PDT Sports Writer
WHEELERSBURG — In a battle of the top teams in the state of Ohio, opportunities missed for one team became opportunities gained for the other.
Relying on the game management of sophomore quarterback Bryan Rolfe, the leg of sophomore kicker Bryce Romanello and a few second half mistakes by Associated Press Division V top-ranked Wheelersburg, Division VI sixth-ranked Valley clinched at least a share of its third-straight SOC II crown Friday night with a 10-7 win over the homestanding Pirates. The win, capped off by an Eddie Miller fumble with 1:03 to go, also extends the Indians’ regular season winning streak to 29 games.
“We knew that we had to get a defensive stop or make them try to kick a field goal,” Valley coach Darren Crabtree said. “I don’t know how many times (Eddie Miller) has turned the ball over this year. I don’t know which one of our kids caused it (but) we caused the fumble, it wasn’t like he just put it on the ground.”
After a scoreless opening stanza, the Indians opened the scoring with 7:48 to go until halftime on a 2-yard plunge by Alex Loop. However, Eddie Miller needed just 63 seconds to tie the game when he connected with Tyler Claxon on a 75-yard pass play. It was the first time Valley had allowed a point in the first half since the Week 2 contest against Van Buren.
Wheelersburg coach Rob Woodward knew any chances were going to be at a premium.
“In a game like that, the margin for error is so small,” Woodward said. “…Tonight was two great football teams playing one another.”
The Indians regained the lead with their initial possession of the second half thanks to a 21-yard field goal by Romanello. The drive chewed up the first 8:13 of the third quarter.
“He proved last year that he can make kicks in big games, he stepped up tonight,” Crabtree said. “We had done debated whether or not what we were going to do if we didn’t get the first down then we fumbled it and lost a couple of yards. At that point, it was no decision, let’s try to kick it.”
In an attempt to equalize the game on their rebutting drive, the Pirates were able to mount a seven-play drive that encompassed 58 yards but Daylor Lewis’ 32-yard field goal sailed wide left. After the Valley’s next march was halted at the Wheelersburg 31 early in the fourth quarter, the Pirates were rejuvenated with a 51-yard run by Eddie Miller but the drive stalled and Lewis pushed a 20-yard try to the left.
Wheelersburg’s final shot started with 3:35 to go after Bryan Rolfe’s punt reached midfield. Eddie Miller carried the ball five times and set up a first-and-10 on the Valley 15. Eddie Miller carried it a sixth time in the possession and was stripped, allowing Caleb Miller to recover it on the 10 with 1:03 to go, ending the contest.
“I feel for the entire senior group, they deserved it, they’ve worked hard enough but it just didn’t come together,” Woodward said.
Nate Arnett led all rushers with 102 yards on 25 carries while Bryan Rolfe finished with 66 yards on 13 rushes in the win. The Indians were 6-of-13 on 3rd down conversions, converting on four of their five in the third quarter.
“Allowing (Rolfe) to make some plays with his feet, it came up huge,” Crabtree said.
Eddie Miller had 86 carries on 17 totes while going 12-of-23 passing for 219 yards and his team’s passing score. Claxon caught five passes for 96 yards. The Pirates were 4-of-11 on 3rd downs.
Valley can claim the conference outright and extend its streak to 30 games with a win next week at Minford. Wheelersburg entertains West with hopes of hosting a playoff game still available.
Cody Leist can be reached at 353-3101, ext. 294, or email@example.com. For breaking sports news, follow Cody on Twitter @CodyLeist.
V 0 7 3 0 — 10
W 0 7 0 0 — 7
V—Loop 2 run (Romanello kick) 7:48
W—Claxon 75 pass from E. Miller (Lewis kick) 6:45
V—Romanello 21 FG 3:47
First Downs 14 9
Rush Att.-Yds. 51-209 20-100
Pass Att.-Comp.-Int. 7-3-0 23-12-0
Pass Yds. 33 219
Total Yds. 242 319
Fumbles-Lost 1-0 1-1
Turnovers 0 1
Penalties-Yds. 7-37.5 4-16
Punts-Avg. 5-35.6 4-37.8
RUSHING: V — Arnett 25-102, Rolfe 13-66, Loop 5-17, Jordan 7-6, Shope 1-3; W — E. Miller 17-86, Howard 2-13, Ellis 1-1.
PASSING: V — Rolfe 3-7-0 33; W — E. Miller 12-23-0 219.
RECEIVING: V — Arnett 1-21, Clark-Holbrook 1-12, Loop 1-0; W — Claxon 5-96, D. Miller 5-56, May 2-49.
Records — Valley 9-0 (4-0); Wheelersburg 8-1 (3-1).