High School Sports


Sept. 29, 2006

On the gridiron... with Valley's football team

Are the Vikings conquerors once again?

Before last year, the Class AAA program from Valley Station that reached the state semifinals in 1997 had not won more than three games in a season since '98 and had won a total of five games over the previous five seasons. The Vikings improved to 4-6 last season, the second under coach Roger Deskins, and they have won five of their first six games this season to move closer to their first playoff appearance in eight years.

At the very least, the Vikings have their swagger back. BeyondTheDerby.com's Nathan Chambers visited with Deskins and seniors Sylvan Dulin, Jerry Miller, Joe Raleigh, Ariq Skinner, and Antwan Watkins following the team's final practice before a Region Two, District Three game against Jeffersontown on Friday.

What we should know about Valley football:
Skinner: We're back! None of that 1-and-9 anymore. Playoffs, here we come.

Why Skinner might be right:
Deskins: We've got a lot of work ahead of us. We've got a nine-team district, the biggest district in the state, and the rest of our games are district games. If we go 0-and-4, we're not going anywhere. But the thing we've got is senior leadership. Everything is falling into place because we have that senior leadership. If you don't have a strong senior class, or if you don't have a senior class that leads in the right direction, you've got problems. My first year as a head coach here, we had seniors. But they did not lead in the right direction. These guys do.

Why Dulin wears No. 50:
Dulin: When coach (Preston) King came, I talked to him and got to see him play on film. He was good. He was a great athlete in his day. He wore No. 50, and I wanted his number. (King, who coaches the offensive and defensive lines, was a lineman on Valley's '97 team and played at Western Kentucky University.)

Why Skinner plays football:
Skinner: For the love of the sport. Seriously. When I'm on the field, that's the only thing there is - the field. It's me and you, and I want to win. I just think I like being competitive. That's the most competitive thing I'm good at, so that's what I'm going to do. ... Plus, I like hitting people.

Why the like-minded Miller admires Denver Broncos safety John Lynch:
Miller: I like sitting back and pounding wide receivers, and that's all he does. Receivers don't want to come around him.

Why they call Dulin "Gada" (or "Gator"):
Dulin: I collect reptiles. I've got a lot of reptiles. I have an alligator, lizards, salamanders, turtles, iguanas (and a dog). I have a room for all of them. Since I was a little kid, I've always liked animals, and I just started collecting them. When I was about 12, I bought an anole - people call them chameleons, but they're not - for $2.99 at Feeders Supply. My daddy wasn't going to buy an animal that cost a lot of money and was just going to die.

They don't call Raleigh "Gator," but:
I wrestle alligators (he was kidding). ... But I like to wrestle. You have no one to blame but yourself when you lose. It's a really disciplined sport.

Who he blames when the football team loses:
I don't blame any one person. I try to think of the team as one wrestler, and the team is to blame if we lose.

How it feels to win a match at the state wrestling championships (where he went 3-2 last season after winning the 189-pound title in Region Three):
Raleigh: It's exciting. There's a lot of people, and there's a lot of pressure. But it feels good to win, when about 8,000 people see your hand raised.

(Dulin, like King, is an offensive and defensive lineman; Miller, who's recovering from a broken collarbone, is a safety, wide receiver, and long snapper; Raleigh, a running back and linebacker, has rushed for 685 yards and seven touchdowns; Skinner is a tight end and linebacker; and Watkins is a wide receiver and defensive end.)