Most rivalries are filled with emotion and even hated, but have very little repercussions on a team’s overall season. That’s typically not the case when Wheelersburg and Valley meet on the gridiron and this season is no different.
As arguably one of the most fiercest rivalries in southern Ohio is renewed Friday night, the SOC II title will be on the line as the winner will at least own a share of the crown and will have an opportunity to win the title outright with a week 10 victory.
“Our goal at the start of the year is to win the SOC and that’s our whole focus” Pirates coach Rob Woodward said. “Our whole non-conference schedule is geared toward getting us better for the SOC. Valley is the team we have to beat for the SOC. Every SOC opponent is tough and Valley is our next opponent, so that’s what we are focused on. It’s a great matchup. It’s a great rivalry. It’s a great opportunity to play some high-school football and our kids will be ready for that.”
Indians head coach Darren Crabtree knows both teams were in similar positions last season and his squad suffered a 33-7 loss to the Pirates at Ed Miller Stadium. So this year, Valley has changed its preparation.
“The good thing is we’ve been in this situation before with these guys,” Crabtree said. “We have had some success against them in the past and we can lean on those experiences. We’ve tried to approach each game this year as our biggest game of the season, so when we got to a point like this, our preparation wasn’t any different. The stakes are a little higher obviously. Both teams have a lot of things on the line. It’s a great time for both football programs.”
On paper, both teams appear evenly matched. Wheelersburg (8-0, 2-0) has scored 319 points while only allowing 37 points on the season. Valley (7-0, 2-0) has scored 263 points while only allowing 81 points.
Crabtree believes the game will be a referendum on how both teams have played this year.
“I think it’ll be an evenly played game,” Crabtree said. “I don’t look for a lot of points from either team. Both defenses are good enough and in this type of a game, I don’t look for it to be a shootout. We’ve beaten them a couple times in 10-7 or 9-7 games. I don’t think it’ll be that low scoring but I don’t think it’ll be a shootout. You never really know, it depends on what they can do offensively and what we can stop, and vice versa.”
Woodward believes both squads are so even, each play could provide the highlight of the night.
“Both teams are good at methodical at taking what a defense gives them and trying to use that, and when the opportunity arises, look to take a shot and look to score big,” Woodward said. “You better not leave your seats at any given time during the game or you could miss one of the biggest plays of the game. Each play is going to be extremely important for both teams on the offensive and defensive side of the ball with special teams mixed right in there. It’s going to be a game where you’ll want to save your bathroom breaks for halftime because each and every play is going to be important.”
For Valley, the offense runs through senior quarterback Brian Rolfe who makes plays in or out of the pocket.
“Brian Rolfe is an outstanding player at the quarterback position,” Woodward said. “He has the ability to look off receivers and throw comebacks, and double moves. He can just place it anywhere. But he’s also dangerous with his feet. Anytime they need a play, he’s a guy that they want to handle the football, and he does a great job of finding the seam and keeping drives alive.”
The other two primary threats on the Indian offense that Woodward noticed are Bryce Romanello and Blake Howard.
“Romanello at the tight end position, sometimes the split him out wide. He can go up and get the football. He’s extremely fast, he’s a good playmaker for them,” Woodward said. “Howard is a playmaker for them at running back and slot receiver. He’s somebody to account for. They mix other players in that can make some plays for them but those three are their primary playmakers.”
For Wheelersburg, first-year quarterback Kyle Davis has been a dangerous weapon for the Pirates.
“(Davis) has done a great job this year of taking over and running their offense,” Cradtree said. “He does a great job in their passing game and he ends up making a number of big plays with his feet every game.”
Like Valley, Wheelersburg has a big three which consists of playmakers Chasen Burk and Jordan Howard.
“And their two running backs Burk and Howard are both capable of making plays anytime they touch the ball,” Crabtree said. “You have to account for them and know where they are lined up. Those three guys are going to touch ball probably 75 or 80 percent of the time.”
Kickoff for the high-anticipated matchup is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Reach Chris Slone at 740-353-3101, ext 1930, or on Twitter @crslone.
The Wheelersburg Pirates beat the Valley Indians 33-7 at Ed Miller Stadium last season.
Xander Carmichael scored two touchdowns in a 47-6 victory over the Valley Indians.
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