By Gary Fauber
Assistant Sports Editor
As Isaiah Brown made his way across the goal line for a touchdown in the game’s final minute, he raised an index finger to the air.
The game still wasn’t quite over, but Summers County could sniff territory it has not seen in 15 years.
The way Valley had been dropping the ball, maybe Brown and the Bobcats had reason for optimism.
Brown came up big offensively all night and the Greyhounds gave away opportunities left and right, and Summers defeated Valley 28-20 Friday to secure its first playoff berth since 1997.
The Bobcats (7-3) went in rated No. 12 in Class AA. There’s likely no shot of a home playoff game, but Summers is just happy to have the chance to keep playing.
“It just means so much, to the team and all the fans who have followed us throughout the many years that a lot of time were not the kind you want to have,” Bobcats coach Josh Houchins said. “They kept supporting us, and to do it for them and all these players who barely missed out last year and were so heartbroken, and to come back this year and make a run to the playoffs, means a lot to us.”
Last year, Valley beat Summers in Montgomery on Week 11 to keep the Bobcats out of the playoffs. This time, the Bobcats completed the journey on the back of Brown — and a whole lot of help from the Greyhounds.
Brown, a 5-foot-9, 160-pound junior, ran 20 times for 120 yards and three touchdowns. He also caught a 55-yard scoring pass when it looked like Valley’s defense had killed a Summers drive.
He scored rushing touchdowns of 15, 6 and 26 yards, the latter with 56 seconds to play.
That the game came down to the final minute was remarkable.
The game looked early as if it would be a shootout, with each team scoring on two first-quarter possessions. Valley, rated No. 8 in Class A, got started with an 18-yard touchdown run by Cody Winter that Summers answered with Brown’s 15-yard run.
Two plays later, Valley starting quarterback Matt Whiteside connected with Keyshawn Payne, who outraced his defender for a 65-yard touchdown and 14-7 Valley lead.
But Summers came right back. Facing third-and-24 after a bad snap over quarterback T.J. Smith’s head, Brown took a screen pass and went 55 yards for the touchdown that tied the game at 14-14.
The score stayed that way into the fourth quarter, thanks largely to Valley’s inability to hold on to the ball.
The Greyhounds (7-3) fumbled on five of their next seven possessions.
In between was a missed 21-yard field goal attempt to close out the first half and a dropped would-be touchdown pass with 2:54 left in the third quarter.
It was the five fumbles that stood out to veteran Valley coach Benny Hopkins.
“Turnovers killed us,” he said. “We have not turned the ball over like that all year. I don’t know what it was. We have played better than that. But they did a good job. We can’t take anything away from them.”
Making it worse is the fumbles came at the end of big plays that would have resulted in prime field position. One came after a 49-yard reception to the Summers 16, another after a 40-yard gain to the 30 and another after a 35-yard catch to the Summers 23.
“The thing that was bad is they were all in critical situations,” Hopkins said.
“Some of those were forced,” Houchins said. “Our guys did a good job of not giving up on plays. We trailed well and was able to come up and strip on some of them. There were a couple they just flat out put it on the ground. That’s football. They are a heck of a football team. You can’t take anything away from them, either.”
Amazingly, Summers only turned one of the turnovers into points. Brown’s 6-yard run broke the 14-14 tie with 3:50 to play.
Valley finally completed a drive when Raeshawn Breckenridge, who played most of the game at quarterback for the Greyhounds, hit Myles White for a 42-yard touchdown with 2:31 left. The two-point conversion failed, leaving the Bobcats ahead 22-20.
After Brown’s final score, Valley turned the ball over on downs on its final possession.
Breckenridge was 7 of 15 for 208 yards for the ’Hounds.
Both teams now await their playoff fate. Seedings will be determined late tonight after a slew of games rescheduled from Friday because of the effects of Hurricane Sandy.
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Summers County 28, Valley 20
V (8-2) 14 0 0 6 — 20
SC (7-3) 14 0 0 14 — 28
V: Cody Winter 18 run (run failed), 8:02.
SC: Isaiah Brown 15 run (Buddy Vega kick), 4:46.
V: Keyshawn Payne 65 pass from Matt Whiteside (Raeshawn Breckenridge pass from Whiteside), 3:37.
SC: Brown 55 pass from T.J. Smth (Vega kick), :28.
SC: Brown 6 run (Erik Lindsey pass from Smith), 3:50.
V: Myles White 42 pass from Breckenridge (pass failed), 2:31.
SC: Brown 26 run (pass failed), :56.
RUSHING — V: Winter 12-51, Casey Stewart 2-48, Breckenridge 9-41, Darius Hutchinson 3-7, Payne 1-7, Whiteside 1-2. SC: Brown 20-120, Dustin Smith 8-56, T.J. Smith 12-28, Lindsey 2-13.
PASSING — V: Breckenridge 7-15-0-208, Whiteside 1-1-0-65. SC: T.J. Smith 8-13-1-95.
RECEIVING — V: Dante Wilkerson 2-53, Payne 1-65, White 1-42, Winter 1-38, Hutchinson 1-35, Mark Hess 1-25, Whiteside 1-15. SC: Brown 4-55, Matt Ryan 2-26, A.J. Bennett 1-13, Lindsey 1-1.