If there is such a thing as déjà vu in high school football, the Tri-Valley Scotties have a most severe case.
Last week the Scotties defeated the Tecumseh Arrows in the first round of the playoffs in almost identical fashion as they had done in the first round last season. Friday night in Zanesville, Tri-Valley will host the New Albany Eagles as they look to send the Eagles flying home for the third consecutive year.
In last year’s second round matchup, the Scotties defeated New Albany 24-7. The Eagles had a tough time against the Tri-Valley defense, turning the ball over four times and only accumulating 150 yards of total offense. In order to win Friday night, the Scotties will need to play great defense once again as they are facing an explosive New Albany Quarterback, Darron Lee, who’s 4.5 seconds in the 40-yard dash landed him a commitment to play football at Ohio State next year.
“We’re going to have to eliminate big plays—this team is very explosive,” Tri-Valley head coach Justin Buttermore said. “(Lee) will be the fastest kid on the field so we have got to rally to the football.”
Not to be overlooked, the Scotties have a few playmakers of their own, Nathan Strock and Gridiron Glory’s Player of the Year nominee, Austin Jones. Tri-Valley will look to these two all-stars to drive both the air attack and the ground game.
“We’re going to have to be balanced,” Buttermore said. “They’re good enough defensively that we’re going to have to be able to do both (run and pass) in order to win the game.”
This will be a different pace from 2011’s matchup when the Scotties ran the ball 55 times for 234 yards. However, with a back like Jones, Tri-Valley will gladly run the football if the opportunity presents itself.
“If we can get the lead early we’ll try and pound the ball, there’s no doubt about it,” Buttermore said. “If we can control the clock and keep it out of their good athlete’s hands then we’ll do that.”
This is exactly what Tri-Valley did last year against the Eagles after taking a 14-7 lead at the start of the second quarter and it proved to be successful. However, the third time might not be the charm for the Scotties.
“I don’t necessarily like playing a team for the third year in a row—I think it gives them a ton of motivation that we’ve beat them twice,” Buttermore said. “Certainly they’re going to come in jacked up. We’ve ended their season the last two years and one of those was a major upset.”
But the Scotties won’t be caught off guard as they are expecting the emotions of the Eagles to be soaring high Friday night.
“The key for us is to match that (enthusiasm) and get through that first quarter where they’re going to have a ton of emotion,” Buttermore said. “After that first quarter it comes down to execution and preparation and in my eyes our kids had a perfect week of that.”