PDT Sports Writer
REYNOLDSBURG — Top-seeded Valley is in the Division V, Region 19 Championship for the second time in as many seasons after a 21-9 win over No. 4 Bucyrus Wynford Saturday at Reynoldsburg High School.
Yet two versions of the Indian squads led by Darren Crabtree could not be any more polar opposites. A year ago, the Valley defense was unable to stop the Royals and were on the wrong end of a 54-48 overtime decision.
This year, the Indians (12-0) held Wynford (9-3) to 68 yards on the ground, grabbed four interceptions and kept the Royals without a touchdown until the final play of the contest.
What a difference a year makes.
“I thought defensively our kids played extremely well,” Crabtree said. “They had a short field a couple of times off of some miscues in our kicking game but our defense, especially in the second half, really stepped forward and shut them down.”
Wynford drew first blood in this rematch of last year’s regional championship when a 10-play, 40-yard drive stalled but settled for a 27-yard field goal by Robert Sielski. For the second-straight week, the Valley offense was down before taking a snap.
The Indians started off on the wrong foot, losing nine yards on three plays to force a punt. Quick series were the theme of Valley’s first three drives of the game.
While the offense sputtered out of the gate, the Indian defense thrived with big play opportunities. Brice Jordan picked off Adam Hertz on back-to-back series, hoping the momentum would carry over on the other side of the pigskin.
“We put our kids in what we thought were pretty good positions and we played a lot of man (coverage) in the first half,” Crabtree said. “They threw some balls when we had a little bit of pressure.”
Unfortunately, neither turnover would yield a first down. On 4th-and-2 from the Royal 16-yard-line during the second drive, Valley’s Nate Arnett was thrown for a loss and handed the ball back to Wynford.
“We talk about composure in our kids and also in our coaching staff,” Crabtree said.
The Indian defense stepped up yet again, forcing what would be the last of two three-and-outs for the Royal offense. Valley finally picked up its initial first down of the contest three plays later.
Moving the chains seemed to finally break the spell cast on the Indian offense. Five plays later, Valley’s Brandon Jordan crossed the plain on a 1-yard dive with 1:47 left in the half to give the Indians what turned out to be their only lead change of the evening.
The score was preempted by a Will Howard 29-yard strike to Ethan Clark-Holbrook who got the ball down to the 2-yard-line.
“It’s been that way all year, we’ve had a lot of different people contribute and for us,” Crabtree said.
Wynford threatened late in the half when Keaton Teynor found Gage Roe on a 41-yard screen play. Two plays later, Sielski’s 23-yard attempt at the gun went wide right.
“That was maybe the turning point in the ball game,” Crabtree said.
Valley, which won the toss and deferred to the second half, scored on the first series of the second half. Howard’s 4-yard punch into pay dirt capped off a nine-play, 80-yard march down the field.
“Our kids have a lot of pride and they got smacked around early,” Crabtree said. “We got into a couple of formations in the second half that put us in an advantage. They were leaving their safeties to our strong side quite a bit so we tried to come back onto the weak side and it worked.”
After forcing the Royals to punt on their next possession, the Indians threw the knockout punch. Arnett’s 4-yard dive with 6:22 to go put his team up 21-3, but it was how the drive unfolded that sunk Wynford’s spirits.
In a span of nearly 11 minutes, Valley went 87 yards on 19 plays, survived a pair of false start penalties as well as three 4th down situations to set up the score.
“We went behind big J.J. Hettinger, we didn’t try to trick anybody, let’s go behind our best lineman and we let Brandon Jordan lead the way for Nate a few times,” Crabtree said. “Will Howard made some plays tonight, not only with his feet but with his arm in crucial situations and it was enough.”
The Royals’ next two chances to claw back into the game were thwarted when Howard ended them with interceptions of his counterparts. He also led all rushers with 62 yards on 15 carries in the contest.
The Indians now face No. 6 Baltimore Liberty Union (10-2) in next week’s regional championship. The Lions survived a late rally by No. 2 Oak Hill (9-3) to escape Nelsonville-York with a 22-21 win.
Cody Leist can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 294, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wynford 3 0 0 6 — 9
Valley 0 7 7 7 — 21
W—Sielski 27 FG 6:59
V—Bra. Jordan 1 run (Romanello kick) 1:47
V—Howard 4 run (Romanello kick) 8:04
V—Arnett 4 run (Romanello kick) 6:22
W—Hartz 27 run (no kick attempted) :00.0
First Downs 6 13
Rush Att.-Yds. 25-72 49-183
Pass Att.-Comp.-Int 16-3-4 9-3-0
Pass Yds. 68 56
Total Yds. 140 249
Fumbles-Lost 2-0 0-0
Turnovers 4 0
Penalties-Yds. 1-10 6-45
Punts-Avg. 28.7 27.3
RUSHING: Wynford—Shutler 10-28, Hartz 5-20, Williamson 3-8, Roe 3-8, Schafer 2-8; Valley—Howard 15-62, Arnett 17-49, Bra. Jordan 9-32, Rawlings 4-28, Bri. Jordan 2-6.
PASSING: Wynford—Teynor 5-2-1 62, Williamson 1-1-0 6, Hartz 10-0-3 0; Valley—Howard 9-3-0 56.
RECEIVING: Wynford—Roe 1-41, Hartz 1-21, Voll 1-6; Valley—Clark-Holbrook 1-29, Dunn 2-27.
RECORDS: Wynford 9-3; Valley 12-0.