Valley holds off Burrell to win Battle of the Bypass
Valley and Burrell players lined up and gazed at each other at midfield during pregame warm-ups just to reassure everyone that their rivalry still beats strong.
As the mood began to crescendo, so did Valley's eagerness to stare down the host Bucs all the way to the finish.
Quarterback Philip Petit completed 10 of 16 passes for 155 yards and two touchdowns, both to wideout D'Aundre Johnson, and Tyson Hill returned an interception 95 yards for an early score as Valley downed Burrell, 27-20, in the season and Class AA Allegheny Conference opener — and Battle of the Bypass — Friday night in rain-drenched Lower Burrell.
Valley has won three straight in the all-time series, which it leads 22-14.
“It's a big rivalry game. We wanted to show them who's who,” said Johnson, infamous in the rivalry for his jarring hit on a Burrell player two years ago, who had seven receptions for 92 yards. “To start out with a win in your first game is great. It's a good feeling to come out and take what's yours.”
Hill more than made up for a drive-killing fumble on the Vikings' opening drive when he swiped a Max Garda pass and raced down the near sideline for Valley's first points of the season.
“That was sweet,” Valley coach Muzzy Colosimo said. “I have been at this 46 years and never saw one like that.”
The turnover dashed a 13-play drive for the Bucs late in the opening quarter, and a lost fumble — Burrell's second of the half — gave Valley room to maneuver at the Bucs' 20.
Johnson out-jumped two Bucs defenders to haul in his first touchdown, a 29-yarder from Petit, on fourth-and-12.
Mike Buzzell recovered the first fumble and Eugene Bailey the second, which gave Valley possession at its own 20. But Valley could not move the ball and punted. Garda slipped through the special teams coverage for a 50-yard return to set up his 1-yard touchdown late in the half.
Valley, though, went to the air again for another Petit-to-Johnson scoring play, this one for 7 yards. Hill grabbed the 2-point conversion pass for a 21-6 Valley lead at halftime.
“Philip was hitting everyone on the money,” Colosimo said. “Then I was able to get old-fashioned and run the ball.”
Johnson had six receptions for 81 yards in the first half.
“This game came down to respect,” Burrell first-year coach Dave Bellinotti said. “You have to draw a line in the sand and defend your turf.
“We haven't felt like we've gotten a lot of it, but you have to go out and earn it. Valley has some great players, and they made plays.”
Bellinotti singled out Petit, who he coached in youth football.
“Great kid,” Bellinotti said. “I have to kind of root for him a little now I think.”
Burrell opened the second half in a no-huddle offense and immediately it showed results. Garda found Jason David down the far sideline for 47 yards to set up another 1-yard score by Garda. Garda did his best Ben Roethlisberger impression on the 2-point try, escaping and zipping a pass to Brandon Artman, who caught it on his back to make it 21-14.
But Valley answered as freshman running back Deonte Ross went 24 yards for a touchdown on his second varsity carry to give the Vikings a 27-14 lead.
Noah Hanna scored Burrell's final touchdown out of the Big-I with 1:27 left.
“Burrell has turned a corner,” Colosimo said. “They played hard. We're not where we need to be yet, but you just want to be 1-0.”
Valley coughed up a fumble with 1:12 to play, but Burrell could not score. Johnson broke up a fourth-down pass.
“Our kids scratched and clawed and fought their tails off,” Bellinotti said. “I am proud of them.”
Garda passed for 138 yards and rushed for 57 and two TDs.
Bill Beckner Jr. is the local sports editor of the Valley News Dispatch. Reach him at email@example.com.