PDT Sports Writer
With questions facing both teams Friday night, Valley and Portsmouth knew the key to victory would be turnovers and how one team could capitalize on the other’s mistakes.
The turnover battle went in favor of the Indians Friday night and they made the Trojans pay with 21 of their 28 points from three of the four Portsmouth turnovers in a 28-19 victory at the Trojan Coliseum.
“We had a couple of big picks and a couple of big sacks,” Valley coach Darren Crabtree said. “…Our defensive line, as the fourth quarter went on, took over the game. Our coverage was good in the secondary and we were able to get out of here with a win.”
After trading possessions, the first mistake of the contest came when Nate Arnett recovered a Brandon Wedebrook fumble. It didn’t take the Indians long to capitalize, one play later to be exact, as Bryan Rolfe used a 28-yard strike to Ethan Clark-Holbrook to draw first blood.
The Trojans quickly retaliated on their next possession when Darion Robinson broke away from tacklers for a 47-yard scamper. Portsmouth took the lead on a 16-yard connection from Wedebrook to Khalil Lattimore but the extra point failed. The second scoring attempt was spurned by a 44-yard punt return by Alex Dickerson.
“Our receivers did a nice job of running routes and blocking, which is going to set them up for some other things,” Portsmouth coach Jason Sparks said.
Momentum looked to be on the Trojans side in the second quarter until Ryan Brown returned a 67-yard interception for a touchdown and gave Valley a 14-13 advantage. The score would hold true into halftime.
Crabtree felt the best way to counter the up-tempo pace displayed by Portsmouth was to rotate fresh bodies at a quicker pace.
“It was probably the start of the second quarter before we realized this is a pace they are playing,” Crabtree said. “Even though we may have had some kids on the field that aren’t starters, they were giving us a better look than the guys who were gasping for air.”
The turnover bug hit the Indians in their first possession of the third when Rolfe could not get a clean hand off exchange to Brice Jordan and Johnnie Charles fell on the loose pigskin. Portsmouth capitalized with a seven-play, 40-yard drive that culminated in a nine-yard pitch-and-catch from Wedebrook to Isiaha Lisath but the two-point conversion failed.
Valley regained the lead at 21-19 with 1:15 remaining in the third as Rolfe and Clark-Holbrook connected for the second time in the evening. The seven-yard strike gave the lead that proved to be the difference.
“I thought in the third quarter our kids, after we gave up the touchdown pass and after the turnover, I thought we showed a lot of character by coming back and taking over the ballgame,” Crabtree said.
Portsmouth tried to regain the lead for a third time but Clark-Holbrook intercepted Wedebrook with 9:02 left in regulation. Nate Arnett drove in the final nail with 4:09 to go on a 22-yard run.
“Three turnovers, 21 points,” Sparks said. “If you take that back to zero turnovers, that’s seven points for them… We’ve got to focus on that, we’ve got to do a better job of ball security and making sure that we’re making our right reads.”
After being held to eight yards on nine first half carries, Arnett finished with a game-high 88 yards on the ground on 22 totes.
In his first varsity start as quarterback, Rolfe was 4-of-11 passing for 66 yards and the two touchdowns.
“He managed the game well,” Crabtree said. “We didn’t throw a lot at him tonight because defensively and especially in the first half, they were getting after us pretty good. He kept his composure, made some nice throws and obviously two touchdowns in your first varsity start is not a bad way to start at all.”
The Indians go on the road again, this time a 6 p.m. Saturday night neutral site game at Hilliard Bradley against Van Buren. The Trojans will return to the Coliseum Friday to entertain West.
Cody Leist can be reached at 353-3101, ext. 294, or firstname.lastname@example.org. For breaking sports news, follow Cody on Twitter @CodyLeist.
Valley 7 7 7 7 — 28
Portsmouth 13 0 6 0 — 19
V — Clark-Holbrook 28 pass from Rolfe (Romanello kick) 8:07
P — Robinson 47 run (Delotell kick) 7:40
P — Lattimore 16 pass from Wedebrook (kick failed) 5:29
V — Brown 67 interception return (Romanello kick) 9:49
P — Lisath 9 pass from Wedebrook (pass failed) 9:16
V — Clark-Holbrook 8 pass from Rolfe (Romanello kick) 1:15
V — Arnett 22 run (Romanello kick) 4:09
First Downs 14 13
Rush Att.-Yds. 48-177 37-141
Pass Att.-Comp.-Int. 11-4-0 22-10-2
Pass Yds. 66 85
Total Yds. 243 226
Fumbles-Lost 1-1 2-2
Turnovers 1 4
Penalties-Yds. 6-35 5-30
Punts-Avg. 6-40 5-30
Rushing: Valley — Arnett 22-88, Jordan 9-66, Loop 3-17, Shope 2-9, Dunn 1-5, Howard 3-(-4), Rolfe 6-(-4); Portsmouth— Charles
Passing: Valley — Rolfe 4-11-0 66; Portsmouth — Wedebrook 10-22-2 85.
Receiving: Valley — Clark-Holbrook 2-35, Dunn 1-17, Arnett 1-14; Portsmouth — Lisath 3-60, Lattimore 1-16, Robinson 2-6, Dickerson 3-6, Oliver 1-(-3).
Records: Valley 1-0; Portsmouth 0-1.