LUCASVILLE — If 2020 has proven anything, it’s that history can be made in many different ways.
Saturday’s opening-round game of the 2020 OHSAA Division VI state playoffs was indeed a historic result for the Valley Indians football program and head coach Darren Crabtree.
However, the previous history between the two programs competing had little bearing on this year’s result.
With their 34-13 win over visiting Johnstown Northridge, the Indians indeed survived — and advanced — to play another week of postseason football for the first time since 2015.
Saturday’s win over the visiting Vikings also scratched Northridge’s name off a rather unique list: teams Valley has played more than once but never defeated.
Regular-season losses to Northridge in Johnstown in 1990 (26-21) and in Lucasville in 1991 (45-30) — also Crabtree’s first and second seasons of his now 31-year career — added the Vikings’ name to that same list, alongside McKell and Liberty Union.
In their 21-point victory in what is likely their final home postseason game, the Indians’ defense made huge first-half plays when they were needed — and allowed their offense room to operate and maneuvers.
“We came out with the attitude that we’re expecting to win this game,” Crabtree said, following the win. “Didn’t play so well early; first couple of possessions had to punt. Our defense played really well, especially in the first half. We settled down, started to block people better up front. The running ability of Carter Nickel and George Arnett really opened things up.”
Northridge ran 58 plays from scrimmage to the tune of 343 yards on the ground, but Valley’s pass defense against the Vikings was incredibly crucial.
The Indians’ secondary intercepted three of Northridge’s seven pass attempts on the night, limiting exactly the type of plays that might have otherwise kept the Vikings in the game.
Each of Valley’s three forced turnovers — two interceptions by George Arnett and another by Ty Perkins — came during the first half as the Indians’ defense pitched a first-half shutout.
“Couple of times we gave up too many yards to them running the football, but anytime they tried to throw, it seemed like we had good pressure on the quarterback,” Crabtree said. “Three picks tonight, that’s a solid effort from our secondary.”
Late second-quarter scores by sophomore quarterback Carter Nickel on a four-yard run and a 39-yard pass from Nickel to Perkins gave Valley a 13-0 lead at the break.
Chase Ruby, Valley’s junior placekicker, knocked through four of his five point-after attempts in the Indians’ three-score victory.
The Indians took a 20-0 lead with 5:03 left in the third quarter — on a one-yard run by freshman Cody Metzler.
J.D. Miller, Northridge’s leading ballcarrier, scored his lone touchdown from one yard out with 1:41 left in the third to avoid the shutout.
Arnett answered with scoring runs of nine and 19 yards on the Indians’ ensuing two drives, putting Valley up 34-7 by the 4:42 mark of the fourth.
In addition to his two interceptions from his safety position, Arnett carried the ball 13 times for a team-high 95 yards.
It was the sophomore tailback who of course caught the nine-yard touchdown pass from Nickel in last week’s win over Minford, before Nickel himself converted the two-point run to seal the rivalry win.
It’s hard to imagine two single plays making as much of a difference in a team’s finish to its season as those have for Valley.
After a thorough handling of their opening-round playoff opponent, Crabtree tended to agree with that conclusion.
“Three seconds on a two-point conversion made so much of a difference in our season,” Crabtree said. “Our kid’s attitudes, their ability coming into this weekend knowing that they could get this done. Our kids came out and practiced well and performed well tonight.”
Just as Northridge had to make the 230-mile round trip to Lucasville for Saturday’s playoff game, Valley will be adding mileage to its tires with a near 200-mile round trip to face Worthington Christian on the north side of Columbus on Saturday (Oct. 17).
The miles will be quite short, however, if the Indians are able to make the trip up-north and steal a road playoff win.
It will be Valley’s first road playoff game since prior to 2000, as most years the regional semifinals are played at a neutral site.
A win over No. 4-seed Worthington Christian would put the No. 13-seeded Indians into the regional quarterfinals of the Region 23 bracket.
Despite the long road trip against a largely unknown opponent, to be playing another week of football, Crabtree put it simply, “it’s a good feeling”.
“Get a long week of practice and preparation,” Crabtree said. “Just got through telling our guys from what I know about Worthington Christian, very much a winnable game for us. We’ll have to play well, clean up some of the mistakes we made tonight. Moving forward, it’s win and advance. Now in week eight, middle of July we didn’t know if we’d be playing week one. To know now that we’re into the second week of the playoffs, it’s a good feeling.”
Valley 34, Northridge 13
Northridge 0 0 7 6 — 13
Valley 0 13 7 14 — 34
V — Carter Nickel, 4-yard run (Chase Ruby kick), 4:36 2Q (7-0 V)
V — Ty Perkins, 39-yard pass from Carter Nickel (PAT no good), 1:30 2Q (13-0 V)
V — Cody Metzler, 1-yard run (Chase Ruby kick), 5:03 3Q (20-0 V)
N — J.D. Miller, 1-yard run (Will Holt kick), 1:41 3Q (20-7 V)
V — George Arnett, 9-yard run (Chase Ruby kick), 9:58 4Q (27-7 V)
V — George Arnett, 19-yard run (Chase Ruby kick), 4:42 4Q (34-7 V)
N — Nic Minder, 4-yard run (kick failed), 1:04 4Q (34-13 V)
|Yards (Pass-Rush)||343 (0-343)||296 (95-201)|
|Time of Possession||
|Penalties||6 for 39 yards||5 for 41 yards|
RUSHING — Northridge: J.D. Miller 21-216 TD, Nic Minder 19-106 TD, Lane Hess 10-20, Will Holt 1-1; Valley: George Arnett 13-95 2TDs, Carter Nickel 15-82 TD, Cody Metzler 5-14 TD, Colton Buckle 2-7, Ty Perkins 1-3
PASSING — Northridge: Will Holt 1-6-0 2INT, Nic Minder 0-2-0 INT; Valley: Carter Nickel 4-7-95 TD INT
RECEIVING — Northridge: Nic Minder 1-0; Valley: Ty Perkins 1-39 TD, George Arnett 2-35, Jayden Duncan 1-21
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved