CLEAR FORK — All signs pointed to Isaiah Valentine finally breaking onto the scene last year, meeting the expectations that he brought along with that healthy middle school resume he had earned.
The Shady Spring sophomore was doing it in short order, too.
In the season opener Valentine caught four passes for 141 yards, two for touchdowns. He also had six carries for 65 yards and a touchdown.
In week three, against Summers County, he had seven carries for 205 yards and two touchdowns.
In a pair of games that was 17 touches for 411 yards and five touchdowns.
In a week four game against Independence he was injured and missed the next four games. By the time he came back in Week 9, he wasn’t the same player.
Needless to say, health is a key issue for the Tigers’ junior running back.
If the team’s first action back is any indication, he is returning to health just fine , with a few nice runs on run plays in the controlled scrimmage at Westside Friday night.
“For the summer, I’ve been going to physical therapy and working on shaping my body up,” Valentine said after the Tigers’ scrimmage game at Westside Friday night.
Valentine finished the season with 401 yards rushing (205 in that big game against Sumemrs) and three touchdowns and 14 catches for 239 yards and three more touchdowns.
It was not the season for which he had hoped, but he was able to return for the Tigers’ playoff game against Robert C. Byrd, a 35-15 loss.
“It was tough,” Valentine said of the time down, right in the middle of the season. “I felt like sometimes my teammates needed my help and I couldn’t be there for them.”
But with health Valentine is back and he is looking for a big season. The Tigers return veteran quarterback Drew Clark along with running back Haven Chapman (over 600 rushing yards).
Clark will be a key, Valetine said.
“Speed, size, shape, senior quarerback – he knows a lot about the game,” Valentine said.
Shady Spring, must, however, replace 1,000 yard rusher Tyler Bragg.
Valentine said he is up for the task, and has some lofty goals in mind.
“One-thousand rushing yards and one-thousand receiveing yards,” Valentine said.
That’s a rare stat, indeed, though Oak Hill one-year phenom, the now-graduated Abe Farrow, nearly pulled off the feat last season, with over 900 yards rushing and over 900 receiving.
Valentine said reaching the goal is a matter of athleticism and intangibles, a mixture he called “speed, talent and heart.”
He said that the loss to RCB in the playoffs serve as a catalyst for the team, with lessons learned from the experience.
“We have a lot of expecations,” Valentine said. “There are a lot of lessons we can grab from that game.”
A healthy Valentine can help go a long way to returning Shady Spring to postseason.