LUCASVILLE A devastating 101-yard interception return proved to be the difference as seventh-seed Ridgewood fell to second-seed Lucasville Valley in the first round of the Division V, Region 19 playoffs.
In a stunning turnaround of momentum, the game went from what looked like would be a 21-21 tie to a 28-14 deficit in a matter of seconds.
With 4:06 to go in the third quarter, Ridgewood defensive back Chris Saylor intercepted a pass by Valley quarterback Blake Yates and returned it 20 yards to the Indian 43. Five plays later and facing third and four at the six-yard line, Saylor, now in his quarterback role, looked for tight end Evan Jones and threw a pass across the middle that was picked off by none other than Yates, who was all but happy to reciprocate his earlier error.
So happy in fact that Yates rambled 101 yards untouched for the score as time ran out on the third quarter clock, leaving fans on both sides stunned but for different reasons.
But true to Ridgewood form, the Generals didnt even think about quitting as they scratched and clawed their way back into contention. They quickly put together a solid drive that included a 50-yard bomb from Saylor to Landon Smith. With 9:41 to go in the game, Jake Ziegler blasted over from the one-yard line to cap the 8-play, 78-yard drive and make it 28-21.
Coach John Slusser wasnt going to wait for his defense to hold and instead went right for an on-side kick. Ridgewoods Brett Mitchell made the recovery at Valleys 48-yard line and started another march to TD-land.
Saylor passed and ran his team down to the 13 but on third-and-12, the record-setting senior had his third pass of the night picked off, this one nine-yards deep in the end zone by none other than Yates again. Yates returned the ball to the General 15.
In a game of missed opportunities, the Generals (8-3) had gotten into the red zone three times but failed to score on each occasion.
Things werent looking good with 4:51 left in the game as the Indians started to rip off big chunks of yardage, mostly by their senior tailback, Luke Keller. But the Indian drive stalled at the Ridgewood 36 before the Generals got a break on the punt.
Hoping to pin Ridgewood deep, Valleys punter, Ethan Holbrook, instead got a big surprise when the ball went sailing over his head. Twenty-two yards later the ball quit rolling and the Generals suddenly found themselves at the Indian 38 yard line with 2:58 to play.
But alas it was not to be. One completed pass for five yards and three incompletions later, the clock stood at 2:06 and Valley took over to run out the clock.
Valley was impressive on its first two drives. After stopping Ridgewood on a quick three-and-out to start the game, the Indians marched 61-yards on six plays, capped by a 9-yard TD run by Yates with 7:42 left in the first quarter.
Ridgewood came back strong with an 11-play, 80-yard drive that ended when Saylor hit Smith on an 18-yard strike for six points. That tied the game at 7-7 at the 2:46 mark.
Valleys second drive was much like its first as they galloped 58-yards in eight plays with Keller scoring from the eight only two minutes into the second quarter.
Both teams came through with an interception, including Brian McElhaney for Ridgewood and Will Howard for Valley, and the teams went into the lockers with the Indians leading 14-7.
The Indians got their next TD at the 9:06 point of the third quarter when Yates found Keller wide open in the end zone on a fourth-and-goal from the 12. That made the score 21-7.
Ridgewood stalled on its next drive, but a fake punt got a first down and the Generals quickly capitalized when Saylor connected on a screen pass to Mitchell, who turned it into a 51-yard touchdown. At that point the Generals trailed 21-14.
Keller, a bruising 6-2, 205 pound senior, had 194 yards on 21 carries for the Indians (11-0). Yates came up with 81 yards on 13 carries, as well as 2-of-8 for 33 yards with two interceptions in the passing department.
The Generals (8-3) got 80 yards rushing Saylor on 13 carries and 80 from Smith on eight rushes. Trent Lingo had 39 yards on 10 totes. Saylor finished 8-of-24 for 157 yards with three interceptions. Dakota Albertson had five receptions for 51 yards while Smith had two catches for 55. Mitchell had one for 51 yards and a TD.
The game marked the ninth straight appearance in postseason play for Ridgewood. It also was the fifth straight year they played the SOC champ in the first round.
Ridgewood 7 0 0 14 21
Lucasville Valley 14 0 0 14 28
LVYates 9 run (Holbrook kick)
RSmith 18 run (McElhaney kick)
LVKeller 8 run (Holbrook kick)
LVKeller 12 pass from Yates (Holbrook kick)
RMitchell 51 pass from Saylor (McElhaney kick)
LVYates 100 interception return (Holbrook kick)
RZiegler 1 run (McElhaney kick)