PDT Sports Report
LUCASVILLE — When it came down to crunch time Friday night, Valley coach Darren Crabtree believed in second chances.
Freshman kicker Bryce Romanello, who had missed a point-after try midway through the fourth quarter of the host Indians’ SOC II showdown Friday with Wheelersburg, banged home a 19-yard field goal with 40 seconds left to give Valley a 9-7 win and at least a share of the team’s second-straight SOC II championship.
“My exact words when he missed the extra point (were) you’re going to kick a field goal to win the game,” Crabtree said. “No kidding, I said keep your head up, we’re going to do something and you’re going to win the game for us.”
Romanello, who replaced Ethan Clark-Holbrook as the kicker midway through the season, was given all the encouragement he needed by his predecessor.
“He helped me throughtout, he told me just to keep my head (up), kick the ball,” Romanello said when referring to Clark-Holbrook, who experienced some kicking woes last season during the playoffs. “He was the first one to congratulate me.”
For coach Rob Woodward, he felt his Pirates ball club made too many mistakes.
“The score didn’t end up where we wanted it to be and we didn’t capitalize when we needed to,” Woodward said. “When it comes down to who deserves to win the game, that question’s being answered on the scoreboard.”
The contest shaped up to be a night where scoring chances were at a premium. After starting the game on a three-and-out, the Indians forced quarterback Eddie Miller to fumble on Wheelersburg’s first offensive play of the game and Matt Rawlins recovered it at the Pirate 34.
The turnover proved to be harmless for Wheelersburg as the Valley offense was forced to punt again on the fourth play of the drive. Freshman Bryan Rolfe buried the Pirates on their own 5 with 9:03 left in the first.
That’s when Miller and Company marched the length of the field and consumed essentially the rest of the first quarter clock. But when the Pirates had the ball 1st-and-Goal at the Indian 3, the defense stiffened on a goal-line stand and gave the Valley the ball on its own 1-yard line with less than 38 seconds to go in the stanza.
“That’s tough to bounce back from,” Woodward said. “Hat’s off to Valley, great defense and they did a tremendous job.”
Although the defensive effort gave the home crowd an extra boost of energy on this cold and damp October evening, the Indian offense still had yet to collect their initial first down of the contest when they punted for a third time. When Wheelersburg started on its third offensive series of the game, Aaron Cowgill put the first points of the night on the board with a 12-yard run to make it 7-0.
The Indian offense finally started clicking on the ensuing series, moving the chains on three occasions, before Brandon Jordan’s fumble was recovered by the Pirates’ Dylan Miller at his own 14. Valley retained possession one more time in the half and marched into the Red Zone but Will Howard’s run on fourth down with 12 seconds left was marked out of bounds at the Wheelersburg 4, a yard shy of the first down.
“We in turn had some great stands down when our back was to the wall as well,” Woodward said. “It was a defensive struggle.”
After a third quarter that watched as neither team ventured into the Red Zone, the Indians picked up possession with 13 seconds elapsed from the fourth quarter, searching for an answer. The answer came in the form of a Nate Arnett 20-yard run with 7:31 remaining.
That’s when Romanello pushed the extra point to the left and made it a 7-6 contest.
Valley’s defense stiffened as they forced the Pirates into just their second three-and-out of the evening. The Indians started what would be their final possession of the game on their won 44 with 5:08 left.
The Valley offense marched 52 yards on 10 plays to set up a 4th-and-Goal from the Wheelersburg 2 with just under 45 seconds to go. Crabtree called for time and sent out his kicker.
“I said let’s kick it and give ourselves a chance to win it with a field goal,” Crabtree said.
From the right hash mark, Romanello split the uprights.
“At that point, I felt very confident because he’s got a great leg and he made a kick under pressure,” Crabtree said.
The Pirates made a frantic dash down the field with 30 seconds remaining, chewing up 45 yards and all but three seconds left for one last gasp. Eddie Miller’s heave to the end zone was intercepted by Clark-Holbrook to end the game.
“Wheelersburg played hard and we played a little bit harder and made some plays,” Crabtree said. “We had some opportunities where they turned the ball over early and we didn’t capitalize. To hold that team to seven points, I thought defensively our kids just did a tremendous job all night.”
Eddie Miller was held to 82 yards rushing on 17 carries and was 6-of-18 passing for 66 yards and an interception. Arnett led all rushers with 92 yards on 20 totes.
“That was two playoff-caliber teams going at it and again we made too many mistakes,” Woodward said. “We have to prove that we deserve to be where we’re at, come out next week and try to do that against our next opponent.”
Valley will look to make it 20-straight regular season wins and its second SOC II title outright next week when rival Minford comes in for Senior Night. Wheelersburg travels to West in need of a win to maintain the Pirates’ chances of a playoff berth.
Crabtree recalled last year’s 39-27 win in the series was a turning point as far as the mindset his program approached with this game.
Cody Leist can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 242, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wheelersburg 0 7 0 0 — 7
Valley 0 0 0 9 — 9
W — Cowgill 12 run (D. Miller kick) 9:54
V — Arnett 20 run (kick failed) 7:31
V — Romanello 19 FG :40.6
First Downs 13 13
Rush Att.-Yds. 34-115 47-201
Pass Att.-Comp.-Int. 19-7-1 9-5-0
Pass Yds. 69 69
Total Yds. 184 270
Fumbles-Lost 1-1 2-1
Turnovers 2 1
Penalties-Yds. 2-10 5-55
Punts-Avg. 3-33.0 4-28.0
RUSHING: Wheelersburg — E. Miller 17-82, Cowgill 11-37, Gifford 4-12, Claxon 2-(-7); Valley — Arnett 20-92, Howard 15-75, Bra. Jordan 8-28, Rawlins 4-8.
PASSING: Wheelersburg — E. Miller 18-6-1 66, D. Miller 1-1-0 3; Valley — Howard 9-5-0 69.
RECEIVING: Wheelersburg — D. Miller 4-43, Claxon 2-23, E. Miller 1-3; Valley — Clark-Holbrook 4-68, Shope 1-1.
RECORDS: Wheelersburg 7-2 (3-1); Valley 9-0 (4-0).