Steel Valley rallies to trip McGuffey
Slowing down a potent offense on a hot streak is often done by possessing the football and grinding down the game clock. Having two running backs eclipse 100 yards also helps.
Steel Valley rode the talents of Tyrone Freeman and freshman DeWayne Murray on Friday in a come-from-behind 28-21 win at McGuffey.
The Ironmen and Highlanders finished the regular season with 4-5 records. Steel Valley had a 4-4 mark in the Century Conference; McGuffey fell to 3-5.
“That was will and heart that won that game tonight,” Steel Valley coach Rod Steele said. “The kids overcame a lot of adversity, and I'm proud of them. We made one more big play tonight.”
Murray finished with 143 yards on 20 carries and a touchdown. Freeman chipped in 123 yards on 19 carries, and his 4-yard touchdown run with 1:05 left in the fourth quarter was the game winner.
“We changed up our blocking scheme on that last drive, and it worked pretty well,” Steele said.
Things did not start off well for the visitors. The Highlanders, who averaged 48.3 points in their past three games — all wins — recovered an onside kick on the opening kickoff. It took McGuffey five plays to drive 50 yards. Quarterback Nate Whipkey used a play fake and found tight end Dylan Harris for a 17-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead.
Steel Valley responded. Marching 75 yards on nine plays, the Ironmen tied the score when Murray scored from 6 yards. McGuffey moved 61 yards on 10 plays on their next drive, but Harris' 43-yard field goal attempt fell short.
McGuffey's defense made a big play late in the first quarter. Kendrick Reed intercepted Connor Stevens on fourth down, giving the ball back to the Highlanders on their 29-yard line.
Patrick Frey gave Steel Valley a jolt when he returned the second-half kickoff 90 yards. Whipkey scored on the next play, giving the Highlanders a 14-7 lead.
Steel Valley again responded, moving 80 yards on 12 plays. Stevens capped the drive with a 5-yard run.
McGuffey took their next possession 75 yards in seven plays. Frey (19 carries, 89 yards) ended the march with a 4-yard run.
McGuffey appeared to have stopped Steel Valley near midfield one possession later. But on fourth down, Brandon Donovan was roughed when he punted. The 15-yard penalty set up a 34-yard scoring strike from Stevens to D'Andre Pickens, stunning the home crowd and essentially swinging all the momentum in favor of the Ironmen.
After forcing a McGuffey punt, Steel Valley embarked on an eight-play, 80-yard march. The big play was a 26-yard Freeman run to the McGuffey 4 on third down. Freeman scored on the following play.
Dave Whipkey is a freelance writer.