LUCASVILLE — The end of the first act, of what will hopefully be two football games between archrivals Valley and Northwest this season, simply saw a plot twist.
Let’s just hope the sequel in three weeks is as good as, or even better, than the original.
That’s because the Indians, in fourth-quarter comeback and even cardiac fashion, erased a 21-7 deficit to the visiting Mohawks on Friday night —taking advantage of two lost Northwest fumbles for 21 period points and capturing a 28-21 non-league victory on a steamy Reservation.
That’s correct, as it was another Valley rally.
In the regular-season finale from a year ago, the Indians overcame a 14-0 deficit to their other archrival —the Minford Falcons — for a stunning 15-14 home triumph.
The Indians only had half a quarter to work with in that comeback bid, but gained an extra six minutes against Northwest —which eventually left Lucasville defeated once again, and even more significantly banged up going forward.
Both clubs are now 1-1, and will rematch — coronavirus permitting — once again on Sept. 17.
Speaking of Sept. 17, it was actually Sept. 15 and clear back in 2000 when the Mohawks last defeated the Indians —as the two schools are a straight-shot drive along Ohio routes 728 and 348.
Though they obviously haven’t played every year in the past two decades, Friday night’s encounter wasn’t even supposed to take place.
With week five being their annual affair, their original opponents — Coal Grove for Valley last Monday and McClain for Northwest on Thursday —opted out of those scheduled contests citing their coronavirus situations.
So the matchup was made on Thursday night for Friday, and throw in a 40-minute weather delay —and the run-heavy Mohawks made their second consecutive visit to Valley, after losing last season there 28-6.
But with Northwest in control with a 21-7 lead, thanks to Evan Lintz touchdown runs at the open and close of the third period —it appeared as if the Mohawks were poised for that thirst-quenching and drought-ending victory over Valley.
However, for the Mohawks, as NewFound Glory once sang, it was “all downhill from here”.
The Indians amounted 21 fourth-quarter points over the final nine minutes and 26 seconds, as Northwest — with its unorthodox double-wing and double-tight end offensive attack — ran only seven scrimmage plays in the entire final dozen minutes.
Two of those were lost fumbles, and the Mohawks’ final two plays resulted in their only pass completion of the entire game — before an incompletion to end it.
The Indians, on the other hand, took full advantage —including the game-winning touchdown, as junior George Arnett in the final nine seconds squeezed the necessary nine yards into the end zone to cap an impressive 13-play, 59-yard scoring drive which consumed five full minutes off the clock.
Chase Ruby, with his fourth of four successful extra-point kicks, made it 28-21.
That followed the Mohawks’ second lost fumble, which occurred at the Valley 40-yard line — and knocked the standout linebacker Lintz out of the game with an injury.
It was Valley’s longest scoring march in terms of plays, and highlighted the Indians’ patience and persistence in completing their comeback.
Before Arnett’s 9-yard TD run, the Indians’ only play of those 13 on that drive which was longer was a 10-yard completion from quarterback Carter Nickel to Chase Morrow.
Nickel completed 10-of-19 passes for two touchdowns and 174 yards, with five of those completions and 132 of those yards and both scoring strikes going to Colton Buckle.
Arnett (16 yards) and Morrow (20 yards) caught two passes apiece, as Arnett amounted 122 yards and two trips to paydirt on a game-high 18 carries.
Nickel rushed 14 times for 26 yards, and recovered his own fumbled snap on that final drive —a mere four plays in.
“When you turn the ball over, it gives the other team momentum. So that first fumble which we recovered gave us some life down 21-14. Carter Nickel was able to find Colt Buckle, and we found a couple of things in the passing game that were working real well and we went back to them. That opened some things up for us to run the football with George (Arnett) and Carter, and our offensive line chipped in in the second half,” said veteran Valley coach Darren Crabtree. “To put up 21 points in the fourth quarter, it wasn’t the way we exactly drew it up, but our kids came to life and we found a way to win.”
While it was indeed a great rally by Valley, it was a devastating defeat —in more ways than one —for the Mohawks.
They lost Lintz with an apparent shoulder injury, and star running back Brayden Campbell couldn’t play in the second half with what is believed to be a broken foot.
Campbell carried a dozen times for 89 yards in the opening half, but spent the second half sitting on the Northwest sidelines — with his shoulder pads and helmet off.
Then, Campbell’s backup at tailback — Kory Butler — suffered what was a possible serious knee injury.
“We’re banged up real bad right now. We lost Campbell early and Evan Lintz late and Kory Butler late,” said a dejected Northwest coach Bill Crabtree.
Key injuries aside, the Mohawks helped the Indians out by putting the ball on the ground —as Valley seniors Morrow and Tanner Mefford made hits that knocked the ball loose.
The first Northwest fumble was near midfield, as the Indians actually recovered at the Mohawks’ 45.
On the first play following, Nickel threw deep to Buckle for 33 yards —as those two hooked up again four plays later for the tying score from the 8-yard-line.
The TD pitch-and-catch came on 4th-and-6, as Ruby forged the 21-21 tie with his third extra-point kick with 7:11 remaining.
