Strong defense helps Valley upset No. 7 Freeport
Valley first-year coach Chad Walsh said his team gained an identity Friday night.
And with it, one of the program's biggest wins in recent history, a win that had students storming the turf and Vikings fans reveling in an Allegheny Conference upset.
Demetrious Houser ran for 111 yards, Jaden Walker added 62 in his first action of the season and new kicker Steve Colagrande made the most of his first field-goal attempt as Valley stunned Class AA No. 7 Freeport, 9-8, at Valley Memorial Stadium.
“To beat a team of that caliber on our home field, I'm still numb,” Walsh said. “We found out a lot of good things about our team tonight. The kids believed.”
Valley (2-2, 2-2) is 2-0 at home. The other win, 14-7 over Deer Lakes in Week 1, snapped a 22-game losing streak.
On Friday, a game slowed by penalties and late clock resets only prolonged a trying night for Freeport (3-1, 3-1), which was held to 49 total yards, including 10 passing. The Yellowjackets lost four fumbles and seemed out of sorts.
“We didn't have that look in our eyes tonight,” Freeport coach John Gaillot said. “Their team wanted it more. We played with little physicality. We had way too many three-and-outs.”
A game where the head-turning result overshadowed any of its individual plays came down to which team could hold on to the ball and outlast the other.
“We knew we were capable of beating them, but give Freeport credit. They played well,” said Houser, who needed only nine carries to top the 100 yards. “We know if we're going to make it to the playoffs, we'll need to win conference games.”
An uneventful, somewhat fidgety first half saw both teams commit two turnovers. Freeport lost a pair of fumbles — recovered by Valley's Chaz Cheatham and Brandon VanTine — and Valley lost a fumble and had a pass intercepted.
The interception by Fred Pastoria went for a 50-yard touchdown. Zane Geist snared the two-point pass from Brendan Lynch for an 8-0 Freeport lead at the half.
But Houser turned the second play of the second half into a 55-yard touchdown, racing down the far sideline. The conversion pass failed, and the Vikings trailed, 8-6, with 11:23 to play in the third.
The score stayed that way until Colagrande, following a fumble recovery by teammate Dale Lasko, make a field goal from 26 yards to make the score 9-8 with 7:18 left in the third.
Colagrande, who missed last week's game with an illness, also attempted a 41-yarder with about six minutes left but was wide left.
A soccer player, Colagrande was urged to try out or football by Valley's athletic trainer two weeks ago.
“The guys on this team never surprise me,” Colagrande said. “They knew they could win this game.”
Valley held its ground in the fourth, applying constant pressure to Lynch before forcing another fumble, which Valley's Terrell Fields scooped up with three minutes left.
“We weren't going to let their quarterback beat us,” Walsh said. “We knew we couldn't allow the big play.”
Valley faced a fourth-and-1 on its final possession ,but a face-mask penalty on Freeport all but sealed the win.
Walker, who hadn't played due to personal reasons, ran 22 times. He gained 49 yards in the second half.
Bill Beckner Jr. is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can he reached at 724-224-2696 or firstname.lastname@example.org.