McDERMOTT – It was almost the best possible birthday gift for Bill Crabtree.
It was almost the perfect Homecoming Night at Northwest High School.
And, it was almost that utopian moment that the Mohawk football community had desired for so long.
But thanks to the visiting Valley Indians on Friday night, they made sure it was “almost”.
That’s because the archrival Indians, trailing 14-0 following the first quarter, rallied past the Mohawks for 21 unanswered points – and ultimately captured a 21-14 non-league overtime victory inside Northwest’s sparkling nice and newly-renovated Roy Rogers Field.
The matchup marked the first between the Scioto County nearby neighbors since 2013 – the final season before Northwest dropped down to the Southern Ohio Conference Division I for football, following many years of competing in the larger-school SOC II.
The Indians, however, had simply dominated the series – last losing in the closest contest before Friday night in 2000 by a single point (21-20).
This time, veteran Valley head coach Darren Crabtree was just happy his squad was somehow, someway, making the short trek back to Lucasville with the ‘W’.
It was Valley’s fourth consecutive win – following its mistake-filled 32-27 season-opening loss at Portsmouth.
The Indians are now 4-1, while the Mohawks suffered their second straight defeat to fall 2-3.
“Somehow, we’re sneaking out of here with a win. We were grabbing some sophomores and freshmen and throwing them in there for their first varsity game and in this environment. Through the adversity of losing some key starters, we had people step in and make plays for us,” said Crabtree. “We keep preaching to the kids to do your job, trust your teammate beside you, and late in the game when we needed big plays on offense and defense, they stepped up and made those plays. It’s a good win for us, it’s a win they won’t forget. We played a lot better in that loss against Portsmouth than we did tonight, but when our backs were against the wall, we came out fighting and figured out a way to win one.”
It was also an unforgettable night for the Mohawks, with the exception of the final score.
Northwest coach Bill Crabtree was celebrating his birthday, and his Mohawks held the lead for all but the final four plays.
The program itself was celebrating its first game played at superbly-renovated Roy Rogers Field, complete with new FieldTurf and bleachers.
“As far as the facilities, it’s amazing with what they’ve done here,” said Crabtree. “I still can’t even comprehend it, really.”
The Mohawks had played their first scheduled home bout this year at Valley (against McClain), before being forced to switch sites for their tilt two weeks ago against Huntington.
While disappointed in the final outcome, Bill Crabtree couldn’t complain about anything else.
“Valley had kids step up for them and make plays at the end of the game. It’s that simple. Our kids played their butts off. Valley is a solid team, and it’s been a long time since we’ve played them in a tight ballgame like that,” he said. “We had our chances for sure, but it was great to see our kids come out and fight like they did.”
Mistakes – and a bevy of Indian injuries – made Friday night’s encounter extremely interesting, as two first-quarter turnovers by the Indians resulted in two short fields for the Mohawks to work with.
The Mohawks, an overwhelming underdog according to some observers, made
Valley pay with their two touchdowns over the final five minutes and 23 seconds of the opening quarter for a 14-0 advantage.
From there, though, following running 17 scrimmage plays in the first quarter, the Mohawks had just 26 snaps the rest of the way – not including four punts.
The Indians answered by overcoming ALL of their adversity – the early deficit, more players exiting due to injury, and the gauntlet of emotions Northwest was playing with.
Valley – following its two turnovers in its first seven scrimmage plays – executed its final 48 without another.
None were bigger than on the game-tying touchdown drive, which lasted a minute and 25 seconds and covered 53 yards in seven plays – and aided originally by a 15-yard Northwest penalty for fair catch interference on a Mohawk punt.
Connor Fell – the senior wide receiver now playing quarterback thanks to the unfortunate injury Andrew Andronis suffered on the first play of Valley’s first scoring series – first found Devin Wiley with a pass completion that gained 24 yards.
Wiley was open at the 35 and made the catch, then bounced off a would-be Northwest tackler and gained to the 29.
George Arnett, the six-foot freshman tailback who took over in the opening quarter for the injured Kayden Mollette, amounted 21 yards on the next play to the eight-yard line – his longest pickup of any of his 27 carries.
Finally, facing 4th-down-and-goal from the Northwest 7, Fell found Arnett open in the front of the end zone for the touchdown – as the left-handed Fell rolled left towards the Mohawk pursuit and threw back right.
Arnett made the clutch catch on one knee, as just 35 seconds remained with the Indians now trailing 14-12.
Thus, the subsequent two-point conversion was just as big – if not bigger.
Fell rolled out again, and this time found Daegan Glover in traffic with three
Mohawks immediately around him.
Glover made a difficult grab, then hit the paydirt hard – but held onto the ball – after taking a hit from one of those defenders.
As a result, the Indians and Mohawks were now tied for the first time since the five-and-a-half minute mark of the first quarter, as Northwest kneeled down at its own 29 and settled for overtime.
“They had big play-makers and we knew that. To keep them from making plays, we had to control the clock, which we did for the first quarter and part of the second half. But when they had the ball, we just kept getting ourselves out of position,” said Bill Crabtree. “They picked up momentum and we were comfortable with our lead, but credit them for making plays.”
Darren Crabtree certainly did.
“I was really happy with the way the kids responded to where we put them in at. We always say ‘next man up’, and they produced. That’s all we can ask of them,” he said. “I don’t believe George (Arnett) had any idea that coming into tonight he was going to touch the ball, but he is going to be a good one. It was good to see him make some plays. Connor Fell ran our offense extremely well, George kept getting more confidence, and we kept pounding them and wearing them down with our base plays. Then Fell made a couple of nice plays through the air on that fourth-quarter drive, including the throwback to George for the touchdown.”
