It’s just not in their bloodstream.
The Valley Cubs will host Leeds tonight at 7 p.m. in its prep football season-opener at Lou Scales Stadium.
Forget the fact that Leeds has been one of the premiere programs in the state the past couple seasons, going a perfect 15-0 to capture the Class 3A state championship in 2008 and reaching the state semifinals in 2009.
Forget the fact that Leeds is the Alabama Sports Writers Association No. 1 ranked team in Class 3A and that they’re roster includes 6-foot-2, 170-pound athlete Jonathan Rose. The Auburn commitment has 4.4 speed in the 40-yard dash is rated as the third best cornerback in the nation.
None of that matters, even in Week 1.
“We needed a home game,” third-year Valley Cubs head coach Frank Tucker said after his team’s practice Wednesday afternoon. “I saw their coach down at the Super 6 and they needed to play somebody. So, we decided to play each other.”
Truth be told, either team could have searched and likely found an easier opponent to open the season with. Class 4A Alexandria has a championship past of his own. The Valley Cubs won state titles in 1995 and 1997 under the late great Larry Ginn and 1985 before that under Scales.
The Valley Cubs (8-4) have qualified for postseason play seven consecutive seasons, advancing to but not through the second round each of the past two years. Last season ended with a 13-10 loss on the road to Midfield on a horrible, rain-drenched field for the Valley Cubs.
This one begins for Alexandria with a game against a highly-ranked, highly-hyped team many think they don’t have a chance against.
“We’re excited about playing them. Leeds has gotten a lot of press,” Tucker said. “We see them on Fox 6 and read about them on al.com. I’m disappointed in the lack of respect we’re getting in this game.”
Alexandria has seven first-time starters on both offense and defense led by seniors Landon Cartwright and DeAnte Owens. At 5-foot-6, 165 pounds, Cartwright starts at both center and middle linebacker. Owens, 5-10, 175-pounder, will play outside linebacker while taking over the running back duties along with Dar Harper following the departure of Jaron Johnson, The Star’s Class 4A-6A Player of the Year.
Both players welcomed taking on the Green Wave, who went 11-3 before being bounced from the playoffs by Piedmont as the Bulldogs went on to win a state championship.
“I think it’s good to play a tough team in the fist game,” Owens said. “We’ll get to see how good we are, see where we’re at see what we need to do in the future by playing the No. 1 team in 3A.”
Owens and Harper combined for 700 yards on the ground a year ago in lesser roles.
Alexandria is quite familiar with playing the best of the best. They played Cherokee County to within 11 points of a victory in a 36-25 loss last season as the Warriors went on to a 15-0 mark and a Class 4A title.
“That gives us confidence,” Cartwright said. “Cherokee County played fast and had a lot of weapons just like Leeds does.”
Tucker said its’ going to take four quarters of virtually mistake-free football coupled with an “all out effort” in order for the Valley Cubs to walk off their home field with a victory.
But he doesn’t see any reason why it isn’t possible.
“We’re the 4A team but everyone is talking about Leeds like they’re unbeatable,” Tucker said. “I hope we respond to that. How we respond could define us.”
Nick Birdsong covers prep sports for The Star. He can be reached at 235-3575.