By Gary Fauber
Assistant Sports Editor
A magical season for Valley came to a screeching halt Saturday.
The Class A No. 3 Greyhounds could not stop Magnolia’s all-state running back Drew Keller, who flirted with the Class A record for rush attempts in a playoff game. He fell short of that mark, but ran for 239 yards and three touchdowns in a 42-16 win in a first-round game at UC Stadium/Laidley Field.
The No. 14 Blue Eagles (7-4) went exclusively with the run, attempting just one pass out of 55 total plays. With a player the caliber of Keller, why not?
A 5-foot-9, 180-pound senior, Keller averaged 6.6 yards per carry. His 36 rushes were 10 shy of the Class A playoff record of 46.
Keller scored on runs of 1, 13 and 3 yards. The 13-yarder was the most impressive — he appeared to be stopped by two defenders, but spun from their grasps and continued to the end zone to give Magnolia a 28-8 lead with 1:52 left in the first half.
It wasn’t Keller by himself, however. Eric Smith ran for 121 yards and a touchdown, while quarterback Jacob Brill carried nine times for 79 yards and two scores.
Tyler Anderson’s 9-yard gain late gave the Eagles 449 rushing yards. Brill completed one pass attempt for minus-1 yard.
“We didn’t play very well,” veteran Valley coach Benny Hopkins said. “If we would have come out and were able to tackle, it could have been a lot different.”
“Our offensive line controlled the line of scrimmage,” said Magnolia coach Mark Batton. “Drew did that and then you’ve got Eric on the edge a little bit, and then you always have Jacob (handing off) or keeping it. It was a great game out of those three ... but the offensive line did a tremendous job.”
Brill and Keller alternated running with direct snaps in the wildcat formation, which seemed to cross up the Valley defense.
“They’ve got a good football team,” Hopkins said. “We’ve been playing pretty well ... They are probably a sleeper in single-A. They were quicker than we thought they would be.”
Magnolia also benefited from a couple of mistakes by the Greyhounds, including Raeshawn Breckenridge’s muffed punt that was recovered by the Eagles’ Kaje Rhode at the Valley 29-yard line. The ensuing drive saw Keller carry on all eight plays, including a 1-yard touchdown to make it 21-0 with 5:41 left in the second quarter.
Breckenridge also fumbled at the goal line on what looked to be a sure touchdown run on the first drive of the second half.
Aside from those plays — and a 31-yard loss on Valley’s last offensive play — the game was mostly positive for Breckenridge, a senior who emerged as a three-sport star last year after transferring from George Washington. He led Valley (10-1) with 115 yards rushing, and completed 8 of 14 passes for 111 yards, including a 23-yard touchdown to Druw Bowen in the fourth quarter.
Bowen also caught a 2-point conversion pass from Henry Barron-Houchins on the play. Barron-Houchins took a pitch from Breckenridge and looked to be stopped along the left sideline, but was able to stay in bounds, reverse direction and fire a laser to Bowen standing at the center of the goal line.
Barron-Houchins went airborne and scored on a 10-yard run to get the ’Hounds on the board, 21-8 with 3:26 left before halftime.
Bowen had 67 yards on three receptions.
Despite the loss, 2013 will long be remembered among the Valley faithful. Last week’s 60-20 win over Gilmer County capped off the first 10-0 season in school history.
“We had a good year,” Hopkins said. “You can’t (be disappointed by) a 10-win season.”
Magnolia will travel to No. 6 Moorefield for a quarterfinal game next weekend.
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M (7-4) 14 14 7 7 — 42
V (10-1) 0 8 0 8 — 16
M—Jacob Brill 1 run (Oscar Celedon kick), 8:03.
M—Eric Smith 68 run (Celedon kick), 4:35.
M—Drew Keller 1 run (Celedon kick), 5:41.
V—Henry Barron-Houchins 10 run (Raeshawn Breckenridge run), 3:26.
M—Keller 13 run (Celedon kick), 1:52.
M—Keller 3 run (Celedon kick), 4:32.
M—Brill 1 run (Celedon kick), 10:11.
V—Druw Bowen 23 pass from Breckenridge (Bowen pass from Barron-Houchins), 5:52.
RUSHING — M: Keller 36-239, Smith 6-121, Brill 9-79, Tyler Anderson 1-9; V: Breckenridge 18-115, Donte Wilkerson 3-28, Keyshawn Payne 5-21, Casey Stewart 2-7, Barron-Houchins 2-4, Darius Hutchison 3-0.
PASSING — M: Brill 1-1-0-(-1); V: Breckenridge 8-14-0-111.
RECEIVING — M: Keller 1-(-1); V: Bowen 3-67, Wilkerson 3-23, Barron-Houchins 1-15, Payne 1-6.
TAKEAWAYS — M: Kaje Rhode (FR), Kyle Ritz (FR); V: Payne (FR).˙