, though Aldridge does not make winning a title the stated goal.
“We don’t talk about championships because we haven’t won one yet,” he said. “Until you do, you haven’t done anything. We did some good things last year, but we’re going to have to go out and prove ourselves again.”
Spring Valley enters the new season with a core of proven players but enough areas of inexperience that give cause for concern. Aldridge and his staff will find out if the rebuilding project initiated in 2010 has put a true program in place.
“The commitment level and work habits of the players continues to grow, but we’ll find out if the new guys can step up and help keep us moving forward,” Aldridge said. “There are a number of young guys who are going to have to grow up and be a force.”
The target areas include the offensive and defensive lines, fullback and the secondary.
Tackles Sherard Coward (6-foot-1, 260 pounds) and Frank Ward (6-1, 195) are the only returning veterans up front on offense.
Finding a replacement for graduated fullback Desmond Poole is key to the success of Spring Valley’s double-wing offense.
The all-new defensive line of nose guard Andrew Laulusa and ends Ja’lon Williams and Brandyn Thompson has to step up.
The Vikings are looking for two safeties to join veteran cornerbacks Jason Lewis and Brandon McMiller.
The good news is the return of stars linebacker Christian Miller and running back John Miller.
Christian Miller, who recently committed to Alabama, was perhaps the top defensive player in the Midlands as a junior, ringing up 121 tackles, 21 tackles for loss and 14 sacks.
John Miller ran for 1,181 yards and 21 touchdowns, caught 13 passes for 196 yards and one touchdown and also had 227 passing yards in a breakout season.
Chris Adams returns at quarterback after running for 261 yards and throwing for 570 yards and six touchdowns a year ago.
Linebacker Josh Harlan is the other pillar on defense after posting 130 total tackles, 13 for loss and two interceptions last season.
Kicker Cooper Gresham returns after kicking four field goals, and going 16-for-19 in PATs. He also averaged 32 yards per punt while sharing that job a year ago.
Linebacker Donovan Palmer, who saw a lot of playing time late last season, gets a shot at fulltime duty.
SPRING VALLEY VIKINGS
COACH: Miles Aldridge
2012 RECORD: 8-4
KEY GAME: Oct. 11, Blythewood — The Vikings hopes of winning the Region 4-4A title have to begin with a win in the conference opener.
KEY PLAYER: Christian Miller — It’s been a busy summer for the star linebacker with recent recruiting visits and a trip to an elite national camp hosted by Nike. Now, it’s time to get down to the business of keeping last season’s Viking turnaround going.