WALLKILL WINS THE "BATTLE OF THE VALLEY" IN OVERTIME
WALLKILL - It took overtime, but the Wallkill Panthers were able to come back from a 7-point 4th-quarter deficit to beat the Valley Central Vikings, 21-14, in "The Battle of the Valley."
After holding the Vikings on 4th-and-5 to open the game, the Panthers started from their own 6 yard line, then promptly marched 94 yards on just 6 plays, scoring on senior running back A.J. Calvo's 32-yard touchdown scamper to go up 7-0 with 1:33 left in the first quarter.
Key to the drive were a huge 46-yard run from junior running back Marc Mazza and a crucial 9-yard completion on 3rd-and-7 from sophomore quarterback Seth Ewald to junior receiver Tom Truscello. 7-7.
The crazed Panther faithful were quickly silence, though, when junior running back Carlos Desir returned the Panther kickoff 82 yards for the equalizer with 1:16 left in the opening quarter.
A Wallkill three-and-out gave the Vikings the ball back at the Panther 48 yard line. A 38-yard run by senior running back John Guy got Valley Central inside the Panther 5, and 4 plays later, Guy stretched over the goal line pile-up to put 6 points on the board for the Vikings. The PAT made it 14-7 Vikings, with 8:32 to play in the half.
The Panthers' drive to open the second half ended by way of the interception. An overthrown pass by Ewald ended up in junior defensive back Nick Clair's arms at the Viking 29. But the teams traded punts to close out a very slow third quarter, neither team able to sustain a long scoring drive, and Valley Central clung to a 14-7 lead.
But one key play changed the Panthers' fortunes.
On 4th-and-4 from their own 49 yard line, the Vikings were forced to punt. Mazza gathered the ball at his own 24 yard line, escaped a tackle, and broke for the sideline. After turning the corner, Mazza raced all the way to paydirt -- 76 yards in all -- for the tying touchdown. 14-14.
With 9:43 left in the game, though, Valley Central had plenty of time for one last drive to try to win this game. Starting from the Viking eight-yard line after junior Chris Ortiz had trouble handling the Panther kickoff, the Vikings pushed their way to the Wallkill 28 yard line, thanks in-part to a 32-yard catch-and-run from senior quarterback Josh Depew to senior running back Dave Lake on 3rd-and-11 from the Viking 18 yard line. But on 4th-and-10 from the Panther 28 yard line, a Depew pass fell incomplete to give Wallkill a chance to go on a game-winning drive of their own with just 1:04 left.
Senior defensive back Sean Leahy, though, stepped in front of an Ewald pass on the very next play and returned the interception the Panther 12 yard line. Three plays later, Valley Central senior kicker Frank Nutt came on to kick the potential game-winning field goal from 32 yards out. However, his attempt fell short, mere inches from the crossbar. This game was going into overtime.
Wallkill wasted no time getting on the board in the extra session, first winning the coin toss, then getting a 20-yard touchdown completion from Ewald to Truscello on their second play in OT.
Now up 21-14, the Panther defense needed a big stop to seal the win. After allowing the Vikings to reach the 10-yard line, Wallkill stood tall. Aided by a 5-yard false start penalty on Valley Central, the Panthers forced three incomplete passes -- two of which were sure touchdowns -- to win the game.
Mazza had 9 rushes for 67 yards for the Panthers.
Next up for the Panthers (4-3) is a tough Class A challenge against a Cornwall team that boasts an impressive 6-1 record. Kickoff is set for 7:00 next Friday night at Wallkill. And the Vikings (2-5) don't have it any easier; they'll travel to Minisink Valley to face the Warriors in a battle for the second seed in AA-II next Friday night at 7:30.
--- TOM MOREL