Paul Hall has been in charge of the Sun Valley football program for only a little more than two months.But already the first-year Spartans head coach feels the passion in and around his new team.“The players, coaches and fans all love their football here,” said Hall, who comes to Sun Valley after working as head coach at Winston-Salem Reynolds High last year.“We’ve not only had a great turnout (123 players came to the first day of practice for varsity and junior varsity teams), but the excitement and intensity are there every day. You can tell these guys are ready to prove they can play at a high level again this season.”Hall is in the unusual position of inheriting a winning program by taking over for former Sun Valley coach Scott Stein, who’s now at Myers Park.Stein’s Spartans went 9-4 last year, winning a share of the Southern Carolinas conference title (with Porter Ridge and Weddington) and advancing all the way to the 4A state quarterfinals, where they lost 28-21 to Porter Ridge.OffenseThe Spartans return 14 starters from that team. They will be led by junior tailback Albert Funderburke, who rushed for 2,042 yards and 24 touchdowns last season; he is determined to do even better this year.“2,000 yards is great, but I want to pass that and put up a number and that no one can catch,” Funderburke said, noting he was about 100 yards short of the school record. “I always want to be getting better and helping my team win.”Funderburke has received major interest from Clemson, Georgia Tech, Maryland, North Carolina and Tennessee and got a scholarship offer from Duke. He will be the focal point of the Spartans’ high-powered spread offense, which averaged 36 points per game last year and has eight starters back to stay in form.Funderburke is joined in the backfield by sophomore running back P.J. Lotharp, who is very fast; Hall said he recently ran a 4.3-second 40-yard dash.The rushing attack should have plenty of room to operate. Senior wideouts Nigel Wiley (34 catches, 522 yards last season), Terrence Blount, Corey Plesher, Manny Rebolledo and Courtland Stout all provide good options.Who will trigger the offense is still in question. Seniors Isah Meric and Ryan Tapp and sophomore Drew Swoop are battling for quarterback.“The defenses are going to key on me,” Funderburke said. “I know it will make it harder. But not only do I love a challenge, but it will also open up things for my teammates to make plays. We have a lot of talented guys.”The offense will also have the luxury of working behind a veteran offensive line. Four seniors – Jake Beachum, Chazz Butler, Tyler Dennis, Drew Edmisten – and junior Corey Keels all return.DefenseSun Valley’s defense will look to make a few more stops this season. Defensive coordinator Rocky Richar and six starters are back to help that effort.Isaiah Byarm and Dom Ventura return on the defensive front to help set the tone.Brian Teutonico is back at linebacker, where Bryce Plumley and Alex Sawyer also will be in the mix, though they could move around in the defense. They’re trying to reload after losing Michael Macchiavello and Keenan Whalen to graduation after those two combined for nearly 220 tackles last year.The Spartan secondary will be tested. Codi Bryan and Kenneth Davis return at cornerbacks, while Plesher should also help out.SCC title and beyondSun Valley football in good shape overall, and Hall hopes to keep things rolling.“Obviously, in the back of your mind, you want your team to be just as good as last year,” Hall said. “But every season is a new year, a new team. We are … focusing on all the little things, and wins will take care of themselves.”Hall and his players hope to contend for the SCC title and beyond again this fall. It won’t be any easier, however; a brutal nonconference schedule begins with North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association state champion Charlotte Christian Aug. 22 and includes Rocky River, Porter Ridge and Monroe before moving onto the conference play.This new-look SCC still includes rivals Anson County, Marvin Ridge and Weddington, but Union County foes Cuthbertson and Piedmont also join the field.“Playing in our conference with all the local (Union County) teams, is a battle every week,” Funderburke said. “We’ve got to come out with our ‘A’ game every week from the start.”
Monday, Aug. 12, 2013
Sun Valley Spartans gear up for competition
2013 Sun Valley Schedule Aug. 22Charlotte Christian (at Memorial Stadium) Aug. 30Hoke County Sept. 6at Rocky River Sept. 13East Bladen Sept. 20Porter Ridge Sept. 27Monroe Oct. 11Piedmont Oct. 18at Marvin Ridge Oct. 25at Weddington Nov. 1Cuthbertson Nov. 8at Anson
Sun Valley outlook 2013 Coach: Paul Hall (first year at Sun Valley). 2012 Record: 9-4 overall, 4-1 Southern Carolinas conference. Starters returning: 14 (8 offense, 6 defense) Top Players: • RB Albert Funderburke, 6-0, 195, junior: Looking to be even better than 2,042 yards rushing last season. Major recruit with Duke offer, interest from Clemson, Georgia Tech, Maryland, North Carolina, Tennessee and more. • WR Nigel Wiley, 5-10, 175, senior: Big play waiting to happen. Averaged 15 yards per catch last season. Should be targeted even more now. • OL Jake Beachum, 6-2, 290, senior: Helps anchor a front with four seniors and a junior. Back to pave the way for the potent Sun Valley offense. • LB Brian Teutonico, 6-0, 200, senior: Hall expects Teutonico to be a big playmaker for his defense. Can’t-miss games: Aug. 22 vs. Charlotte Christian (at Memorial Stadium). Sept. 20 vs. Porter Ridge. Oct. 25 at Weddington.
Jay Edwards is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Jay? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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