CHILHOWIE, Va. – Ridgeview senior Alijah Sproles lived up to his tough-guy reputation Friday.
In addition to starring as a blocking back and middle linebacker, the 6-foot, 220-pound senior battled through adversity just before halftime.
“I was blocking a guy when my thumb popped back,” Sproles said. “I was able to put it back in place.”
With Sproles providing leadership, the Wolfpack recorded a 33-21 victory over the Chilhowie Warriors in a VHSL benefit game.
The storylines entering the night involved the new look at Chilhowie after two straight appearances in the Class 1 title game and the performance of Ridgeview’s Trenton Adkins at running back.
Adkins made a statement at the 4:22 mark of the first quarter by breaking off a 42-yard scoring run up the middle. With a mix of power and speed, Adkins finished with 161 yards rushing on just 11 carries.
“Adkins showed why he’s being recruited by about 15 Division I schools,” Chilhowie coach Jeff Robinson said.
Ridgeview compiled 357 yards rushing, as 5-9, 145-pound junior Kanin Lewis added 68 yards and two scores.
Sproles and linemen such as senior Hunter Fletcher (6-4, 280) cleared the running lanes.
“If you give Trenton a hole, he’s gone,” said Sproles, who added a TD run. “Kanin is smaller, but he’s very shifty and is picking things up.”
Not much got past Sproles at linebacker. The third-year starter and 2018 Mountain 7 District defensive player of the year collected nine tackles as the Warriors managed just 138 yards rushing.
“I like defense better, but seeing action on both sides of the ball makes me a better player overall,” Sproles said. “We have few younger players this season, so I’m trying to pick it up a little bit and help them fill their roles.”
So what is the primary role for Sproles?
“I like getting big hits and setting a tone early,” Sproles said. Hopefully the younger guys will see that and do the same.”
Ridgeview coach Rick Mullins said he feels comfortable with Sproles in control.”
“Alijah is a good foundation,” Mullins said. “He played hard again on defense tonight, and he’s is definitely our leader there.”
The Wolfpack led just 13-7 at halftime and passed for only 19 yards behind first-year quarterback Nick Phillips.
“I’ll be honest, we’re not where we need to be right now,” Mullins said. “We’ve got to get better in a lot of areas, and I think we’ve got the material to do it.
“We will do three things good at quarterback and then we make a mistake,” Mullins said. “Right now, Nick is his own worst enemy at times.”
Mullins did enjoy the outburst from Lewis.
“Kanin is a hard worker with good vision,” Mullins said. “When he gets the opportunity, he usually does well and he was a spark for us tonight.”
The Warriors scored in the first half on a 58-yard pass from 6-foot senior Logan Adams to senior receiver Lucas Doss. Adams replaced steady Zack Cale at quarterback.
“Logan has played some quarterback in the past, but it’s a little different when you the man calling the shots,” Robinson said. “We’re going to do some things on offense that people will shake their heads about, but we will do some special things on offense as well.”
This was the second consecutive year that Chilhowie faced larger Ridgeview in the pre-season.
“I was happy to have this type of physical game going into next week,” Robinson said. “We had a good scrimmage with them last year and they wanted to come over here this year. I think it worked out well for both teams.”
Senior cornerback Malachi Thomas paced a Chilhowie defense which retuned three starters. Chilhowie has just one veteran on offense.
“We didn’t have a very good start to the game, but I was happy with how we battled,” Robinsons said. “I was very impressed with the defense of Ridgeview. I don’t think we will see a better group for a while.”
Sproles, the firestarter for the Ridgeview defenders, left the field Friday with ice on his thumb and a smile on his face.
“I don’t feel like we played to our peak,” Sproles said “We just have to work that much harder in practice.”