By Steve Keenan
For The Register-Herald
It was in far from dominating fashion, but Valley continued its recent mastery of Fayette County rival Meadow Bridge Friday.
The Class A co-No. 5 Greyhounds (5-0) pleased an appreciative homecoming crowd at WVU Tech’s Martin Field with a 16-8 conquest of the previously unbeaten Wildcats, who entered the contest in the No. 9 spot.
Counting the postseason, it marked the fourth straight Greyhound victory in the series since Meadow Bridge posted a regular season win over Valley in 2010, the year the Wildcats logged a 10-0 regular season.
Ahead 16-8 on the strength of two Keyshawn Payne rushing touchdowns (a 17-yarder in the first period and a 1-yard plunge in the third), Valley appeared to be ready to salt the game away midway through the final period. Meadow Bridge’s David Gainer, however, picked off a pass that bounced off Valley receiver Druw Bowen’s hands, returning it 36 yards to the Valley 43 with 5:23 left. With new life, the Wildcats followed the running of workhorse Jake Parker to advance the ball to the Valley 10 with 3:35 to go.
Meadow Bridge was then whistled for an equipment violation, as officials said Parker didn’t have his chin strap buckled. On the ensuing play, a fourth-and-6, Valley linebacker Darius Hutchinson fought through the Meadow Bridge offensive line and registered a shoestring tackle of Parker in the backfield, snuffing out the visitors’ chance to tie the contest.
“I knew if he (Parker) got through, the game was on the line,” said Hutchinson. “It was a crucial play.”
“(The sequence of the equipment penalty and Hutchinson’s stop) was a game-changer,” said Meadow Bridge coach Larry McClintic. McClintic said he “didn’t know” whether or not Parker committed the equipment infraction, but added that it was “a terrible time to call it.”
“Valley is a good football team,” he added. “They beat us up front, and he (Valley coach Benny Hopkins) has enough quickness in the secondary that he can (have his players) sit back.
“This may be an eye-opener to our kids. You cannot make mental mistakes.”
On its final possession, Valley got a 13-yarder from Payne on the first play, which also featured two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties on the ‘Cats that moved the chains to the Meadow Bridge 40 with 3:22 to go. Valley eventually gave the ball over on downs on the MB 35, but a key stop by Valley’s Brad Higginbotham on a third-and-10 situation for Meadow Bridge allowed the ‘Hounds to prevent any further damage.
“We’re still making a lot of mistakes,” said Hopkins. “We didn’t play real good, we didn’t play real bad.
“It was a shame somebody had to lose this one.”
Valley limited Parker to 133 yards on 27 carries, his lowest output of the season. He provided his team’s only score, a 19-yard burst in the second quarter that, coupled with his two-point run, knotted the score at 8-8.
Payne finished with 112 yards and two scores on 19 carries for the winners.
“We played flat the first half,” Payne said. “Then (the coaches) drew up some plays and changed some schemes.
“I told the guys we couldn’t lose, with it being homecoming. And our pride was on the line. I think this is going to give us the motivation to keep playing hard and not give up.”
Dante Wilkerson added 66 rushing yard for the ‘Hounds.
Greyhound quarterback Raeshawn Breckenridge was 5-of-9 for 72 yards, with four of the completions going to Bowen for 63 stripes. Bowen’s 34-yard reception on the Meadow Bridge sideline was crucial in setting up Payne’s first score.
Parker had 14 tackles for the Meadow Bridge defense, and Gainer and Craig Peters had interceptions.
Valley travels to play Tug Valley Friday.
Meadow Bridge (5-1) hosts Mount View Friday.
— E-mail: skeenan
MB (5-1) 0 8 0 0 - 8
V (5-0) 8 0 8 0 - 16
V: Keyshawn Payne 17 run (Druw Bowen pass from Henry Barron-Houchins) 6:51
MB: Jake Parker 19 run (Parker run) 4:25
V: Payne 1 run (Raeshawn Breckenridge run) 6:08
RUSHING - MB: Parker 27-133-1, Craig Peters 3-20, Ryan Church 3-(-1), Shane Harless 5-20. V: Breckenridge 13-38, Dante Wilkerson 10-66, Payne 19-112-2, Casey Stewart 2-5, Darius Hutchinson 2-5.
PASSING - MB: Church 0-6-0-0-0, Harless 0-1-0-0-0. V: Breckenridge 5-9-2-72-0.
RECEIVING - MB: None. V: Bowen 4-63, Jaden Bess 1-9.
TAKEAWAYS - MB: Peters (int), David Gainer (int). V: None.