Dave OssoNewcomerstown BureauNEWCOMERSTOWN -- Two early breakdowns on defense and a sporadic effort on offense throughout the game spelled d-o-o-m for Newcomerstown High on Friday as the Trojans fell, 20-7, to Sandy Valley on a chilly but clear night made for football.Things looked promising on the Trojans' first drive as quarterback Caleb Rankin passed and ran his way downfield with good line protection and open receivers. The Orange and Black used 12 plays and 51 yards to march to the Cardinals' 23-yard line, but after chewing up 7:12 off the clock, Newcomerstown had nothing to show on the scoreboard as Rankin was sacked on fourth down.Sandy Valley took over at its 29 and quickly put the Trojans' defense, which was playing without flu-stricken Bubba Harris and Andy Hill, on its heels with passing strikes of 36 and 17 yards by quarterback Cody Welker. Welker followed with several runs and finally dove over from the one on fourth down for a 6-0 Cardinal lead. The extra-point was short.In the second quarter, the Cardinals struck again with an 87-yard drive, featuring a 31-yard run by Welker and a 40-yard TD pass to Zane Dierick that just made it over an outstretched Trojan hand for a 12-0 with 6:49 until halftime. Welker connected with Tyler Mehilis on the two-point conversion to boost the lead to 14-0.After an exchange of punts, Newcomerstown (4-4, 2-3 IVC) assumed control at the Cardinals' 35. The Trojans wasted no time on this one as Rankin fired a 30-yard zinger to Serafin Sanchez, who was wide-open in the end zone. T.J. Wright's PAT made it 14-7 with 2:41 left in the quarter.By this time, the NHS defense, which earlier seemed to be caught off guard with Sandy Valley's speed and passing game, began to adjust. The most important adjustment was the pressure as Welker tried to pass on three straight plays, but a heavy pass rush each time combined with good secondary coverage resulted in three incompletions. A 25-yard Cardinal punt followed.Newcomerstown looked as if it was ready to capitalize on its newly-found momentum to tie the score as Rankin ripped off runs of nine and 10 yards.Josh Miller then hauled in a pass that picked up nine, but a wicked Cardinal hit knocked the ball loose. Sandy Valley recovered and, despite having the ball on the Trojans' 30, was not able to score in eight plays, leaving the halftime count at 14-7.Sandy Valley returned the second half kickoff for a TD, but a holding call brought the ball back to the visitors' 25-yard line. From there, the Cardinals used 14 plays of a run-and-pass mix that wiped almost nine minutes off the clock. The long drive seemed to squelch the momentum the Trojans had built in the second quarter as John Frazier finally zipped in from the two-yard line for a 20-7 Sandy Valley lead. The extra-point attempt was again short.After that, Newcomerstown had the ball three more times. The first two were unimpressive drives that resulted in punts while the third drive, featuring a 41-yard grab-and-run catch by Jansen Lenzo, saw the Trojans move the ball from their 24 to the Cardinals' 18 before interception on a screen play sealed the game with 4:08 remaining.The teams ended up nearly even in total offense, with Sandy Valley holding a slight edge of 306-262. Rankin was 13-of-20 for 207 yards with one TD and one 'pick'. The running game was held in check most of the night as Miller finished with 25 yards on eight carries and Rankin had 23 stripes on 14 rushes. Rankin spread his passes around well as Jansen Lenzo had two receptions for 62 yards; Matt Ayres pulled in three grabs for 40 yards; Sanchez collected two catches for 46 markers and Chandler Shryock had two for 29.Welker led the Cardinals (4-4, 3-2 IVC) by going 11-of-23 for 154 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. He also ran for 103 yards and scored once. Frazier totaled 34 yards on 11 carries. Dierick was their top receiver with two catches for 54 yards while Zac Monte pulled in three for 52.NEXT-- Newcomerstown travels to Bowerston to face Conotton Valley on Saturday at 1:30 p.m.