PDT Sports Writer
On Friday night, Wheelersburg and undefeated Valley will square off for the inside track toward the SOC II title.
Somewhere, some time, this scenario has happened before.
In fact, it has. For the past two seasons, this has been the same storyline and each school has been on both sides of the outcome.
The last time the Pirates and Indians battled in Lucasville, Wheelersburg left with a 42-20 win. Last year, Valley returned the favor in the form of a 39-27 contest.
Not only did the winner of this game eventually claim the SOC II outright the next week, the loser dropped the following game and was on the outside looking in when it came to the playoffs.
“I think the expectations for our players are the same as they were last year,” Crabtree said. “We expect to go in and we’re not trying just to compete with Wheelersburg, we expect to go in and win the ball game.”
Woodward wants to make sure his team can block the story lines from their minds and just play.
“We go into every game talking about our records being no wins, no losses,” Woodward said. “For either team, it’s a clean slate that we have to go out and attack with the same preparation that we do in any given week and make sure that we’re ready for the things that Valley can present to us that are problems.”
Crabtree’s Valley (8-0, 3-0) ball club enters this affair with an 18-game regular season winning streak after defeating Northwest last week 49-12 in McDermott. Whenever Wheelersburg is brought up, the issue of stopping quarterback Eddie Miller is normally at the top of the list.
“He’s a double-edged sword, he can hurt you with his arm obviously as he’s got some talented receivers as well, but he makes so many plays with his feet that he really puts pressure on your defense,” Crabtree said. “You have to be able to — and nobody’s been able to do yet — contain him. He makes so many things happen after you put pressure on him but it’s not enough to put pressure on him unless you make the sack.”
For Woodward, his team cannot overlook an Indians offense that has not skipped a beat despite graduating quarterback Blake Yates and running back Luke Keller who shared the SOC II Offensive Player of the Year award last fall with the latter taking home Division V Co-Offensive Player of the Year honor. Their replacements, Will Howard and Nate Arnett, are no slouches themselves.
“Will Howard does a great job of the play action pass and controlling the offense,” Woodward said. “He probably doesn’t throw it down the field as much (as Yates) but he’s just as big a threat of running the ball with his feet. Arnett is a hard runner and is utilized in the same way Keller was and both have just fit right into those roles from that offense last year.”
The Pirates (7-1, 3-0) are looking to hand yet another conference foe its first loss of the season. A week ago, turnovers were on Wheelersburg’s side in a 35-7 home win over previously unbeaten Minford.
Crabtree felt at this point in the season, only a few wrinkles on either side of the ball would be the only changes to his team’s game plan. He pointed out that he doesn’t want his staff to out think or out-coach themselves in this situation.
“The biggest thing is let’s do what we do best, whatever that may be, and see if that’s good enough to win,” Crabtree said. “I don’t think at this point in the season we can go back and reinvent the wheel and expect to be able to do that in a week.”
While each team has big-name players in the skilled position spots, each coach mentioned the talent of other members on the team do pose issues. For Valley, J.J. Hettinger and Hayden Dunn were brought up while the Pirates’ Tyler Claxon and Dylan Miller were named.
Kickoff is slated for 7:30 p.m. Friday night in Lucasville.
Cody Leist can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 242, or firstname.lastname@example.org.