Twin Valley Panthers
Black Diamond District, Region D
2017 record: 3-7 (0-3 BDD)
Head Coach: Jeremy Ward (6th year as a head coach, 1st at Twin Valley. 17-35 in 5 years at Grundy)
Key losses: TE/DE Cody Dales
Key returners: QB Tylor Keen, RB/LB Brandon Lester, TE Isaac Hampton, OL/DL Alex Meadows, WR Trevor McGlothlin.
After a two-year stint, the Brian Moore era for Twin Valley football is over. During those two years, the Panthers were 9-12. While the torch is being passed, it’s not going to go very far.
Former Grundy head coach, Jeremy Ward, takes over as the fifth head coach in program history after serving on Moore’s staff the past two seasons.
Ward, a two-time All Southern Conference selection at offensive lineman for VMI, is excited to be a head coach again.
“Being a head coach again is a great opportunity to work for the young men in our program,” said Ward, who was the head coach at Grundy from 2011-15.
With taking the reins of the Twin Valley program comes the challenges that many small schools face year-to-year. After a 3-7 season in 2017, the Panthers only return 10 players from a year ago to a 2018 Panthers team that has 21 names on their roster.
The number 21 makes Twin Valley the smallest football team in far southwest Virginia. However, Ward and his staff are hopeful that in the weeks leading up to the season, the number will increase to 25-27 before they head to battle in week one.
“We have an even mix of experience with this year’s team,” said Ward.” There are a few guys who have had a lot of playing time the last couple of years and some who have very little.”
QB Tylor Keen and RB Brandon Lester return to the lead the Panthers backfield for their senior season. In some coaches’ offices in the Black Diamond District, rumblings are that Keen may be the best signal caller in the district. The duo of Keen and Lester paved the way for the Panthers and that looks to be the case again in 2018.
“Tylor Keen and Brandon Lester are two of those guys I mentioned who have a lot of experience,” said Ward. “Having their leadership and experience helps bring along the other guys, as well as allows us to push our offense in the direction we want to go.”
The line that will protect Keen and Lester is one of the biggest question marks coming out of the Twin Valley camp in 2018. It is a challenge that Ward, a former offensive lineman himself, is not shying away from.
“The offensive line is one of our concerns for now because we have low numbers in that group,” said the former VMI Keydet. “Putting the right combination of guys together is the challenge directly ahead of us. They have all been working hard and competing everyday.”
Much like on the offensive side of the ball, the biggest challenge for the Panthers defense is just putting the pieces of the puzzle together. However, the Panthers look to play defense the correct way.
“We expect our defense to be aggressive and disciplined,” said the Twin Valley head coach. “We plan on taking some chances.”
That defense will see the likes of Tylor Keen, Wade Cantrell, Jeighkob Duty and Xzavier Ward at defensive back. Brandon Lester, Dalton White and Jordan Shelton will be the faces at the linebacker position. Isaac Hampton, Alex Blankenship and Alex Meadows will clog the holes up from on the defensive line.
Twin Valley finds themselves at the drawing board in the kicking game after losing their kicker, Tim Croley, from 2017 to graduation.
With all the obstacles thrown Ward’s way in year one, the Panthers will not stray away from their goals.
“I believe our guys are working really hard to get better,” Ward said. “Overall, we want to be able to compete every week. We want to have a winning season and compete for the BDD. We also want to make the playoffs.”
No matter how small, look for the kids from Pilgrim’s Knob to make a few people sweat in 2018.
August 24 @ Jenkins (KY)
August 31 Montcalm (WV)
September 7 @ Honaker*
September 14 @ Northwood
September 21 Craig County
September 28 Grundy*
October 5 East Ridge (KY)
October 12 @ Thomas Walker
October 19 Rye Cove
October 26 OPEN
November 2 @ Hurley*
*denotes district game
I am a graduate of Richlands High School—class of 2014. In May 2018, I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Multimedia Journalism and History with a minor in war and Society from Virginia Tech.
My passions in life are numerous. We don’t have all day. This is not the place to divulge into Hokie Football, so I will shed some light on one of my other favorites.
I was born and raised in the coalfields of southwest Virginia—Richlands to be exact. I remember the first time I ever went to a high school football game (Richlands-Tazewell ’02). Since then, a passion has grown that is stronger than the current in the Clinch River. As a football player in this region, I was able to witness the passion oozing out of the hills firsthand. It was something that when I began college, people had a hard time believing the spectacle that is high school football in the coalfields. Luckily, I was able to go 42-8 in between the white lines on Fridays and Saturdays from 2010-2013. I look forward to having another platform to tell you my stories, your stories and their stories. Here’s to the good times and hoping I don’t leave you like I did Coach Greg Mance numerous times—by saying, “Gosh Durn It!”
Let’s talk, SWVA sports, Hokies, history or maybe even barbecue.