By Steve Keenan
For The Register-Herald
Richwood’s offense — ineffective for much of the game — awakened in the fourth quarter, and the Lumberjacks suddenly found themselves locked in another close battle with the Valley Greyhounds.
However, Valley’s offense — dormant since building up a 16-0 lead in the game’s first six minutes — came to life in the nick of time, registering a game-clinching touchdown drive that handed the Class A No. 9 Greyhounds a 24-14 verdict over the No. 23 Lumberjacks at WVU Tech’s Martin Field. The triumph kept alive Valley’s quest for a first-round home playoff game.
“(Scoring easily early) is sometimes bad,” said veteran Valley coach Benny Hopkins. “It’s happened before, then we just go to sleep sometimes.
“We just went through the motions (in the second and third quarters).”
After Richwood narrowed the deficit to 16-14 on a 76-yard scoring romp by Michael Adams with 8:52 to go, Valley answered with a crucial 10-play, 73-yard scoring march to seal its seventh win in eight games and help it rebound from last week’s 37-14 thumping at Parkersburg Catholic.
In the decisive possession, the hosts reeled off four first-and-10s, getting important runs covering 9, 11 and 9 yards from Cody Winter and 19 yards from Darius Hutchinson, the latter on a first-and-10 from the 35. Hutchinson closed things out with a 7-yard TD burst, and Winter’s conversion gave Valley a 10-point cushion with 4:45 to play.
A Henry Barron interception killed a subsequent Richwood drive that had just crossed midfield, then the ‘Jacks couldn’t take advantage of a late fumble by Winter (recovered by Richwood’s Curtis Starcher) with the Greyhounds marching inside the Richwood 10 and the clock running out.
Richwood, which turned the ball over three times and advanced into Valley territory (the Greyhound 48) just once in the first half, showed an offensive spark at the outset of the fourth quarter. After Valley turned the ball over on downs when eschewing a punt on fourth-and-5 from the Richwood 47, The Lumberjacks' Terry Frasier took a reverse and scampered 42 yards to paydirt, and Frasier’s two-point reception from Logan Cox trimmed the deficit in half, 16-8.
On Richwood’s next possession, Adams took off on his long scoring run. But, in the end, the Lumberjacks didn’t have enough left to catch Valley.
“We made a lot of mistakes in the first half,” said Richwood coach Jason Rogers. “We jumped offsides, missed assignments, turned the ball over. But Valley will make you make mistakes.
“I’m proud of my kids. They fought hard. We battled as hard as we could.”
Before they went into semi-hibernation, the Greyhounds dominated the early going. They scored first on a Winter 4-yard run that was set up by a Keyshawn Payne interception, the first of three pass thefts by Valley defenders on the evening. Matt Whiteside had a big 16-yard run to keep the drive alive.
Then, Hutchinson crossed the goal line at the end of an 18-yard jaunt, capping a short drive that was preceded by Barron’s 35-yard punt return.
Winter finished off a workmanlike evening with 35 carries for 141 yards and a score. Hutchinson tacked on 65 yards and a pair of TDs.
Adams collected 94 yards and one score on the ground for Richwood, Zach Bennett contributed 64 yards on 19 carries, and Frasier rushed three times for 44 yards and a score.
Valley hosts Midland Trail Friday, while Richwood (3-5) plays at Summers County Friday.
“We’re playing with so many banged up,” said Hopkins. “We just need to get everybody healthy.”
“We’ve got to keep battling,” said Rogers. “We could be a homecoming spoiler next week and knock (Summers) out of playoff contention.”
Then, rival Nicholas County awaits in the regular season’s final week, with the two teams squaring off for the first time in nine years. “We’ve still got a lot to play for.”
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R (3-5) 0 0 0 14 - 14
V (7-1) 16 0 0 8 - 24
V: Cody Winter 4 run (Myles White pass from Henry Barron), 8-0, 8:50
V: Darius Hutchinson 18 run (Matt Whiteside run), 16-0, 6:37
R: Terry Frasier 42 run (Frasier pass from Logan Cox), 16-8, 11:50
R: Michael Adams 76 run (run failed), 16-14, 8:52
V: Hutchinson 7 run (Winter run), 24-14, 4:45
RUSHING - R: Zach Bennett 19-64, Adams 6-94-1, Cox 4-6, Frasier 3-44-1, Team 1-8. V: Winter 35-141-1, Hutchinson 11-65-2, Whiteside 6-35, Keyshawn Payne 5-11, Henry Barron 2-1, Casey Stewart 2-11.
PASSING - R: Cox 5-13-3-27-0. V: Whiteside 0-5-0-0-0.
RECEIVING - R: Adams 1-11, Frasier 2-9, Bennett 2-7. V: None.
TURNOVERS - R: Curtis Starcher (FR). V: Payne (INT), Slayton Beard (FR), Stewart (INT), Barron (INT).