Big Plays, Not Better Numbers, Break Hawks

Malik Horton (9) gets the stiff-arm from Spring Valley's Tyjuan Fulton. (Photo/Ross Burton)

Malik Horton (9) gets the stiff-arm from Spring Valley’s Tyjuan Fulton. (Photo/Ross Burton)

BLYTHEWOOD – Statistics mean nothing. Just ask the Westwood Redhawks, who chalked up 17 first downs Friday night at Richland District Stadium 3 to Spring Valley’s 6, and who amassed 341 total yards to the Vikings’ 257; who had no fumbles vs. Spring Valley’s one, and who had 20 fewer yards in penalties.

But who also lost to the Vikings 21-14 in the penultimate struggle for second place in Region IV-4A.

“They beat us on big plays,” Westwood head coach Rodney Summers said. “They’re playing for second in the region. You’ve got to figure Dutch Fork is going to beat Lugoff tonight (and they did, 42-0), so this game was for second place, if they can beat Blythewood next week, so they’ve got a lot they’re playing for. I knew they were going to give us all they’ve got.”

In any given game – particularly a game played so closely, with so much on the line – only a look back in the rear-view mirror can accurately determine the turning point of the battle. Friday night, it was just before the half.

Trailing 14-7 and facing a fourth-and-10 from their own 40 with but a few ticks left on the second quarter clock, Redhawk quarterback Jalen Smith launched a desperation pass down the right side of the field. Spring Valley’s Quincy Hill made a leaping interception near the Vikings’ 25, then threaded his way through traffic before breaking free down the near sideline for a pick-6 with no time left. R.J. Bacon’s point after gave Spring Valley a 21-7 lead going into the break and a heaping slice of momentum to boot.

“I made a bone-headed (call) at the half throwing that Hail Mary,” Summers said. “Who would have thought they were going to pick it off and run it all the way back? I was just trying to give our kids a chance. But hindsight, you look back on it, I probably should have just gone into the half down 7. The worst thing happened there that could have happened. That was the difference. You don’t know it’s going to come down to that.”

Hill’s interception return was the last of three big plays the Vikings used to dispose of the Redhawks.

The initial big blast came on Spring Valley’s first play of the game.

Taking over on their own 26 after Smith’s fourth-and-4 pass fell incomplete, Spring Valley running back Tyjuan Fulton took the pitch from quarterback Ryan Lee, turned the corner and erupted down the far sideline for an instant 7-0 lead with 5:39 left in the opening frame.

Fulton struck again in the second, breaking a 7-all tie with another 74-yard dash around the far corner. Bacon’s PAT made it 14-7 Vikes with 7:24 to go before the break.

Westwood’s superior ground game didn’t make much of a showing in the muck and mud Friday night, with the Hawks instead taking to the air 31 times to gobble up 201 yards. The typically prolific Rudy Mitchell was held to just 80 yards on the ground, while Andrew Plante accounted for a mere 10.

“It was just a matter of the field conditions,” Summers said. “You would think you could probably run it in this, but we were just having some issues running the football so we went to that (pass). They were giving us a lot of cushion out there, so we were hoping our guys could take a 5-yard play and turn it into a big play like you saw on the first touchdown.”

Indeed, Montre Miller took a short pass from Smith with 8:15 left in the first half and turned it into a 14-yard score. Brandon Howard tied the game at 7 with his PAT.

Spring Valley, meanwhile, chewed up the turf with their flex-bone offense, churning out 251 yards on the ground. The Vikes went to the air just three times, with Lee good for a pair of completions to Justin Haynes for a total of 6 yards.

But the Westwood defense clamped down in the second half, holding the Viking to 70 rushing yards through the final two quarters.

“Our guys fought back in the second half,” Summers said. “(Our defense) played a lot better. Offensively, we moved the ball.”

The Westwood defense held the Vikings to a three-and-out on Spring Valley’s opening possession of the third, setting up the Redhawks’ final scoring drive. Starting at his own 35, Smith went to work dicing up the Viking secondary with passes of 10, 20 and 9 yards – all to Miller – while Mitchell lugged the ball down to the Spring Valley 7. Smith polished off the drive with a 7-yard scamper with 6:41 left in the third and Howard’s PAT narrowed the gap to 21-14.

The Redhawks had a chance midway through the final frame to tie the game, driving from their own 29 down to the Vikings’ 11. Up against a fourth-and-6, Smith’s pass into the corner of the end zone was wide and Spring Valley took over on downs.

“We came up short there,” Summers said. “We had a guy wide open in the corner to tie the ball game and we didn’t make the throw. We had opportunities. Our guys were there. We just didn’t get it done.”

It was Westwood’s third turnover on downs on an incomplete pass inside Viking territory of the night, and the most costly missed chance.

Spring Valley took over on their own 11 with 5:56 to play and strung together three first downs – enough to run out the clock and look ahead to next week’s duel with Blythewood.

With a win over the Bengals next week, Spring Valley locks up second place in Region IV behind Dutch Fork, with Westwood third and Blythewood fourth. A win by Blythewood would give all three second-place contenders two region losses – but all to one another, sending the final standings into 4A’s points system.

With their regular season complete, the Redhawks will have to wait on the results of next week’s makeup game between the Vikings and Bengals before they know their playoff destination.

 

SV: 7-14-0-0 – 21

W: 0-7-7-0 – 14

 

Scoring

First Quarter

SV – Tyjuan Fulton 74 run (R.J. Bacon kick). 5:39.

Second Quarter

W – Montre Miller 14 pass from Jalen Smith (Brandon Howard kick). 8:15.

SV – T. Fulton 74 run (Bacon kick). 7:24.

SV – Quincy Hill 75 INT return (Bacon kick). 0:00.

Third Quarter

W – Jalen Smith 7 run (B. Howard kick). 6:41.

 

Team Stats         

SV                                           WHS

First Downs                                        6                                              17

Rushes-Yards                                     35-251                                   33-140

Passing Yards                                     6                                              201

C-A-I                                                      2-3-0                                      18-31-1

Fumbles-Lost                                     3-1                                          1-0

Penalties-Yards                                 7-65                                       6-45

 

Individual Stats

RUSHING: SV – T. Fulton 16-212, Ryan Lee 11-24, K. Bunch 2-4, K. Jones 2-5, T. Jackson 2-1, C. Jones 2-5. W – Rudy Mitchell 18-80, Jalen Smith 10-50, Andrew Plante 5-10.

PASSING: SV – Ryan Lee 2-3, 6 yards. W – Jalen Smith 18-31, 201 yards, TD, INT.

RECEIVING: SV – J. Hayne 2-6. W – Malik Griffin 4-60, Deuntrey Gallman 4-34, Jaylen Robinson 2-20, Montre Miller 8-87.

RECORDS: SV—6-4/3-1. W—8-3/3-2.