Valley edges Piketon in thriller, 22-19

Going into the third week of the season, Valley and Piketon had an absolutely beautiful day for a quality game of football. Both the Redstreaks and the Indians were looking to attain a start strong to the contest with quality computer points at stake in this rivalry battle.

Playing at Valley’s home field, the Indians felt right at home and ready to tackle the opposition while the Redstreaks came out to deliver the kind of challenge that made it anyone’s game. After Valley’s loss to Coal Grove last Friday and Piketon dropping a bout to Vinton County, both teams were hungry for that first taste of victory for the season, which made the drive for both teams and the stakes of the game even higher.

For most of the first quarter, Piketon and Valley fought for control until a successful pass to Gabe Streeter allowed the junior standout to pick up 11 yards for the Indians, and on the following snap, Valley’s Kayden Mollette gained six yards on a running play to move the ball into Piketon territory.

However, as Valley began to make its march toward the Redstreaks’ redzone, the Indians were beset by two penalties (holding and illegal motion) that pushed Valley back to midfield. The Indians would be forced to punt to Piketon with the score notched in a scoreless tie after a quarter of play.

As the second quarter of play began, Piketon started its opening drive of the quarter from its own eight and proceeded to drive down to the Valley 15 yard line behind a couple of huge pass plays and a pass interference penalty.

Still, the youthful Indians did an excellent job in holding the Redstreaks, and forced Piketon into a 4th-and-20 situation behind excellent defensive play inside the red zone and a holding penalty. However, the penalty did little to stop Piketon as Chase Grooms found senior wide receiver Luke Nichols in the corner of the endzone to put the Redstreaks ahead 7-0 against the Indians, with Corey Swain completing the extra point.

With the mold finally being broken by the Redstreaks, Valley had to set their eyes onto the offensive to try and gain footing of their own, which was a rise and fall effort in their own right as multiple runs and vigorous deep passes were made to completion. However, at the end of the half, it was Piketon who held a 7-0 lead.

In the second half of action, Piketon wasted no time adding to its lead as Grooms completed a massive 41 yard pass for the Redstreaks’ second score of the affair to push the lead to 13-0.

While this 13-0 hole would prove to be the knockout punch for many young teams, Valley managed to make its statement and hold its own. This was evident with 9:55 to go in the third quarter, when Tanner Spradlin caught a 63-yard touchdown pass from Shope that absolutely sent the crowd into an uproar and cut the lead to 13-6 in favor of Piketon.

While there was no further scoring in the third quarter, the final quarter of play had emotions high and tensions strung as Shope gained a yard to pick up a first down inside the Piketon 15, then ran for seven more on the next play en route to setting up a first-and-goal situation for the Indians.

The resulting push continued yard for yard for a grueling two minutes, with a touchdown finally being attained by Andrew Shope as the gritty quarterback dove to the right side en route to obtaining a touchdown with 8:41 remaining in the contest.

And even though the ensuing extra point try was botched, resulting in a failed pass attempt that kept Valley behind, 13-12, the Indians had the momentum.

This was proven on the next series, when Valley’s Jake Ashkettle stepped in front of a Grooms pass on the first play of the enusing drive, which allowed Valley to take possession at its own 43 yard line. Shope then managed a 33 yard run which was followed by a big 10-yard gain by Jesse Jones where the latter bulled his way down to the Piketon 7.

Four plays later, Shope seemingly put together the go-ahead touchdown on a quarterback sneak on 4th-and-inches with 3:39 to play. However, the play was ruled dead due to a false start penalty, which forced Valley to settle for a 21-yard field goal by Cayton Ruby that put the Indians ahead, 15-13, with 3:30 left in the game.

The hype that Valley held, however, quickly dropped as Piketon came back with a critical play as Austin Henderson took a pooch kick back 58 yards for a Redstreak touchdown, which put Piketon ahead, 19-15, with 3:20 remaining.

Still, the youthful Indians showed maturity in adversity.

With 3:19 to play following the kickoff and Valley at its own 35 yard line, Streeter showed incredible toughness by bouncing off several Piketon tacklers for a 14 yard gain that gave the Indians a first down at the Piketon 49. The junior’s run was aided even further by a facemask penalty that added another 15 yards to the end of the run, which allowed Valley to essentially gain 29 yards on one play. This put the Indians in business.

But Valley didn’t want to just be in business. They wanted to put the finishing touches on the affair — once and for all.

With Valley facing a 3rd-and-8 from the Piketon 34, Shope looked to his left and threw a ball to Spradlin, who was facing double coverage. However, as if they had been practicing it for years, Shope threw an excellent touch pass that Spradlin could adjust to. The junior caught the pass in red zone territory, made the initial Piketon defender reach for air, and outraced the second to the near side pylon as Valley took a 22-19 lead with 2:03 to play. The Indians held from there as solid defensive play from Darren Crabtree’s club forced Piketon to turn the ball over on downs with 56 seconds remaining, allowing Valley to obtain the victory.

“The momentum and poise held here tonight really showed that we’re making strides,” Crabtree said. “It feels good to get a win early in the season.”

“This loss hurts, but we knew Valley (was) going to play hard,” Piketon head coach Tyler Gullion said. “We just have a lot of things we need to work on for next time.”

With the victory, the Indians will establish a bit of momentum heading into next Friday’s matchup against Raceland (Ky.), which will in Lucasville. Piketon, who fell to 0-3 on the year with the loss, will face Paint Valley at home.

By Eric Hale

PDT Sports Contributor