PDT Sports Writer
Although the cast of characters have changed, Saturday’s Division V, Region 19 Semifinal at Reynoldburg High School between top-seeded Valley (11-0) and No. 4 Bucyrus Wynford (9-2) has the same story lines that were leading up to last year’s regional championship.
Or does it?
The Indians come into this contest with a different personality, known this year more for their stingy defense rather than a high-powered offense highlighted by an eventual Co-Offensive Player of the Year in the state. Entering this weekend’s game, Valley had outscored its last six opponents 171-42 with two shutouts compared to 2011 where the Indians defeated all five SOC II schools and their quarterfinal opponent by a 229-102 margin.
The difference, a 29-7 average margin of victory this season compared to a 38-17 last year is one of the many telling signs, along with composure during stressful situations, of how Valley coach Darren Crabtree has felt his team has responded with this season.
“After the game last Saturday, a lot of fans were (saying) we’ll get our revenge on Wynford,” Crabtree said. “That had not even been mentioned, our kids hadn’t even used that word. It didn’t make any difference if we were playing Wynford or Loudonville, we want to advance.
“We got to this point when a lot of people didn’t think we would. Our kids have gained a lot of confidence, especially the past two or three weeks.”
It will be the fourth-straight week where the Indians take on a playoff team after they eliminated No. 8 Coal Grove (6-4) 41-16 in last Saturday’s quarterfinals thanks to a 27-point third quarter. The Royals shut out the No. 5 Redbirds (8-3) 24-0 to set up the rematch.
“When you beat three playoff teams in a row, the biggest thing we’re wanting to do is just continue to play,” Crabtree said. “Play to our expectations, lets go out and play our best and see what happens. It’s not about trying to get revenge for last year’s (54-48 overtime loss), stop trying to do do anything other than we want to play in Week 13.”
For Wynford, a lot has changed since last year. A group of seniors led by quarterback Zach Chatlain, wide receiver Seth Rall and tight end Jerad Butler have graduated, Gabe Helbert takes over as head coach after Travis Moyer stepped down, the Royals’ 63-game regular season winning streak — the longest-active streak at that point in the state — was snapped in a Week 6 loss to Ontario and leading rusher Corey Brown tore his ACL in a Week 8 win over North Robinson Colonel Crawford.
But for Helbert, who was an assistant the previous eight seasons under Moyer, last year’s team created a blueprint for success that he hopes this year’s team will follow.
“I think it allowed them to write a little bit of their own history,” Helbert said in an interview with the Bucyrus Telegraph-Forum. “We’ve played some good teams, and to be a team that moved on is always something special. Our seniors, we have a huge class of 16 and for them to have the opportunity to practice and play another week is very special.”
Crabtree agrees the previous history for Wynford is something they cannot take lightly.
“They are very resilient and their program speaks for itself as far as the success they’ve had,” Crabtree said. “I think that’s the thing we’ve tried to hit at home with our kids this week is we feel like we’re riding some momentum from last year’s season as well. These guys have done it more consistently than we have and that’s what makes this such a great match-up.”
When Crabtree traded tapes with Helbert, one of the games was the 15-7 loss to Galion. When asked what the Tigers did to win, Crabtree gave a simple answer.
“They scored more points than them,” Crabtree said.
Helbert said he sees some resemblances from last year’s Valley team to this one.
“They are very athletic, very well coached on both sides of the ball,” Helbert said. “What they run offensively and defensively looks a lot on film like last year.”
Kickoff from Reynoldsburg is slated for 7 p.m.
Cody Leist can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 294, or firstname.lastname@example.org.