In a 48-28 win over Hokes Bluff, they paved the way for Alexandria to rush for 543 yards. Three players topped 100 yards each, including Gabe Marschal (176 yards), Jacob Heathcock (159) and Deoin Lewis (102).
“Anytime you have a team rush for 500 yards, the credit has to go to the line,” Marchal said. “They dominated and I was just running the ball behind them that night. They drove Hokes Bluff off the ball and blocked until the whistle blew.”
The Valley Cubs did it with an experienced line that includes senior Ryan McCord, juniors Blake Winningham and Jacob Barrett and sophomores Dakota Sams and Dillion Davis.
The biggest change from a Week 2 loss to a big Week 3 win was the personnel. In the loss, the Valley Cubs (1-2, 1-1 Class 4A, Region 5) were missing Willingham and Barrett, who were out with injuries.
“We just played better and I think a lot of the credit goes to our line coach Ters Payne,” Alexandria coach Frank Tucker said. “I can’t explain how kids act sometimes, but we were really flat against Centre, and Etowah had a great defense. But against Hokes Bluff, we simplified things a little bit, and our kids played like they’re capable of playing.”
The added experience also played a difference. McCord said leadership made an impact after the Valley Cubs’ disappointing 29-23 disappointing loss to Cherokee County.
“We weren’t doing well on offense and we just pulled out of it and our leaders controlled the huddle,” the senior said. “It builds confidence in that we’re out of the hole we were in, the corner we were in. Now we just have to use that confidence and keep building on it in order to beat these other teams.”
The 20-point win has Alexandria appearing to be a serious competitor in Region 5. The Valley Cubs won the title last season, although Tucker is hesitant to say just how good the 2013 team is this early in the season.
“Some teams make you look better than others, and some make you look worse,” the coach said. “After three games, I still don’t have a good handle on who we are as a team yet. Hopefully, in two to three weeks, we’ll have a good idea of who we are.”
Alexandria’s next test will be Friday against cross-county rival Anniston (2-1, 1-1), which defeated the Valley Cubs 21-12 last season.
Anniston’s speed is an immediate concern, but McCord added the Bulldogs have bigger, stockier guys, as well.
“We have to do the little things against a team that’s faster than you,” Marchal said. “We’ve have to come out and hit them, but still do the little things right. We have to start the game well, which we didn’t do against Etowah and Centre. When we started well against Hokes Bluff, we didn’t stop.”
If Alexandria is able to pull out a win, it would mark the Valley Cubs’ first win over Anniston since 2008.
“Last week’s win has my intensity level set to a level it’s never been at,” Winningham said. “We were getting beat up in the first two games, but then we came out and just dominated last week. Now we have Anniston and we’re getting ready for them, too.”
Brandon Miller covers prep sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3575 or follow him on Twitter @bmiller_star