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Valley clinches first playoff berth since 2008

Jason Bridge | Valley News Dispatch
Valley's Chaz Cheatham (No. 9) catches the game-winning touchdown pass around Kittanning's Sterling Henry (No. 10) with 41 seconds left in the fourth quarter at Valley Memorial Stadium in New Kensington on Friday, Oct. 19, 2012.

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Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

Friday, Oct. 19, 2012, 11:02 p.m.
 

With so many fourth-quarter comebacks, Valley has made it easier to forget about the days during its 22-game losing streak when a second-half deficit appeared insurmountable.

The Vikings (6-2, 5-2) rallied in the fourth quarter for the second time in as many weeks and edged Kittanning, 20-17, to clinch their first playoff berth since 2008. The come-from-behind win was their fourth of the season.

“I feel good for these seniors,” Valley coach Chad Walsh said. “They deserve this because they've been through so much the past three years.”

Sophomore quarterback Dan Farinelli and senior wide receiver Chaz Cheatham again became heroes. Cheatham, who caught a game-winning touchdown last week, grabbed an 11-yard throw from Farinelli in the back of the end zone with 41 seconds left in the Allegheny Conference game.

“It was supposed to be a slant inside,” said Farinelli, who made only his second varsity start. “It wasn't there, so I rolled out to the left, and my running back wanted the ball. But I thought he'd just get tackled, so I threw it up for Chaz.”

Farinelli threw no other passes in the second half. Valley chose to rely on its “Beast” package, which involved direct snaps to running backs Demetrius Houser and Jaden Walker. The Vikings overloaded blockers to the running side and challenged Kittanning (4-4, 4-3) to make stops.

“We can sort of pick their poison,” Walsh said.

Walker scored twice in the Beast package. His first touchdown, a 4-yard run, tied the score, 7-7 with four minutes left in the first half. His second visit to the end zone put Valley ahead, 14-10, early in the fourth quarter.

Houser, though not fortunate to find the goal line, finished with 19 carries for a team-high 110 yards.

Kittanning answered Valley's Beast package with its own two-man battering ram, seniors Kevin Barnes and Zac Croyle. Barnes, the quarterback, had 25 carries for 98 yards, and Croyle gained 60 yards on 16 rushes. He also scored the touchdown that put Kittanning ahead, 7-0, in the first quarter.

In a departure from the norm, Kittanning rarely went to the air.

On fourth-and-5 from the Vikings' 35-yard-line, Barnes rolled out to his left. And with the several defenders squared up to meet him at the line of scrimmage, he launched a pass to Mitch Pirhalla, whose touchdown catch put Kittanning ahead, 17-14, with less than six minutes left.

“We froze them there, and they showed blitz pressure, so we thought we could take a shot downfield,” Kittanning coach Frank Fabian said.

“Anytime you lose in the last minute, there's going to be disappointment. It hurts. But that's how you know it mattered.”

Bill West is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at wwest@tribweb.com or 724-543-1303.

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