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Dynamic duo of Valley, Erb has Mineral Ridge off to 3-0 start

Staff photo / Greg Macafee Triston Valley (5) and Ian Erb (18, left) have been critical to Mineral Ridge’s 3-0 start to the season.

MINERAL RIDGE — The Mineral Ridge Rams have been running rampant through their opponents.

With blowout victories over Pymatuning Valley (41-8), Orange (48-6) and Newton Falls (33-14), the Rams are averaging 40.6 points per game and have only given up 28 points heading into conference play this week.

The early-season success could be attributed to a few different things, but junior tailback Ian Erb and senior quarterback Triston Valley, who is one of just five seniors for the Rams, have been at the head of the charge.

After transferring from Girard, Valley has been exposing opposing defenses with both his arm and his feet. He’s completed 38 of 66 pass attempts for 458 yards and three touchdowns while only throwing one interception. The senior signal-caller has rushed for 355 yards and four touchdowns.

Erb has been just as good. As a junior captain, he has a team-high 439 rushing yards on 31 carries with six touchdowns.

“Those two love football, so it’s amazing to coach them because they let you coach them hard and then they go out and perform very hard for you,” Mineral Ridge head coach Brian Shaner said. “Those two in the backfield are amazing. Having those two back there is a blessing.”

A year ago, Valley found himself as the starter under center at Girard. He played in eight games, threw for 706 yards and seven touchdowns, and ran for another 321 yards and four scores. But, a slew of injuries kept him out of a few games.

Now he finds himself in a new position and couldn’t be happier.

“That was rough, but it made me who I am today,” Valley said. “It made me a better leader, a better man, so I’m hoping to bring that leadership here, and try to lead this team.

“These guys have been awesome, they’ve been really welcoming of me. I’m glad with the way I’m performing and I hope I keep performing this way for them because I love these guys and I never want to give up on them.”

Valley has passed for at least 130 yards in each of Mineral Ridge’s three games and rushed for 151 yards in the Rams’ season-opening win over Pymatuning Valley. He also came back a week later and rushed for 138 yards and three touchdowns against Orange.

He’s been a nice addition to the Mineral Ridge backfield, and Shaner believes he’s about more than just his play on the field.

“He’s a workaholic,” Shaner said. “He’s a kid that you have to tell him to take time off. He always wants to go, there’s never enough, he’s never good enough in his own mind, he always wants to perform better and he never wants to let anyone down. He’s a special athlete as well, but he’s a great kid to be around.”

Shaner speaks just as highly of his junior running back who’s taken the area by storm through the first three weeks of the season.

Against Pymatuning Valley, Erb carried the ball six times for 180 yards and two touchdowns. Two weeks later he took on a bigger workload, rushing 20 times for 188 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Rams past Newton Falls.

“I said before it’s all said and done, that kid could drive the bus if he wanted to,” Shaner said. “Anything you ask that kid to do, he’s going to do it. I’m just happy for him because he deserves every accolade that he gets. To name him a junior captain, I had to do it, because that’s what I think of him.”

As a sophomore, Erb played somewhat of a smaller role. Shaner said he probably could’ve run the ball a little last year but he knew that Erb could play the role as a receiver so he put him outside. But, now he’s playing a bigger piece of the offense and Erb is ready for it.

“I was very excited for it, I kinda like it,” Erb said. “I felt like I could be in the big spot and handle it.”

With all of their success this season, both players attributed their early-season success to one thing, and that’s the work that they’ve put in throughout the offseason.

“It’s been a lot of hard this season and everyone just playing together well,” Erb said.

“It’s just been hard work in practice,” Valley said. “Since summer, we’ve been in the weight room. It’s just been practice and preparation.”

The Rams could possibly get stronger too as the season goes on. Shaner mentioned that Nathan Rohrman tweaked his ankle in June, which allowed Erb to take advantage of extra carries in the backfield.

At 6-foot-2, 220 pounds, Rohrman ran for 430 yards and two touchdowns last season, including rushing for 183 yards and those two touchdowns in a 40-6 win over Sebring McKinley. So adding his downhill running game to the Rams backfield could help the Rams even more as the season carries on.

The Rams continue their season tonight against McDonald in the latest chapter of one of Trumbull County’s longest standing rivalries.

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