Vikings defense stymies Bucs in battle of rivals
The balance of power in a rivalry thought to be losing its touch shifted sides as Valley set up an impassable roadblock for Burrell in the Battle of the Bypass.
Valley's defense put on a show, recording seven sacks, and running back Demetrius Houser ran for three touchdowns for the second straight game as Valley blanked Burrell, 26-0, on Friday night in a Class-AA Allegheny Conference game at Valley Memorial Stadium.
No matter how many game-week pranks are pulled, or which side out-gorges the other in hot dog- or chicken wing-eating contests, the rivalry always is settled on the field.
“We came out flying to the ball and got after them,” said Valley senior quarterback Ty Matthews, who threw for 108 yards and ran for a score. “We showed that we're a team to be reckoned with.”
In the latest clash of neighboring rivals who go to class about three miles apart, Valley (2-0, 2-0) showed its speed and athleticism is much farther down the road.
Devin Houser rushed for a team-high 80 yards on seven carries, 75 coming on a late burst, and Demetrius Houser added 60 yards on 13 carries as Valley broke a four-game losing streak against the Bucs (1-1, 0-1).
“The seniors wanted this shutout,” Valley coach Chad Walsh said. “Our defense came up big. We said we wanted 11 helmets on the ball all night.”
Valley leads the all-time series, 20-14, and the shutout was their first against Burrell since 2006.
“It was a game of mistakes for us,” Burrell coach Kevin Horwatt said. “Valley came out with intensity and made less mistakes than we did. With their speed, you can't let them get to the tips.”
Valley turned two Burrell turnovers into points and took a 20-0 lead into the half.
Constant pressure on Bucs quarterback Cody Wolfe forced an ill-advised throw that led to a tipped interception by Matthews, playing linebacker.
“I'm always glad to have a pick (on defense) rather than throwing one,” said Matthews, who was 5-for-11 passing.
One play later, Houser bounced left, evaded one last defender and raced 31 yards for his second score of the half.
Burrell did not complete a pass and was sacked four times in the first half. The Bucs lost a fumble late in the second quarter and Matthews scored on a 5-yard run.
Houser scored again on a short run late in the third as a follow-up to the play of the night. D'Aundre Johnson delivered a highlight-reel hit along the Burrell sideline to help spring shifty Devin Houser to a 75-yard gain deep into Bucs' territory.
“What a play,” Matthews said. “Everyone was blown away by that hit.”
Johnson caught two passes for 72 yards; Tyson Hill added two for 29 yards.
Burrell running back Ryan Sowol ran for 115 yards on 28 carries.
Valley played a cleaner game in terms of penalties. After committing 22 for 190 yards in Week 1, many of them after the whistle, the Vikings had seven for 58 last night.
And coaches say rest assured; the rivalry — dubbed the Bypass Brawl on Twitter this week — is as healthy as ever. Maybe not as strong as the current of Puckety Creek after a heavy rainfall, but sturdy enough to call it one of the WPIAL's best.
Bill Beckner Jr. is the local sports editor of the Valley News Dispatch. Reach him at email@example.com.