LUCASVILLE — Apparently, when the annual Lucasville-Minford Road Rivalry takes place at The Reservation, it’s only a one-way street.
That’s because, for exactly a decade now, the Indians — every two years at Valley High School — are simply not letting the Minford Falcons leave Lucasville with the win.
The latest instance, and in definite dramatic fashion, occurred on Friday night for Homecoming — as the Indians erased a 14-0 deficit with six minutes remaining, and scored the final 15 to rally past the Falcons 15-14 in the 2020 Southern Ohio Conference Division II and regular-season finale.
Both clubs conclude the regular season at 2-4 —and 1-4 in the SOC II after opening the season with non-league home wins.
For the young Indians, though, which were impacted by injuries again and only sport six seniors, it’s an absolute yet stunning shot in the arm entering the Ohio High School Athletic Association state playoffs.
Valley snapped its four-game losing streak in the process —book-ending its regular campaign with critical home triumphs.
The Indians opened the season with a convincing 28-6 victory over Northwest, which won the outright SOC I championship on Friday night.
Minford, meanwhile, suffered its third consecutive defeat —and once again endured its personal house of horrors known as The Reservation.
The Falcons last won at Valley in 2010 —and only did so then by a 7-6 score.
Minford lost 7-0 two years later, the Indians captured their only 2016 triumph by defeating Minford, and two years ago the Valley victory knocked the Falcons out of the playoffs.
Although, of the times and ways in which the Falcons have fallen at Valley, this defensive gem just might be the worst.
Or for Valley, conversely, it’s arguably the best win.
“We had some breaks, but our kids never quit. We had some turnovers and did some things we shouldn’t have done, but the kids just kept fighting and scrapping,” said Valley coach Darren Crabtree. “Defensively, we played so much better tonight than we’ve played in a long time. We were able to rush the ball for over 100 yards, which we haven’t done since week one. (Valley quarterback) Carter Nickel made some big plays with his feet and his arm late in the game. George Arnett had some big catches and runs on the screen pass. And for us to do any of that, our offensive line played much better tonight than it has all year. That was a big difference. When we needed to make plays on fourth down we were able to convert, and defensively the last couple of series when we needed stops we got them.”
The Indians, which committed four turnovers in continuing those season-long struggles, trailed 14-0 with just 10 minutes and 16 seconds remaining —and following their third giveaway.
But the final 10 minutes belonged to Valley, as it crafted a pair of scoring drives — each one covering at least 10 plays, 59 yards and two minutes and 39 seconds.
Trailing 14-7 at the midway point of the fourth quarter, the Indians forced a pair of Falcons three-and-out possessions — sandwiched around a Valley lost fumble.
With Valley taking possession and with only 2:47 to play, it moved a massive 13 plays and 80 yards —and caught a big break when a fumble on the center-quarterback exchange resulted in the ball falling forward and the Indians recovering for a first down on a 4th-and-3 snap.
After quarterback Carter Nickel’s 13-yard completion to tight end Devin Wiley to the Falcons’ 9-yard-line, the Indians then scored on a play that picked up at least nine yards each time they ran it — a Nickel rollout to the right and throw-back screen to the left to George Arnett.
The final of the five times went for the necessary nine yards —as Arnett added special effects, with an up-ending leap and somersault into the end zone to avoid the tackle.
The touchdown made it 14-13 with only eight seconds remaining, and everybody in the stadium — even with limited capacity — knew what was coming next.
Crabtree and his staff wasted no time in deciding to go for the two-point conversion attempt, and Nickel —calling his own number and sprinting to his right towards the front pylon —made his coaches look clever.
Nickel —in oh so close fashion — broke the plane and just cleared the pylon, giving the Indians the thrilling 15-14 come-from-behind lead.
“Hey, I am a gambler. We rolled the dice, through the roulette ball out there. They called timeout, so we told Carter that if the end is hooked, get to the corner of the end zone,” said Crabtree. “Anytime you can keep the ball in your hands and run it in…great decision on his part.”
Nickel replaced the injured Andrew Andronis in the Indians’ third game, and paced Valley with 55 rushing yards on 17 attempts against Minford.
Arnett added 42 yards on 13 totes, but did most of his damage on the throwback screen from Nickel —having caught six passes for 122 yards.
Nickel attempted 20 passes and completed nine for 145 yards and two interceptions, but it was his counterpart’s pick thrown that sealed the win.
Minford senior and Division V all-Ohio quarterback Elijah Vogelsong-Lewis, with seven seconds left, looked for his go-to target Matthew Risner down the sideline —but Valley cornerback Ty Perkins ran right with Risner step-for-step.
It was the final play, but Vogelsong-Lewis’ pass landed right in Perkins’ arms —giving him a walkoff pickoff.
Minford coach Jesse Ruby said simply that it was the last in a series of plays that went against his Falcons all night.
Besides the ill-timed two turnovers, Minford hurt itself with nine penalties for 103 yards.
