Ford City secures victory
Already eliminated from the playoffs and with 1:33 remaining in its season Friday night, Ford City coach John Bartolovic called a timeout and ran onto the field to confer with his team.
Having trailed Valley since the first quarter, the Sabers were now down a point after senior running back Devan Willyard's second touchdown of the night. They faced two suddenly vital options: kick the extra point or go for two.
“Coach asked us if we wanted to go for the win or tie, and we all wanted to go for the win,” Ford City senior quarterback David Lattanzio said. “And we executed perfectly.”
It was Lattanzio's pass that found diving senior running back Brandon Walker in the end zone, giving Ford City the narrow margin of victory in a hard-fought 22-21 home win in both teams' Allegheny Conference finale.
The loss snapped a five-game winning streak for Valley (6-3, 5-3), which will hit the road for its first road playoff opener next week. It also was the Vikings' first single-digit loss this season after winning four games by seven points or fewer.
Ford City (4-5, 3-5) earned its first home win since a 34-31 victory over East Allegheny on Sept. 14.
“We really had nothing to lose out of that,” Ford City coach John Bartolovic said.
Even after the Sabers' successful two-point conversion, Valley nearly usurped the lead on its final possession.
After some nip-and-tuck offense and a major boost from a pair of Ford City personal fouls, the Vikings got as deep as the hosts' 9-yard line with 15 seconds remaining.
But after an illegal substitution penalty pushed the visitors back 5 yards, Valley senior kicker Steven Colagrande's field-goal try went wide left, prompting a Ford City celebration before realizing there was still enough time for one more play.
Moments later, Lattanzio took a knee.
“Steve's a good kicker. We have confidence in him,” Valley coach Chad Walsh said. “You miss 'em sometimes. ... If we ran the ball in, we wouldn't have had to kick it. But Steve will be fine. We'll kick with him again.”
The game wound up meaning little for either side with Ford City's fate already set and earlier results negating any chance of Valley earning a home playoff draw.
Valley is in the playoffs for the first time since 2008, and Walsh knows his team will have to improve if it is to extend its season.
“We lost our focus and didn't play our best football tonight,” he said. “We got a little bent out of shape and didn't play our game. Ford City's a good football team. They're much better than their record shows. I give that team a lot of credit. ”
On a different night, Vikings junior running back Demetrius Houser would have been the story. He ran for 97 yards on 16 carries and scored all three of Valley's touchdowns.
“He's an integral part of our success,” Walsh said. “That chance that he can break it any time he touches the football. He's got that speed that he can go at any time.”
Stephen Catanese is a freelance writer.