PREVIEW: River Valley Wants to Make Impression in First Year as Members of the TVC

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Editor's Note: Over the next two weeks our reporters will be bringing you team previews for each team in the SEOAL, TVC-Ohio, TVC-Hocking, and our West Virginia teams. We continue in the TVC-Ohio, where everyone is chasing the Athens Bulldogs. 

Humble and hungry.

That is coach Jerrod Sparling’s view on the recent switch into the Tri-Valley Conference for his River Valley football team.

While most teams prepare in their offseason for familiar competition, the Raiders face a challenge of their own.

“We’re coming into this excited to be in a new conference, grateful to be here,” Sparling said. “We’re coming into each game humbly knowing that we’re probably the underdogs and we just want to prove our worth and be competitive as many times as we can and see where the chips fall.”

Going into his fourth year as head coach of the Raiders, Sparling feels that this group of seniors and juniors are “his guys”. Having only graduated four players last year, he is looking to the returning letterman to be leaders and make plays.

“We looked on the field last year and we had a freshman and six or seven sophomores on the field almost at all times,” Sparling said. “This year, we may only play one or two sophomores on a consistent basis. I’m just hoping a year of maturity and a year of growing older will help these guys.”

Ending their season last year with a 1-9 overall record—their only victory coming against now-conference opponent Alexander—has the team eager to start anew in the TVC-Ohio.

Returning for the Raiders include seniors Jesse Hawks and Jordan Gilliland on the offensive and defensive lines, all-conference linebacker Josh Campbell, and junior quarterback Dayton Hardway–who was injured at the beginning of last season–threw for over 1,700 yards in the Raiders last six games.

“We also returned almost all of our wide receivers; senior Dustin Bickers, and juniors Kirk Morrow, Tyler Twyman, Mark Wray,” Sparling said. “Morrow, before he season was cut short last year, had a game with 10 catches and a game with 9 catches.

Though they are placed into a different conference, the Raiders are familiar with their new competition, having played Alexander, Meigs and Nelsonville-York in the past few seasons.

Sparling says the team is grateful to be in a new conference and is eager to compete and mark their mark. The Raiders kick off the new season on Aug. 23 at South Gallia.

'Gridiron Glory' airs every Friday night at 11:30 p.m. on WOUB. You can follow the show on Twitter @gridironglory, like the Gridiron Glory page on Facebook, and follow along on Instagram @woubsports. You can also join the conversation throughout the season by using the hashtag #GridGlory.