BLACKSVILLE – Football coaches often say that a team makes its biggest improvement from game one to game two. They’ll also tell you they look forward to open weeks as their best opportunity to teach, focus on details, and carefully game plan for their next opponent.
After a disappointing, mistake-filled road loss to an improved Hundred team in week one, Clay-Battelle was looking to prove both coach-speak clichés true and even their record when they hosted undefeated Valley Friday night in an important week three match-up.
What unfolded was nothing short of an epic battle, a true war of attrition, and it took nearly 100 points and a round of overtime before the Lumberjacks survived and defeated the lame, game Cee-Bees, 50-48.
In a preview of what was to follow, the Lumberjacks dialed up a play-action bomb on their first offensive play, but C-B defensive back Braden Ponceroff high-pointed the pass for a momentum-setting interception. And when scatback Zach Hall busted off a long cutback 47-yard run down to the Valley five-yard line, it looked good for the Cee-Bees. But two critical penalties backed them up and into a frustrating turnover on downs.
Valley immediately pieced together a 17-play drive, but couldn’t convert a first-and-goal from the five as the C-B defensive line came up huge. However, the Lumberjacks offense took advantage of a short field and a fourth down conversion pass to take their first lead on a 23-yard post route connection from dynamic quarterback Gavin Derby to Joseph Barr to begin the second quarter.
The Cee-Bees responded with a tying score with a 59-yard drive capped by Maddox Shriver’s one-yard plunge. Another C-B interception, this one by Spears, gave C-B another chance on offense, but once again, penalties took away a Shriver long TD run as well as spoiled a red zone chance inside the four.
Consecutive turnovers – a CB fumble, then Ponceroff’s second pick – were followed by Clay-Battelle snagging its first lead when Hall gathered in a swing pass, faked out a corner, then skirted the sideline for an electric 44-yard score, the try for two failed.
The Lumberjacks took advantage of a good return and another costly CB horse collar penalty, then ran their two-minute offense to perfection, scoring on another 23-yard TD pass, a corner-route strike from Derby to Dallas Preat. Down 14-13 with just 24.6 seconds left, Spears somehow found a way to drive 54 yards on three passes, the big chunk a 46-yard pass to Josiah Morgan to the 15, then a final connection to Morgan for the go-ahead score with 1 tick left on the clock. When Maverick Gumm hauled in Spears’ floating pass in the corner for the two-point conversion, Clay-Battelle sprinted into the break with an action-packed 21-14 lead.
C-B won the toss and deferred, a smart choice, as Shriver took the third play from scrimmage right up the gut from 40 yards away to double the lead, 28-14, but Valley answered on Derby’s nine-yard TD run on fourth-and-two, although the extra point was blocked. The Cee-Bees were driving, but a stunning reversal of fortune arrived when Preat plucked a deflected pass and returned it 88 yards for a pick-six, and another successful try knotted the score at 28 heading into the final quarter.
An exhausted and injury-depleted C-B defense sagged on the next Lumberjacks drive, resulting in a nine-play, 62-yard drive to take the lead, Derby running in the final 23 yards. And back came the Cee-Bees, on a seven-yard pass to Ponceroff. A missed kick was negated by a penalty, but C-B couldn’t convert the shortened try, so the score was again tied 34-34. Another monster play put Valley back in front, as a 69-yard bomb from Derby to Barr and a successful try left C-B down by eight with 3:53 remaining.
Somehow, a long tipped pass ended up in the arms of Morgan, then Spears hit Hall for a four-yard touchdown pass, and when Ponceroff snagged Spears’ pass for the tying try, we were – fittingly – headed to overtime.
Valley Wetzel scored after six straight runs, Derby bucking over from the one, then Valley coach Logan Miller rolled the dice when Derby ran in the two-point conversion to go up by eight. The Cee-Bees needed to score, and they did immediately when Hall caught a pass on the sideline and juked, sprinted, and bulled his way through six defenders and into the end zone for a 20-yard TD. But the comeback kids couldn’t extend it to the second OT, as Spears’ pass was knocked away at the back of the end zone.
Exhausted CB head coach Ryan Wilson knew this was one of those games that might’ve ended more appropriately without a winner.
“Neither team deserved to lose that one,” he smiled ruefully, “and we sure didn’t want it to end the way it did. But we lost several starters to injuries, and we kept sending the next guy up out there, some of them kids that haven’t played at this level before. And they kept finding ways to come back and keep us in it. And I couldn’t be more proud of them.
“No doubt, this one was gut-wrenching,” he continued, “especially with all the big plays on both sides. We certainly played better than we did last week, and we’ll need to continue to improve next week. All we can do is drink plenty of fluids, recover this weekend, and then we’ll see who’s available for us on Monday. We’ll get back after it – that’s all we can do.”
The Cee-Bees host Beallsville (OH) this Friday night at 7:00 p.m.
Valley 50, Clay-Battelle 48, OT
Valley Wetzel (3-0) 0 14 14 14 8 – 50
Clay-Battelle (0-2) 0 21 7 14 6 – 48
VW – Joseph Barr 23 pass from Gavin Derby (Derby kick)
CB – Maddox Shriver 1 run (Kooper Statler kick)
CB – Zach Hall 44 pass from JC Spears (try failed)
VW – Dallas Preat 23 pass from Derby (Derby kick)
CB – Josiah Morgan 15 pass from Spears (try good Maverick Gumm pass from Spears)
CB – Shriver 40 run (Statler kick)
VW – Derby 9 run (kick blocked)
VW – Preat 88 INT return (try good Landen Jerico pass from Derby)
VW – Derby 23 run (try failed)
CB – Braden Ponceroff 7 pass from Spears (try failed)
VW Barr 69 pass from Derby (try good Preat pass from Derby)
CB – Hall 4 pass from Spears (try good Ponceroff pass from Spears)
VW – Derby 1 run (try good Derby run)
CB – Hall 20 pass from Spears (try failed)
VW – Derby 8-20-3 186 2TD
CB – Spears 20-32-1 377 4TD
VW – Derby 24-130 3TD Lane Dallison 11-102 Total 35-232 2TD.
CB- Shriver 9-90 2TD, Spears 7-(-12), Zachary Hall 13-126 Total 29-204 2TD.
VW – Barr 4-112 2TD, Jerico 1-21, Preat 3-59 TD, Ethan Williams 1-17
CB – Hall 11-130 2TD, Ponceroff 5-114 TD, Morgan 4-133 TD
VW – Preat
CB- Ponceroff 2, Spears
BY MARK SCHRAF