The dream of a potential upset victory over one Division V’s top teams flamed out in the latter stages of the first half as Wheelersburg was eventually able to pull away and defeat Valley by a score of 37-6.
“Slow start by our guys but hats off to Valley” said Pirates head coach Rob Woodward following their week nine contest with the Indians, “They came out, played hard, had a great scheme, they were very physical and did a good job of mixing things up, which we recognized. We were trying to counter that with what we could do. Darren (Crabtree) had his kids ready to play. Both teams suffered some penalties there early on that set both of us back, kind of back and forth slow start in that first quarter especially. But the guys just kept chipping away and came back out that second half and I think that bodes well to our strength and conditioning, having our guys ready to go and obviously our depth helps us out, being able to have guys that we’re able to go to. We were able to keep our guys fresh out there, and that led to the victory.”
“I’m real happy with the way we performed there in the first half” said Indians head coach Darren Crabtree, “A couple of turnovers there that we didn’t get there in the first half could have been a difference. We recovered the ball on the three and had the facemask. Then we had the interception that got taken away by the pass interference, but the biggest thing was that our effort tonight, especially defensively, was as good as its’ been all year. They get the score there to start the third and got a lot of momentum. We could see it there at the end of the second period they were starting to wear us down with the number of players they play compared to what we put on the field. Effort wise, we couldn’t ask for any more from our kids than what they gave us tonight. Came up short, but we played a good football team for at least 2 ½ or 3 quarters very tough.”
Crabtree said it himself: penalties were the biggest restraint on the Indians game in the first half when they were able to force Wheelersburg to punt on a couple of occasions.
The Indians first offensive drive showed flashes when quarterback Andrew Shope found Tanner Spradlin for a 44 yard gain, but they were ultimately forced to go for it on fourth down and were unsuccessful in their conversion attempt.
On Wheelersburg’s second offensive possession of the game, Jalen Miller drove home a 29 yard field goal to give his team the lead 3-0 at the 2:12 mark of the first quarter. The kick was set up by two Tanner Holden receptions totaling 40 yards.
After a few punts and a holding call on the Pirates, Wheelersburg had the ball on the eight yard line. Makya Matthews was then hit in the backfield before fumbling and the ball being recovered by Valley. Unfortunately for the Indians, they were also called for a facemask penalty which negated the fumble entirely just as they proceeded to build momentum and stop the Wheelersburg offense.
Later that same drive in the second quarter with the game still at 3-0, Trent Salyers pass was intercepted but not before the defender was called for a pass interference penalty against Holden, setting up the Pirates with a first down.
After two more punts by each side, Wheelersburg got the ball around midfield when after a couple of plays, Salyers found Matthews for a 27 yard touchdown pitch and catch to score the game’s first touchdown and give Wheelersburg the 10-0 lead with 6:39 left in the half.
Just before the half, Wheelersburg possessed the ball again and found the endzone on a Salyers read option play from eight yards out to give the Pirates a 16-0 lead after the field goal attempt was missed by Miller. The score would remain the same heading into the intermission.
The Wheelersburg offense was far from finished as they were able to score on their opening possession of the second half when Salyers once again found Matthews, this time for 19 yard touchdown reception over the middle of the field.
After a three and out by the Indians and a short punt returned to their 38 yard line by the Pirates, Salyers found Tanner Holden breaking away from the Valley defense for a 33 yard touchdown strike to initiate the running clock. With 6:03 remaining in the 3rd quarter, the Pirates took a 30-0 lead.
Wheelersburg’s final touchdown of the night came from a twelve yard touchdown rush by running back Tanner Wilson at the 11:46 mark of the fourth quarter to extend their lead to 37-0.
Valley’s next possession saw something fans in Southern Ohio had not seen up to this point in SOC II play: a point scored against the Pirates. Sophomore playmaker Andrew Andronis took a handoff from Shope and proceeded to go around the end and up the sideline to outrun the Wheelersburg defenders in route to a 61 yard touchdown rush. The botched snap meant the Indians would not be able to cut their deficit to 30, bringing the game’s final score to 37-6 following the play of both teams reserves for the remainder of the fourth quarter.
Salyers finished the game 12/19 for 197 yards and three passing touchdowns while rushing for seventeen yards and one touchdown on just seven carries. Holden and Matthews combined for 159 yards receiving on eight catches with three receiving touchdowns.
Following the loss, Valley falls to 3-6 with a home senior night matchup with county rival Minford waiting in the wings. “Back when I was in high school, and all twenty nine years I’ve been coaching, we always play Minford week ten” said Crabtree when discussing next week’s contest, “You can throw records out the window. Two years ago, we were 0-9 and played them at home and were able to beat them. I’d say they have a lot more on the line, with a win next week Minford will probably make the playoffs. This is our playoff game, and not only that it’s our seniors last home game. This will be a fun week of practice and I think our kids will be ready. If our kids come out like we did tonight, I think we’ll be okay.”
As for Wheelersburg, they will travel west to face cross county rival, the Portsmouth West Senators. “It’s the SOC, at West, our guys understand this” said Woodward in preparation for next week’s game against the Senators, “I learned this sixteen years ago when I came to Wheelersburg, I’ve learned that when you go out there, you’re going to get some tough football, and our guys will go out there and be ready to play.”
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT