Former conference foes meet again

Valley, East to square off in battle of undefeated teams

Alex Hider | PDT East’s Akia Brown runs for a touchdown in the Tartans’ win last Friday against Green.

Alex Hider

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Scioto County will get a blast from the past this Friday, when the East visits Lucasville to take on the Valley. This week marks the first time in a decade — when both schools were part of the SOC I — that the Tartans and Indians have squared off.

After 10 seasons in the SOC’s “large school division,” Valley’s football program has grown from one of the best in the county to perhaps the best in the region. But this week, the Indians will try to avoid playing “Goliath” to East’s “David.”

Both teams will enter Friday’s game undefeated, but the Tartans (4-0) will have their hands full, playing on the road against a 2014 Final Four team in a larger division.

“They’re the Valley Indians. They’re one of the top one or two teams in Scioto County every year. We give them credit, it’s going to be a tough task,” East head coach James Gifford said.

The Indians (4-0) are coming off their closest contest of the season, a 28-22 win over Raceland (Ky.). Valley trailed for most of the game, but was able to use a 6-play, 65-yard fourth quarter drive to score the winning touchdown and clinch a victory, something Valley coach Darren Crabtree was more than pleased to see.

“Anytime you’re challenged like that and you pass that test, it gives your team more confidence,” he said.

East’s biggest challenge will come on defense, where they’ll be tasked with stopping an offense containing six All-District players from a season ago, including quarterback Bryan Rolfe, running back Blake Howard and fullback Drew Wolford. In each of their first four games this season, the Indians have scored at least 28 points.

“They have so many weapons, what do you do, other than just play your defense?” Gifford said. “Maybe they’ll make some mistakes, you can win the turnover battle and go that route with it.”

The Tartans defense has been stout through the first half of the season, thanks to the play of sophomore inside linebackers Ethan Carver and Ethan Gifford. But this week, they’ll face the toughest test of the their young careers.

“They’re going to have to grow up a lot,” Gifford said. “They seem excited for the challenge, which is good to see. They also understand and give Valley credit that it’s going to be a difficult task.”

Valley has its weapons, but East has more than a few of its own. Junior running back Akia Brown is well on his way to his third-straight 1,000-yard season, fellow backs Zane Scott and J.D. Hatcher have been getting it done on the ground and in the passing game, and quarterback Drew Lowe has come into his own as one of the best signal-callers in the SOC I.

“Drew has managed their games pretty well…he’s stepped in and done a nice job for them,” Crabtree said. “They’re very diversified on what they can do running and throwing the ball, and we have to do what we can do to stop them in both aspects of the game.”

And, of course, the Tartans have right tackle Blaine Scott. The 6-5, 300-pound sophomore is already regarded as one of the top lineman in the state in just his second year of high school football.

“He moves his feet very well. If he gets locked into you he’s going to create some openings for their backs to run through. He’s been impressive to watch on film,” Crabtree said.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re SOC I or SOC II or if you’re in a bigger division than that. Blaine is a good ballplayer. No matter what game you go in to, you expect Blaine Scott to do well,” Gifford said.

While the Tartans will be relatively healthy coming in to Friday’s matchup, the Indians are a little beat up. The Daily Times reported last Friday that Wolford, Bryce Romanello, J.D. Dejarnette and Jordan Spradlin all suffered injuries in the Indians’ game with Raceland. Crabtree did not comment on their statuses heading into this week’s game with East.

Though the Indians open their slate for a fourth SOC II title in five years next week, they’re not looking past the East Tartans.

“We challenged our kids at the beginning of the year to play to our ability each week: Our biggest opponent each week is ourselves, and to not look ahead at what we’re trying to accomplish,” Crabtree said.

The Tartans may have to play the game of their life on Friday to keep their dream of an undefeated season alive, but Gifford thinks his team is up to the challenge.

“I think we can go into Lucasville and have great attitude and great effort,” Gifford said. “Sometimes, you can’t control everything on the scoreboard, but what we can control is having great attitude and great effort.”

Kickoff for Friday’s game is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at Valley High School.

Reach Alex Hider at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931 or on Twitter @PDTSportsWriter

Alex Hider | PDT East’s Akia Brown runs for a touchdown in the Tartans’ win last Friday against Green. Hider | PDT East’s Akia Brown runs for a touchdown in the Tartans’ win last Friday against Green.
Valley, East to square off in battle of undefeated teams
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