McGUFFEY — For a number of schools in northwest Ohio, making the playoffs is a goal that is attainable and accomplished. For Upper Scioto Valley in the past three decades that thought rarely entered the minds of the Rams players, coaches and fans. Heck, winning a conference title was seen as a wishful dream.
But that all changed this year when USV not only went 7-3 and 6-1 to capture a share of the Northwest Central Conference (NWCC) but secured a spot in the postseason to make school history.
The Rams’ dream season did not end there as they put an exclamation point on the year by garnering a first round playoff win over Troy Christian 28-27.
For these reasons, Rams head coach Josh Spencer was named the 2016 Lima News’ Dream Team Coach of the Year.
True to his humble nature, Spencer credits his coaching staff and the hard work his players put in to achieve these lofty goals.
“Our players and coaches really put the time and the effort to achieve what we accomplished,” Spencer said. “I am really happy for guys like our assistant coach Dustin Price who put so much time into getting to where we got.”
The Rams’ rise to the top of the NWCC and as a postseason contender was a long process that Spencer began in 2012. When he took over at Upper Scioto Valley, he took over a program that had hovered around .500 and had never really accomplished much.
Even in Spencer’s first year, the Rams managed only one win and lost nine but in that year, Spencer saw the seeds of success planted as he began to install his brand of football.
“I really thought after my first year that we were making strides,” Spencer said. “We weren’t getting the results in the win column but I could see the players buying into the system and we started to progress. We stressed work in the weight room and in the offseason.”
One of the reasons for Spencer’s optimism also stemmed from the class of athletes that he had seen be successful during their middle school days and knew they had the desire and the dedication to accomplish what always seemed impossible.
The next two years, the Rams posted back-to-back 4-6 seasons and in 2015 the Rams went 6-4 overall and narrowly missed the postseason.
“It wasn’t like the players weren’t still putting in the work and the coaches weren’t putting in the time but things were starting to fall into place.”
It appeared the Rams had taken a step backwards at the onset of the year when they went 1-3. Instead, the Rams would go on a six-game win streak, led by the fleet-footed senior Austin Sloan, the talented Charlie Rose, and junior quarterback Jason Moots.
“Our first goal is to win the league and we figured if we did that we would make the playoffs,” Spencer said. “To get to the playoffs was neat but once we got there we weren’t just happy to make the playoffs but we wanted to make a statement.”
The Rams did just that with the upset win over a Troy Christian team that went 9-1 during the regular season. In that game Sloan rushed for more than 200 yards. USV’s season came to an end against Minster, which made the state semifinals, in a game where Sloan left early due to injury.
With this big year, Spencer said not only did they make school history but the team has elevated the expectation level.
“We understand with a school this size you are going to have ups and downs and peaks and valleys and right now we are at a peak,” Spencer said. “But I think the players came to the realization that this can be accomplished and we can do some great things with hard work.”
Reach Jose Nogueras at 567-242-0468 or on twitter at @JoseNogueras1