Arnett amassed 135 rushing yards, as the Indians rushed for 173 as a team on 44 attempts – most of which were without senior starting right guard Jacob Ward (6-2, 250), who was injured in the second quarter and did not return.
Fell finished 2-of-5 passing for 31 yards, and caught both of Andronis’ completions for 19.
The Indians punted twice compared to five times for Northwest, and doubled up the Mohawks in first downs 17-9.
Valley’s final first down was an Arnett 16-yard gain on the second play in overtime, setting up Glover going in from a yard away.
Austin Sommers, who missed his first extra-point kick, redeemed himself and made his second – making it 21-14.
Northwest then got two yards apiece on two carries by Nathan Rivers, sandwiched around a five-yard pickup to the 13 by Brayden Campbell.
But on 4th-down and less than a yard, the Indians’ defensive front got great surge – and stopped Wyatt Brackman before he reached the necessary 10-yard-line.
“We got the stop on third down to force 4th-and-1, and we got a good push from our down guys on that final play. We just trusted those guys up front to do what they are supposed to,” said Darren Crabtree. “Our linebackers then scraped in there and cleaned up the play at the end.
With that, the Indians had shut out the Mohawks for the final 36 minutes and 41 seconds of regulation – and overtime.
“We were our own worst enemy in the first quarter, giving them a short field two times to trail 14-0, then we had two opportunities to score in the second quarter and screwed that up,” said Crabtree. “We were moving the ball, and if we could just get some stops defensively…”
The Indians actually drove nine plays apiece and into the red zone on both of their second-stanza possessions before two turnovers on downs, so it wasn’t until their second series of the third quarter that finally paid dividends with precious points.
The entire march spanned 70 yards in 11 plays, and consumed six minutes and seven seconds off the clock.
Andronis opened the drive by scrambling for 13 yards to the 38, but he suffered an injured clavicle on the fall and tackle – with Fell then taking over under center.
Arnett actually carried on the next nine plays, breaking tackles for 14 yards to midfield before a 15-yard run moved the Indians into the red zone at the 7.
On the previous play, he gained seven yards, but another 15-yard personal-foul penalty on the Mohawks moved the ball to the Northwest 22.
Glover garnered his first 1-yard TD run on 3rd-and-goal – at the 1:55 mark.
That drive followed Northwest’s second three-and-out series, as the Mohawks – which had just 64 second-half and overtime yards on 23 plays compared to 89 yards on 22 plays in the first half – punted twice more before Valley went on its game-tying drive.
The Mohawks, operating from their traditional double-wing with tight line-splits formation, managed 153 yards on 43 carries – with Billy Crabtree leading the way with 59 yards on a dozen attempts.
Campbell and Rivers recorded 29 yards on seven and 10 totes respectively, while Brackman boasted 23 yards on seven tries.
Campbell converted Crabtree’s interception of Andronis with a 10-yard scoring run that capped a 21-yard, five-play drive.
Evan Lintz landed the Mohawks’ other touchdown from two yards out, ending a seven-play, 42-yard drive that spanned three minutes and three seconds – and followed a fumbled Valley quarterback-center exchange.
While there were plenty of anxious Indian moments from opening kickoff to closing whistle, the bottom line was Valley rallied for the win.
“This isn’t exactly the way we drew it up coming in here, but we’ll take it,” said Darren Crabtree. “We have some work to do, some spots to patch back together, more injuries to overcome. But like I told our kids, sometimes an ugly win is a lot better than a pretty loss.”
The Indians open SOC II play next Friday night against Oak Hill, as the Oaks have rejoined the larger division from the SOC I.
Meanwhile, Northwest – a heavy favorite for the SOC I championship – travels to historic Spartan Stadium on Saturday night to begin league play at Notre Dame.
The birthday boy Crabtree, while almost getting an ultimate gift with an upset of Valley, believes another present is in store for his Mohawks.
“I feel like we’ve turned a corner here. Things are headed in the right direction,” he said. “In the past, we would line up against Valley and they would have their way
with us. Tonight we fought and clawed to the bitter end. Going into conference play, I am excited about the momentum we have going and it’s a great feeling thinking we have a chance (to win SOC I). We haven’t had that in a while.”
* * *
Valley 21, Northwest 14, OT
Valley 0 0 6 8 7 – 21
Northwest 14 0 0 0 0 – 14
N — Brayden Campbell, 10-yard run (Dakota Secrest kick), 5:23, 1st (7-0 N)
N — Evan Lintz, 2-yard run (Dakota Secrest kick), :41, 1st (14-0 N)
V — Daegan Glover, 1-yard run (kick failed), 1:55, 3rd (14-6 N)
V — George Arnett, 7-yard pass from Conner Fell (Daegan Glover pass from Connor Fell), :35, 4th (14-14 tie)
V — Daegan Glover, 1-yard run (Austin Sommers kick), OT (21-14 V)
First downs 17 9
Plays from scrimmage 55 45
Rushes-yards 44-173 43-153
Passing yards 50 0
Total yards 223 153
Cmp-Att-Int. 4-11-1 0-2-0
Fumbles-lost 3-1 2-0
Penalties-yards 5-35 6-70
Punts-average 2-29.5 5-39.6
RUSHING —Valley: George Arnett 27-135, Andrew Andronis 9-11, Daegan Glover 5-13 2TD, Kayden Mollette 2-16, Team 1-(-2) ; Northwest: Billy Crabtree 12-59, Nathan Rivers 10-29, Brayden Campbell 7-29 TD, Wyatt Brackman 7-23, Evan Lintz 4-13 TD, Austin Newman 2-0, Team 1-0
PASSING — Valley: Andrew Andronis 2-6-1-19, Connor Fell 2-5-0-31 TD; Northwest: Austin Newman 0-2-0-0
RECEIVING — Valley: Connor Fell 2-19, D
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