“So many things went against us in this game. The fumble for the first down on their last drive to turnovers and bad penalties and mistakes and missed opportunities. We had three or four throws that were just inches away from being big gains or touchdowns. Just things we couldn’t overcome,” said Ruby. “Anytime we got something positive going, a penalty brought us back and put us in long yardage situations. We couldn’t get in a rhythm. And Valley just kept battling back and making more plays than we did and things turned their way and they came out on top. Their kids made some good plays.”
Such as Vogelsong-Lewis’ second interception, as the Indians’ defense did its job by not letting him go off for many major pickups.
Valley limited Vogelsong-Lewis to only 28 yards rushing on 13 carries, as he also attempted 28 passes and completed a dozen for 161 yards.
“For the most part, I thought our defensive line did as good a job, if not better than anybody all year, of containing him,” said Crabtree. “He didn’t hurt us running the football like we thought he might.”
The Indians also locked down on Risner, who caught six passes but for only 50 yards.
“Even though we weren’t completely double-covering Risner, we had a spy playing man coverage on him, and our kids decided they wanted to get after it tonight,” said Crabtree. “We were able to take him out of some the games he has had this year.”
Two of Vogelsong-Lewis’ longest gainers went for touchdowns, including the only score through the first three quarters — a quick-flip pass to Jeffrey Pica near the sideline that resulted in a 38-yard catch, run and score.
That was on the opening play of the second stanza, as Adam Crank kicked the extra point for a 7-0 Falcon lead.
From there, though, the Falcons twice in the first half turned the ball over on downs — sandwiched around a punt following a 13-play drive which consumed five minutes and 38 seconds off the second-quarter clock.
In the third quarter and just three plays in, Arnett intercepted Vogelsong-Lewis — but Risner returned the favor at the six-minute mark, as the Falcons punted twice and the Indians once before Nickel was picked by Colin Parker.
Pica, with 54 yards on nine carries, had half of them (27 yards) on the second play following —as Vogelsong-Lewis’ shovel pass to Drew Skaggs resulted in an 18-yard TD just a minute and 44 seconds into the fourth.
Crank’s kick made it 14-0, but from there, Valley made its uphill climb.
The Indians marched 10 plays and 59 yards in four minutes and 16 seconds, opening with a Nickel to Arnett throwback screen for 28 yards —and closing when Nickel faked the option pitch and kept it the final three yards for the score.
Chase Ruby recorded the extra point, slicing Valley’s deficit in half to 14-7 with 5:52 to play.
That set the tone of course for the final Indian drive —which saw Nickel complete passes to Arnett for 12 and 29 yards before his clutch 9-yard TD.
And then, no doubt, there was Nickel’s two-point conversion run — a one-way street to paydirt to stun the Falcons one more time.
“Everything that could have went Valley’s way went Valley’s way,” said Ruby. “This is probably one of the worst (losses) that we’ve had. I felt like we did some things that gave us a chance to win, but we missed too many opportunities.”
“This is a big, hard-fought win for us as we move forward,” he said. “We got some breaks in the last drive to get the ball back and put it in the end zone. But we’ll take it. That’s for sure.”
Both teams will now host first-round playoff tilts next Saturday night — Valley in Division VI Region 23 against Johnstown-Northridge and Minford in Division V Region 19 against Piketon.
Kickoffs are set for 7 p.m.
* * *
Valley 15, Minford 14
Minford 0 7 0 7 —14
Valley 0 0 0 15 — 15
M— Jeffrey Pica, 38-yard pass from Elijah Vogelsong-Lewis (Adam Crank kick), 11:51, 2nd (7-0 M)
M— Drew Skaggs, 18-yard pass from Elijah Vogelsong-Lewis (Adam Crank kick), 10:16, 4th (14-0 M)
V— Carter Nickel, 3-yard run (Chase Ruby kick), 5:52, 4th (14-7 M)
V— George Arnett, 9-yard pass from Carter Nickel (Carter Nickel run), :08, 4th (15-14 V)
First downs 12 16
Plays from scrimmage 53 61
Rushes-yards 25-86 41-131
Passing yards 161 145
Total yards 247 276
Cmp-Att-Int. 12-28-2 9-20-2
Fumbles-lost 0-0 4-2
Penalties-Yards 9-103 4-20
Punts-Ave. 5-40 3-29
RUSHING —Minford: Elijah Vogelsong-Lewis 13-28, Jeffrey Pica 9-54, Matthew Risner 3-4; Valley: Carter Nickel 17-55 TD, George Arnett 13-42, Cody Metzler 7-22, Ty Perkins 2-9, Team 1-3, Jayden Duncan 1-0
PASSING — Minford: Elijah Vogelsong-Lewis 12-28-2-161 2TD; Valley: Carter Nickel 9-20-2-145 TD
RECEIVING — Minford: Matthew Risner 6-50, Jeffrey Pica 2-44 TD, Ethan Conally 2-27, Devin Parker 1-22, Drew Skaggs 1-18 TD; Valley: George Arnett 6-122 TD, Devin Wiley 1-13, Cody Metzler 1-6, Ty Perkins 1-4
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved