PDT Sports Writer
The last time Minford and Valley squared off in Lucasville on the gridiron, one point separated who went to the playoffs and who stayed at home.
Two years later, neither team has to worry about winning to play into the next week. Both the Falcons and Indians already have playoff berths secured, but so much will still be on the line.
Not only does the possibility of a home playoff game hang in the balance for the winner, but also how the SOC II finishes is determined with the outcome of this game. If Valley, which already has at least a piece of its second-consecutive SOC II title after defeating Wheelersburg last week 9-7 and now ranked No. 11 in the latest Associated Press Division V poll, can have the crown for itself and extend its regular season winning streak to 20 games.
The last team to beat the Indians were these same Falcons in a 7-6 decision to end the 2010 season and advance into the Division V, Region 19 playoffs and knock Valley out. If Minford wins, not only would the streak end, the Falcons could clinch at least a share of the SOC II. Factor in a Pirate win at West and the SOC II could potentially be a three-way tie by the end of Friday night.
Needless to say, both Minford coach Brent Daniels and Indians coach Darren Crabtree know what’s at stake beyond what this 7.7 mile border war usually brings.
In the past 10 meetings, the two teams have split the series. In those contests, five have been decided by seven points or less.
Daniels understands the game at the line of scrimmage will be crucial in a game such as this as it has been every week leading up to Friday night. He felt this week’s practices were a step in the right direction towards a good game.
“The kids have been in really good spirits and we’ve practiced exceptionally well this week,” Daniels said. “It’s Week 10 and it’s just time to play.”
Crabtree said he is expecting another close contest and a great effort by both teams. Last week’s win over Wheelersburg was an emotional one, this week Crabtree sees another motivator in play for the Indians.
“Last week, the expectations of playing Wheelersburg for the possibility of being league champions, our kids kind of relied on that emotion,” Crabtree said. “This week, a lot of them are going to rely on the experience they gained last year, knowing that every week in the playoffs is a tough, emotional game.”
The Falcon squad will depend on the running tandem of Sean Berry and Austin Carter to generate the offense. Last week, the duo combined for 197 yards rushing and four rushing touchdowns in their 48-7 win over Waverly.
The Valley defense is coming off a game where they held Eddie Miller to 148 yards of total offense. Crabtree says attacking the offensive line will help his team stop the Minford running game.
Although the playoffs are going to be there next week, Daniels said the focus is on the Indians. Namely, stopping quarterback Will Howard and Nate Arnett will be his team’s focal points. The pair racked up 167 yards on the ground against Wheelersburg.
“Valley’s a very good football team, they’ve got a big offensive line, some great skilled kids,” Daniels said.
If this contest were to be decided in the final moments, Valley could be riding the hot foot of freshman kicker Bryce Romanello. Not only did he kick the game-winning field goal last Friday, he collected the game-winning goal in overtime Monday for the boys soccer team to defeat Leesburg-Fairfield 1-0.
Cody Leist can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 242, or email@example.com.