Valley Christian downs United, 36-17
CAMPBELL – The first week of the league play in the Eastern Ohio Athletic Conference (EOAC) featured a huge match-up between arguably the top two contenders for the league title. The battle of the Eagles saw the Valley Christian Eagles grab an early advantage in the conference race with a 36-17 victory over United on Saturday night.
The victory for Valley keeps them undefeated on the season with a perfect 4-0 record, and 1-0 in the EOAC. United suffered their first loss as they fall to 3-1 on the year, 0-1 in the league.
“From the beginning of being here last year to right now, the kids have really bought in,” Valley’s head coach Andy Hake said. “I can’t say enough of them (United), but this is a great way to start the league being 1-0. We have a lot of tests left (this season), and we are going to enjoy this one tonight and get back at it tomorrow.”
The contest was a hard-hitting affair, with Valley taking control of the contest in the second half as they distanced themselves with a 1-yard run by Ja’Sean Lindsey on the Eagles first possession of the second half to boost their advantage to 28-10 at the 8:05 mark of the third quarter.
“We just had to pick it up more and start working harder,” Lindsey remarked on the halftime conversations. “This is a huge win for us. We can win the conference with this huge win. This was a big one.”
“They played physical for 48 minutes,” United’s coach DJ Ogilvie stated. “They matched our physicality tonight, and that was the difference.”
Then it was Valley’s defense that stole the spotlight when junior Marquez Gibson scooped up a United fumble and raced 42-yards for a touchdown and increased their lead to 36-10 with 7:34 remaining in the third frame. That fumble return for a touchdown was Gibson’s second in the past two games.
United added a 32-yard touchdown pass from Luke Courtney to Hayden Castro on the first play of the fourth quarter to cut the deficit to the final 36-17 score. United appeared to have scored again a second later after an on-side kick recovery and a 25-yard run by Brock Rhodes, but the officials called the touchdown back due to an illegal substitution infraction.
“I told them that you guys wanted to have a program,” Hake said of his team. “This was a program game. If you want to have a program, you have to show up at program games. We had guys that really wanted to show everybody that we have a program.”
Valley scored on their first three of their four first half possessions of the game as Jhordan Peete scored on a 1-yard dive at the 8:18 mark of the first quarter, Jon’Trell Mixon added a 3-yard run with 9:22 remaining in the second quarter, and an 8-yard scamper by Lindsey with only 8-second left before halftime.
United would score on their opening possession an impressive 12-play, 60-yard drive with Courtney connecting with Grant Knight on a 10-yard pass to take an early 7-6 lead at the 4:09 mark of the first quarter.
They would add a 30-yard field goal by Courtney with 3:59 remaining in the second quarter to make it 14-10 in favor of Valley Christian. That kick came at the end of another long drive of 10 plays.
“We’re healthy,” Ogilvie said with a chuckle of the positives to take from the game for his Eagles. “We’re healthy in a tough, hard fought physical game like this. Being healthy is key.”
United will look to bounce back when they host the Leetonia Bears next Friday night. Valley will play at home again next Saturday night when they host Lisbon.