LUCASVILLE — On Friday night, the Valley Indians stole a game away from the East Tartans, in every sense of the word.
Valley (5-0) forced seven turnovers — five in the first half — on their way to a 55-15 win in a non-conference SOC matchup.
“We came out and played the way we were supposed to,” Valley head coach Darren Crabtree said.
The Tartans (4-1) came ready to play, as their first play from scrimmage went for a 47-yard gain. Quarterback Drew Lowe placed a perfect ball between two Indian defenders into the arms of Akia Brown to give East a first down deep in Indian territory.
But just two plays later, Valley’s Sam Basham jumped a quick slant pass from Lowe and came away with an interception that changed the complexion of the game. From there, the Indians pieced together a four play 59 yard drive — all of which came from Bryan Rolfe and Blake Howard. They capped the drive with a 28-yard pitch and circus catch for a touchdown to give Valley a 7-0 lead.
“If they had went down and scored first, it may have been a different outcome,” Crabtree said.
Later in the first quarter, Valley was on the move, as a 32-yard run by Howard gave the Indians first and goal from the Tartan eight. But the East defense was up the the challenge. They stopped Valley on three straight plays, and Donzell Worthen came up with a sack on fourth down to dig the Tartans out of the hole.
But again, Valley’s defense that proved to be its best offense. A few plays into the ensuing drive, Rolfe stepped in front of a Tartan out-route, picked off a pass from Lowe and had a free pass to the end zone. His score gave the Indians a 14-0 lead late in the first quarter.
Rolfe wasn’t done. On the Tartans’ next offensive series, he turned a halfback pass by Akia Brown into his second interception of the night. He made sure Valley took advantage on their next drive, finding Howard from 18 yards out to make it a three-touchdown lead.
The Indians took advantage of two more Tartan turnovers down the stretch in the second quarter. Gavin Yazell jumped on an Akia Brown fumble, and Rolfe found senior receiver Kenny Williams for a six-yard touchdown. Then, Dylan Howard came up with Valley’s fourth interception, and Blake Howard followed with a 27-yard touchdown run to give the Indians a 35-0 lead.
Howard finished the night with 172 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns.
East did break the scoreboard before halftime, when Lowe found J.D. Hatcher streaking up the seam for an 84-yard bomb to cap the scoring in the first half.
Valley didn’t waste any time in the second half. J.T. Ward took the opening kickoff 33 yards deep into East territory, and their first play from scrimmage was a 39-yard touchdown pass from Rolfe to Williams, which enacted the 35-point running clock rule.
“(Williams) dropped a pass last week in a crucial situation, and we wanted to come back tonight and get his confidence up,” Crabtree said. “Kenny’s a great kid, and no one deserves it more than he does.”
Turnovers continued to be problem for the Tartans as the second half continued. Tye Steward recovered a fumble, which led to a Sam Basham touchdown run, and Derek Burk came up with the Indians fifth interception of the night.
With the game in hand, Valley and East traded scores in the closing minutes of the game. The Indians’ Jesse Jones scored on a 27-yard rush midway through the carter, and Ethan Carver scored on a three-yard dive in the closing seconds of the game.
Valley’s win came without the services of TE/DE/K Bryce Romanello and OL/DL Jordan Spradlin. In filling in at tight end, Levi Whitt came up with two catches for 12 yards, Rolfe went 7-for-7 in kicking extra points and Dakota Bowling slid in nicely in an open spot at linebacker. Even newly converted soccer player Jacob Gibson excelled on kickoffs, recording two touchbacks.
Crabtree expects Romanello to return action next Friday, while he “wasn’t so sure” about Spradlin’s status.
Though it was a tough night for the Tartans, head coach James Gifford knows that his team’s season is far from over.
“We just learn from it and get better. Our attitude and effort was great, we came out fired up and we prepared well,” he said. “We’re not down.”
“I appreciate the crowd we had for Sciotoville, they stuck with us until the very end and that’s what will make us successful,” he added.
East continues its quest for an SOC I championship next Friday, when they travel to McDermott to take on Northwest.
As for Valley, they will open their SOC II slate next week at Waverly, where the Indians will begin their big for a fourth conference title in five seasons.
“Waverly is an improved team from last year. We have to heal up a little more, get some guys back and make a run at this thing,” Crabtree said.
Val — B. Howard 28 yd pass from B. Rolfe (B. Rolfe PAT) (7-0) (9:37)
Val — Rolfe 32 yd interception return (Rolfe PAT) (14-0) (1:54)
Val — B. Howard 18 yd pass from B. Rolfe (Rolfe PAT) (21-0) (10:21)
Val — K. Williams 6 yd pass from B. Rolfe (B. Rolfe PAT) (28-0) (5:06)
Val — B. Howard 27 yd rush (B. Rolfe PAT) (35-0) (4:27)
East — J. Hatcher 84 yd pass from D. Lowe (E. Gifford PAT) (35-7) (2:35)
Val — K. Williams 39 ys pass from B. Rolfe (B. Rolfe PAT) (42-7) (11:37)
Val — S. Basham 25 yd rush (B. Rolfe PAT) (49-7) (6:56)
Val — J. Jones 27 yd rush (2 pt conversion no good) (55-7) (7:12)
East — E. Carver 2 yd rush (E. Carver 2 pt conversion) (55-15) (:05)
Passing — East: D. Lowe 3-13-140, A. Brown 0-2-0; Valley: B. Rolfe 9-11-141.
Rushing — East: A. Brown 10-33, M. Ferguson 1-32, M. Kingery 1-22, E. Carver 4-13, Z. Scott 3-8, E. Gifford 2-6, R. Hunicutt 3-6, K. Flannery 1-3, D. Martin 1-(-2), D. Lowe 3-(-3); Valley: B. Howard 10-88, S. Basham 5-66, J. Jones 3-33, G. Streeter 4-13, B. Rolfe 4-3, D. Howard 1-2.
Receiving — East: J. Hatcher 1-84, A. Brown 1-47, E. Gifford 1-9; Valley: B. Howard 5-84, K. Williams 2-45, L. Whitt 2-12.
East 4-1 (1-0 SOC I); Valley 5-0.
Reach Alex Hider at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931 or on Twitter @PDTSportsWriter