new richmond — The calendar said October, but Friday night it was Valentine’s Day for Shady Spring.
Sparked by two big touchdowns from speedster Isaiah Valentine, Class AA No. 12 Shady Spring knocked No. 5 Wyoming East from the ranks of the unbeaten with a 27-20 win in a battle of Class AA heavyweights.
“We had some big sacks there at the end and an interception. The boys fight hard and they play hard all the time,” Shady Spring head coach Vince Culicerto said. “They really wanted this win big-time and we were ready.”
Leading 21-14 at the break, the Shady defense was put under pressure time after time in the second half, but refused to fold.
Getting the ball to start the second half, East controlled it for nearly seven minutes in a grueling drive. On a key third play deep in Shady territory, Stephen Crook forced a fumble to give the ball back to the Tigers’ offense.
The momentum was short-lived when the Warriors forced a three-and-out on a big third-down sack from Tanner Jenkins.
Caleb Bower returned the ensuing punt deep into Shady territory and, after a personal foul markoff, East had the ball back inside the red zone. Four plays later, Seth Ross threaded the needle down the seam to Mason Houck to trim the lead to one point at 21-20.
Looking to get the ball back to the offense, the Warriors’ defense played inspired. However, they could not hold on the third-down play when Valentine got behind the defenders.
Quarterback Drew Clark hit his wide receiver in perfect stride and Valentine was off to the races to extend Shady’s lead to 27-20.
“We were running misdirection early in the game. We saw on film that could work pretty good, so we stuck with it,” Culicerto said. “Then we threw in some nice passes. What a nice pass Drew threw to Valley (Valentine) there. He really got himself on track tonight. They hit us with a big play early, then we settled down and made them earn it from there.”
An interception in the fourth quarter from Valentine and a key sack by Isaac Harvey helped the Shady defense pitch a shutout in the final quarter.
“They are tough, but even tougher than I thought,” Culicerto said about his team. “We used to drop our heads when teams started to come back on us. We had a couple of chances to put it away and didn’t. Sometimes your head will dip down when that happens.”
The third-down score was one of three crucial such plays that hurt East in the second half.
“We always say bend, don’t break. We bent too much,” Wyoming East head coach Larry Thompson said. “A couple third downs, we didn’t execute and we broke. Hats off to coach Culicerto and his boys. They came out and put it on us. The season is not over, we are still 5-1 and having a successful season. We have to get ready for Man. Losing builds character. We are going to see how we react going forward.”
Shady Spring controlled the time of possession in the first half, but led by just seven points at the break. Heavy doses of Haven Chapman helped the Tigers keep the ball away from the lethal Wyoming East offense.
On the opening drive of the game, Chapman ran the ball six times for 34 yards and capped a 66-yard drive with a 1-yard plunge.
East wasted no time with a quick strike on its first play from scrimmage.
Ross first faked a pitch to Bower to move the defense, then turned and found Jake Bishop on a 67-yard strike to even the game at 6-6 less than four minutes into the contest.
Mixing the run and the pass, Shady went back to work, moving the ball and chewing up more clock. Keyed by a crucial roughing the passer call on third-and-long, the Tigers used 13 plays to cover 60 yards.
Chapman capped the drive with a four-yard run on fourth down and Shady regained the lead, 13-6.
Things went from bad to worse for the home team when its next two drives ended in a failed fake punt and a turnover on downs.
Between the two possessions, the Tigers scored again to push the lead out to 21-6 in the second quarter.
Chapman had the big play of the drive with a 20-yard jaunt on third down when he looked to be stopped short of the first down marker. Valentine cashed in from five yards out and Shady looked in complete control.
“We just didn’t play well tonight. Too many mistakes,” Thompson said. “Shady came to play. First half we struggled defensively. If we had played like we did in the second half, we would have won the game.”
Shady Spring (6-1) hosts Oak Hill at home next Friday, while East travels to No. 7 Man.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org and follow on Twitter @Rusman1981
SS (6-1): 13 8 6 0 – 27
WE (5-1): 6 8 6 0 — 20
SS: Haven Chapman 1 run (kick blocked)
WE: Jake Bishop 67 pass from Seth Ross (rush failed)
SS: Chapman 4 run (Erick Bevil kick)
SS: Isaiah Valentine 5 run (Jadon Hershberger run)
WE: Caleb Bower 9 run (Bower rush)
WE: Mason Houck 11 pass from Seth Ross (kick no good)
SS: Valentine 65 pass from Drew Clark (kick no good)
Rushing — SS: Chapman 25-130-2, Clark 15-0, Valentine 9-37-1; WE: Bower 16-57-1, Ross 6- (-7), Lookabill 1-2, Hall 6-23.
Passing — SS: Clark 8-16-1-153-1; WE: Ross 13-22-1-226-2, McQuade Canada 1-1-0-16-0.
Receiving — Jadon Hershberger 3-26, Valentine 4-101-1, Harvey 1-27; Lookabill 2-37, Bishop 6-134-1, Canada 1-15, Bower 1-3, Simpson 1-11, Houck 2-24-1.