“We found some things through the passing game, because down 21-7 in the fourth, we had to throw the ball a bit. Carter (Nickel) came through and made some nice passes and kids stepped up and made some key catches,” said Darren Crabtree. “That’s what it’s about.”
On the Indians’ initial scoring drive of the fourth, Nickel found Buckle for 27 yards to the Mohawks’ 32 —as Nickel had pickups of six, eight and nine yards, sandwiched around an Arnett 5-yard gain.
With nine-and-a-half minutes remaining, Arnett capped the seven-play, 65-yard, two-minute and 34-second drive with another 5-yard run for his first touchdown trip.
Northwest actually outgained the Indians by a single yard (329-328), including a decisive 305-154 on the ground.
But the Indians, although they fumbled three times, didn’t lose any —and finally got in the end zone for the first time all season with only 18 seconds remaining in the opening half.
With Valley trailing 7-0 — and after first-half previous possessions which featured two punts, an interception and a turnover on downs at the Northwest 28 —Nickel connected deep to Buckle, who made the catch at the Mohawk 30.
Northwest’s Tanner Bolin broke on the football for the interception attempt but missed, as Buckle turned and dashed the final 30 yards for the 57-yard long-distance hit.
Ruby, with his first extra-point kick, tied the game going into the half —and briefly had the Indians on the upswing.
“We hadn’t scored in two scrimmages and one game before that touchdown,” said Darren Crabtree. “So that touchdown was really big.”
However, that 7-7 tie only lasted 37 seconds, as Lintz —whose 12-yard TD run on the final snap of the third quarter made it 21-7 — sprinted 79 yards to the house only 19 tics in.
Jay Jenkins made all three of his extra-point kicks for the Mohawks, as Lintz led all rushers with 174 yards on 15 attempts — having to pick up the second-half slack for the injured Campbell, before he too was forced out.
Wyatt Brackman — who capped a 65-yard, 10-play, four-minute and 44-second drive with a 1-yard dive to give Northwest its 7-0 lead — added seven carries for 23 yards.
Unfortunately for the Mohawks, though, Friday’s grudge match will be remembered most for their losses — first fumbles, then injuries, and ultimately the game.
“The ball just didn’t bounce our way tonight, or at least in the fourth quarter, and it’s hard when you don’t or can’t prepare for this type of game all week,” said Bill Crabtree. “Our kids wanted this game real bad as you can see, and I’m proud of them for playing their guts out and fighting and battling and nobody quitting. We were banged up bad and young guys were in there trying to make plays. We need to get healthy because we’ll see them again in three weeks.”
And, both clubs will actually have time to prepare for that second act — as the Indians are the ones making the short trek to Roy Rogers country next time.
The last time the two met two years ago at refurbished Roy Rogers Field at Northwest — it was a 21-14 overtime victory, and another rally, by Valley.
“We’ve been on the winning end of two real close games with them the last three years. Both teams played real hard, and nobody ever fumbles or makes mistakes on purpose,” said Darren Crabtree. “To see their kids keep fighting, and our kids fight back in the fourth quarter to get the win, it’s why you play. We made some plays when we had to, played better defensively, figured out what we could do offensively, and we sneak out of here.”
* * *
Northwest 7 0 14 0 —21
Valley 0 7 0 21— 28
N — Wyatt Brackman, 1-yard run (Jay Jenkins kick), 5:11, 1st (7-0 N)
V — Colton Buckle, 57-yard pass from Carter Nickel (Chase Ruby kick), :18, 2nd (7-7 tie)
N — Evan Lintz, 79-yard run (Jay Jenkins kick), 11:41, 3rd (14-7 N)
N — Evan Lintz, 12-yard run (Jay Jenkins kick), :00, 3rd (21-7 N)
V — George Arnett, 5-yard run (Chase Ruby kick), 9:26, 4th (21-14 N)
V — Colton Buckle, 8-yard pass from Carter Nickel (Chase Ruby kick), 7:11, 4th (21-21 tie)
V — George Arnett, 9-yard run (Chase Ruby kick), :09, 4th (28-21 V)
First downs 14 16
Scrimmage plays 46 55
Rushes-yards 43-305 36-154
Passing yards 24 174
Total yards 329 328
Cmp-Att-Int. 1-3-0 10-19-1
Fumbles-lost 3-2 3-0
Penalties-yards 5-35 5-36
Punts-Ave 3-28.3 4-24.25
RUSHING —Northwest: Evan Lintz 15-174 2TD, Brayden Campbell 12-89, Wyatt Brackman 7-23 TD, Kory Butler 3-14, Austin Newman 3-4, Jesse Copas 1-3, Zane Gilley 1-1, Team 1-(-3); Valley: George Arnett 18-122 2TD, Carter Nickel 14-26, Chase Morrow 4-6
PASSING — Northwest: Austin Newman 1-3-0-24; Valley: Carter Nickel 10-19-1-174 2TD
RECEIVING—Northwest: Jesse Copas 1-24; Valley: Colton Buckle 5-132 2TD, Chase Morrow 2-20, George Arnett 2-16, Brenden Vice 1-6
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @paulboggssports © 2021 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved