Paint Valley’s defense used multiple looks and a great total-team effort to bottle-up the gifted Huntington signal-caller, forcing three first-half turnovers. Huntington also made a costly second-quarter special-teams mistake, and these miscues led to 14 first half points giving Paint Valley an early cushion that would eventually result in a 36-22 win.
“Tonight was the first time this year that we were solid in all aspects of the game,” said Paint Valley head coach Pete Hollon. “Our defense played much better and our offense was able to match up and run some different things that just haven’t been available the last couple of weeks.”
The Paint Valley offense set the tone from the word “go” on Friday night. Junior quarterback Matt Workman led his Bearcat offense on a 10-play, 55-yard drive that was eventually capped off by a Gage McFadden TD run from one-yard out, and following a Huntington penalty, PV decided to call McFadden’s number again as the Paint Valley junior delivered the two-point conversion giving the Bearcats the early 8-0 advantage.
Huntington’s first couple of drives showed some promise for its ability to move the ball, but were eventually erased by a pair of Paint Valley interceptions. The first INT came from senior Ben McKell just shy of the goal line stopping the Huntington scoring opportunity and the second was a result of a diving grab by senior Jake Holmes. The Holmes pick was the turnover that sparked Paint Valley’s second score. On the first play of the pursuing drive, Holmes – defensive back now turned wide receiver – took the reverse handoff from Workman and left the Huntington pursuit behind, as the Bearcat track star sprinted 53-yards untouched for the score. The Workman PAT gave Paint Valley the 15-0 advantage.
“No excuses,” said Justin Kellough of his team’s slow start. “We came on the road for a big game. It was Paint Valley’s homecoming and they were fired up and ready to go. We did not match their intensity and we were down two scores before we started playing.”
Huntington finally got it going using the big-play to strike. Twin brothers Josh and Justin Kellough found themselves on the same page as the senior duo signaled an audible to one another at the line of scrimmage before the second snap of quarter number two. Quarterback Josh threw the quick-hitter to receiver Justin, and the Huntsmen wide out took care of the rest, picking up a great block from fellow receiver Chris Marsh and turning the short pass into a 53-yard touchdown. Bobby Sams added the two-point conversion on a three-yard run to cut the PV lead to 15-8.
Paint Valley defensive coordinator Chris Medved preached all week about staying home and keeping Kellough running east and west rather than north and south, and his defensive unit got the message loud and clear.
“I thought our ends did a great job of containment tonight,” said McFadden who not only recovered a fumble on defense but also rushed for 32 yards and a score. “They allowed the linebackers to spy Kellough and get the proper angles on him to limit his big plays.”
The score stayed this way for several minutes as the two teams swapped fumbles, but when Huntington was forced to punt from deep in its own territory it was unable to handle the snap resulting in great field position for Workman and the Bearcat offense. Two plays later Paint Valley was facing a second-and-goal from the three when Workman faked the inside handoff to McFadden and found Colton Morris out in the right flat for the three-yard pass and catch resulting in a Bearcat touchdown. Once again Workman’s PAT was good and PV had stretched its lead to 22-8 with only 3:24 remaining in the game’s opening half.
Huntington did threaten late in the half, but pressure from defensive lineman Clark Graves – who also stars in Dave Salomone’s Paint Valley wrestling program – on both third and fourth down stopped the drive and sent both teams to intermission with the Bearcats leading by a couple of scores.
“We came out flat tonight and got behind early,” said Josh Kellough who even with the turnover struggles still managed to account for over 200 total yards from scrimmage and all three Huntington touchdowns. “I made some mistakes in the first half – that were unacceptable and I take full responsibility for – so I wanted to come out in the second half and try to give our team a spark.”
Like all great players Kellough shouldered the responsibility of his first-half mistakes and it took the Huntington star little time to completely take the game over in the early part of quarter number three. Kellough capped off the opening drive of half number two with an eight-yard TD run to cut PV’s lead to eight. Kellough, now playing defensive back, then picked off a Workman pass on the pursuing drive and returned it deep into Bearcat territory. Three plays later it was Kellough again – this time from two-yards out – finding the end zone, and when the Kellough connection – Josh to Justin – hooked up for the two-point conversion the scoreboard showed what once was a 14-point halftime difference was now a tied game at 22.
The next drive proved to be a big one for the Bearcats. Even though PV was unable to score, the Bearcats were able to move the ball and win the battle of field position entering the final quarter. This resulted in Paint Valley eventually starting a drive in Huntington territory with less than 11-minutes to go in the game. A Morris 27-yard run put the Bearcats in a goal-to-go situation, and when Morris found the end zone from 4-yards out PV went back on top at 28-22. Paint Valley’s inability to handle the snap resulted in a failed conversion keeping the Bearcat advantage at six.
“When we lost our lead we definitely were not about to crumble like we have done in the past,” said senior Jake Holmes who rushed 3 times for 69 yards and a score and caught a 34-yard scoring strike as well. “We just refocused and tried to fight back. We reminded each other that we had to leave it all out on the field and find a way to get the job done.”
That scoring run was just the beginning of a dominate stretch for Morris. The junior running back, now roaming in his linebacker spot, picked off a Kellough pass with 8:29 to go and the Bearcats were looking to deliver the knockout punch. That punch came when Paint Valley went to its bag of tricks as Workman pitched the ball to Morris moving to his right and he then let one fly for a streaking Holmes who hauled it in for a game clinching touchdown.
“I had Jake (Holmes) open on the first play of the game and just under threw him,” said the southpaw tailback of his fourth quarter touchdown toss. “Later in the game when coach called it again, I was moving the opposite way and I wanted to just get plenty of air under it and let Jake go get it.”
Morris stuffed the stat sheet in a dominate performance Friday night. The junior ran, caught, and threw a touchdown while racking up nearly 200 total yards from scrimmage on the offensive side of the ball. Morris also recorded a fumble recovery, an interception, and a sack on defense.
Despite the loss to the neighboring Ross County rival, the Huntington coaching staff realizes that they must get past this and continue to improve.
“I was proud how the kids rebounded from the slow start, but in the end we just made too many mistakes,” Huntington head coach Ferdie Marquez said. “We just have to work this week and get better. We know Westfall next week will capitalize on mistakes, so we have to find a way to clean some things up and make better decisions.”
The win improves Paint Valley to 3-4 overall and 1-3 in the SVC while the loss drops Huntington to 3-4 overall and 3-1 within the conference. Week eight will have the Bearcats going back on the road as they make the short trip to winless Chillicothe Unioto, and Huntington returns home to face unbeaten Williamsport Westfall.