(Photo provided – 2023 MV Lions Football Team)
Back in 2021 the Maple Valley football team suffered a blowout loss to Britton Deerfield, 63-6.
“We had seven sophomores starting for us at the time and we sat there after the game watching them celebrate their league championship,” head coach Marty Martin said. “I told the kids at the time to sit, watch and visualize what it would be like if it were us in the future.”
Funny how things workout sometimes. But when M-V dominated that very same Britton Deerfield team for a 56-6 win on Sept. 29, it gave the Lions the Tri-River 8 Football Conference championship.
“That moment stayed with our seniors and from that moment they set out to make it their reality,” Martin said. “Very rarely in life does a dream and goal come to fruition. This group of kids made it happen.”
The last time the Lions won a league championship was 21 years ago. The history making feat was certainly something the coach and program took great pride in.
“It has been a great honor and blessing to coach each and every player for the past nine years,” Martin said. “This league championship and our three playoff appearances came from the leadership and hard work of all of our players, year in and year out. It is easy to say it was this class or that class that was successful, but if it wasn’t for the preceding classes of young men and women, we would not be where we are now. Every player who has played for M-V needs to share and celebrate in this league championship. 21 years is a long time and what we have done this year should make the M-V community proud of this program.”
The Lions started the season 6-0, with league wins over Morenci, Concord and Britton Deerfield. That matched their best start since the 2001 season.
“First, our kids are great kids,” Martin said of the team’s success. “Secondly, they are smart kids who have been well-coached throughout their careers. Finally, our kids work hard at becoming better athletes. Almost every player is a three sport athlete. We have been able to do things both offensive and defensively that we have not been able to do in the past because of it. So, the old adage is right, ‘success is built in the off-season, through hard work, repetition, and having the inner drive to become better every day.’ I also want to make sure our coaching staff gets credit for the job they have done over the years and each week coaching, preparing and pushing this group of kids to be better.”
There is some bad news though, in that they lost their contest last week, 38-0 to Grand Rapids North Pointe Christian.
“We played a really good team, on a really nasty night, who was bigger and stronger than us,” Martin said. “After winning the game we had pointed to the entire season. I do not want to say we had a letdown, but we were not ourselves at times throughout the game. So, we learned that success can leave as soon as it comes into your life.”
The Lions have been playing 8-player football since the 2019 season. However, they have never been eligible to qualify for the post-season, due to being above the 215 enrollment cutoff. Some more big news around the program is that they may be going back to 11-player football next fall.
“I have been told by our administration that we are going back to 11-man football,” Martin confirmed. “We have a core group coming back that went 8-1 on the JV last year. But as we know 11-man football becomes a war of attrition at times. Injuries mount up and depth is very, very important. This will be a great challenge for the program as we only have seven juniors who will be seniors next year, seven sophomores who will be juniors, and seven freshmen who will be sophomores. As for our lower levels, we have great numbers at all levels 7-8, 5-6, and 3-4 so the future with this group of young players should be bright.”
M-V wraps up the season with home games against Bangor (4-3 overall) and Martin (5-2).
“Of course, want to win them, which will be a tall task considering our week nine opponent, Martin, just beat the team that beat us the previous week, and are the defending state champions,” Martin said. “Our kids though have commented on how the loss can help us address our weaknesses and we feel we match up better against our last two opponents. So, we are looking forward to the challenge.”
Martin and the team hopes the community comes out to see this group compete on the field before the season is over as well.
“Our last two games are at home, please come out and fill the stands,” he said. “One final goal of this group of seniors is to fill the stadium to capacity for our final home game on Friday, October 13, 2023. So, I cannot encourage and stress to our fans enough. Please help them make this happen! I am sure you will be proud of what you see out on the football field.”