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Valley slips past SSA

| Saturday, Oct. 2, 2004

NEW KENSINGTON -- In a game that featured more odd plays than big plays, Valley slipped by undermanned Shady Side Academy and avoided being upset in front of its homecoming crowd.

Ricky Owen's 65-yard punt return for a touchdown jump-started Valley after a sluggish start, and the Vikings pulled out a 15-7 win Friday night at Valley High Memorial Stadium.

Valley improved to 4-0 in the Class AA Allegheny Conference and 5-1 overall. The Vikings are tied for first place in the conference with Burrell, a 30-20 winner over Kittanning Friday night.

"I knew we might come out flat," Valley head coach Troy Hill said. "Don't take anything away from Shady Side, they played hard. But a win is a win; it's a part of the puzzle. We're going to have games like this."

After a gallant effort, Shady Side slipped to 0-4, 1-5.

"For the most part, we played a good football game," Shady Side head coach Dave Havern said. "Our guys didn't take a step back."

Valley still is learning how to win with regularity again, Hill said. The Vikings had just three wins in the previous three seasons combined.

Valley was being dominated in the first half before Owen fielded a punt and raced along the left side line for a 65-yard touchdown. Owen was set loose by a number of key blocks.

"Up front, it all came together," said Owen, a 5-foot-5, 130-pound junior. "Everyone blocked good. Without Jordan Kozik's block, I probably wouldn't have scored."

The touchdown was the first of Owen's varsity career. He played in ninth grade, but sat out last year for personal reasons.

"If anybody was our most valuable player to tonight, it was Ricky Owen," Hill said. "I'm very proud of him."

Before Owen electrified the Valley crowd, Shady Side had moved the ball well, and Valley had not recorded a first down. Shady Side started the game with a 72-yard scoring drive that chewed up more than eight minutes.

On the extra-point attempt, Valley holder Josh Simmons took the snap, rolled left and sprinted into the end zone for two points.

Valley earned breathing room when Curtis Carion scored on a 4-yard run late in the third quarter. Carion's run capped a 68-yard scoring drive.

On the extra-point try, Simmons took the snap, rolled right and passed to Frank Sharrock in the end zone. However, Valley was flagged for having an illegal receiver down field.

So, Valley got another chance after being moved back, and Steve Feroce nailed a 25-yard kick. That was just one of the odd scenarios during the game.

Another involved Carion, who was punting at the time. Carion took a low snap and began to run to avoid the rush. Then Carion tossed a pass that was batted into the air and intercepted by a Shady Side lineman. However, the lineman fumbled and Carion recovered, giving Valley a first down.

Another turn of events came just before halftime. Valley receiver Toney Clemons leaped between two defenders and caught a 36-yard pass at the Shady Side 11-yard line. However, the ball was wrestled away from him and recovered by Shady Side.

Valley has won four games in a row.

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