One way of knowing if a team is a legitimate force is how it performs when circumstances don’t necessarily go its way.
Despite committing two first half turnovers and suffering through five offensive penalties, the Wheelersburg Pirates’ football program still made a strong statement as Wheelersburg, behind a 58-yard punt return touchdown from Makya Matthews and 256 yards passing from Trent Salyers, rolled on to a 31-7 halftime advantage and kept its foot on the gas pedal as the Pirates defeated Valley, 38-7, on Friday evening in Lucasville.
From the outset, Wheelersburg was able to make things happen early on as the Pirates were able to get their playmakers out in space early on. Evan Horsley capped off the Pirates’ initial drive with a five-yard touchdown run, and Matthews quickly followed with an explosive 58-yard touchdown return to quickly push the Wheelersburg lead to 14-0 with 8:15 to play in the first quarter of action.
Valley, however, wasn’t to be slouched on. With just under five minutes to play, Andrew Shope was able to throw a 40-yard touchdown pass to Gabe Streeter that cut the lead to a 14-7 margin with 4:39 left. Ashton Clevenger, however, came back and capped off another solid Wheelersburg drive with a two-yard touchdown spurt that put the Pirates up by a 21-7 margin at the end of the opening quarter of play.
In the second quarter, both teams fought tooth-and-nail for control, but by the end of the half, it was Wheelersburg who would end up extending its lead as an 18-yard field goal by Jalen Miller with 8:22 to play, along with a 10-yard touchdown pass from Salyers to Bryson Keeney, allowed Wheelersburg to obtain a 31-7 halftime lead. Salyers then capped the game off with his six-yard touchdown run with 6:34 to play in the third quarter of action.
For the contest, Salyers overcame two interceptions en route to completing 15 of his 26 passes for 256 yards and the previously mentioned 10-yard touchdown through the air. His aforementioned six-yard rushing touchdown allowed the Pirates to obtain their ninth running clock victory of the year in nine games. Horsley and Clevenger combined for 63 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries behind Salyers.
From a receiving standpoint, Cole Lowery led the Pirates with five catches for 92 yards, while Keeney added 84 yards and his 10-yard reception on just three catches. Matthews, Tanner Holden, and Xander Carmichael combined for 65 yards on six catches to round out the offensive showing for Wheelersburg.
Defensively, Nic Parsley led the way for Wheelersburg with seven tackles — including five solo stops — while Carmichael and Alex George added five tackles apiece. Carmichael added a pick, while Chase Stidham collected the team’s lone sack of the evening to round out the Pirates’ efforts.
Overall, Wheelersburg finished with 359 yards of total offense, while Valley finished with 96 total yards. The Indians’ rushing attack was held to 36 yards on 19 carries.
With the victory, the Pirates (9-0) will play West in a primo battle between two undefeated SOC II teams. The contest will not only decide the conference championship, but who obtains the No. 1 overall seed in Division V, Region 19.
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @KColleyPDT