Updated Sun, Nov 11, 2012 11:35 am
Despite the undefeated season and despite all their playmakers showing up, the Tri-Valley Scotties could only watch helplessly as New Albany quarterback Darron Lee drained the final seconds of his team’s 42-35 regional semifinal win with a kneel down.
Tri-Valley’s magical season was not supposed to end like this. Not against the team they beat in the past two postseasons. Not in the second round.
But when triple digits hit the scoreboard, Tri-Valley (11-1, 8-0 MVL) saw their final score lower than their opponent’s for the first time during this historic season. Austin Jones, Nathan Strock, Trevor Krouskoupf, and company could do nothing except shake their opponent's hands and leave for the locker room.
Despite trailing by two scores for over 14 minutes of game play, the Scotties had their chances to pull out the victory.
With just 6:18 remaining Tri-Valley trailed New Albany (10-2, 7-0) 35-21 when Strock hit his favorite target, Krouskoupf, on the left sideline. The receiver tiptoed nine yards into the end zone to pull the Scotties within a touchdown.
The Eagles bobbled the ensuing kickoff, leading to a pileup for possession. New Albany recovered, and hit a home run on their first play from scrimmage when running back Alan Watson weaved his way through Tri-Valley’s defense for 68 of his 217 rushing yards and a touchdown, his fourth score of the night.
The Scotties’ defense got into the habit of surrendering big plays time and time again. Each of New Albany’s six touchdowns were scored on lengthy runs by Lee and Watson, five of them were from at least 60 yards out, and all six were within the first three plays of that possession for the Eagles.
Now down by 14 again, the Scotties refused to surrender. Tri-Valley drove downfield in less than two minutes. When Strock completed his third touchdown pass of the contest to receiver Kris Michael on the right side of the endzone, the Scotties again pulled to within a score of New Albany.
After a failed pooch onside kick, Tri-Valley’s defense rallied for one of their few stops of the night, holding the Eagles to a three and out and a punt.
Tri-Valley was faced with the task of marching 73 yards with one timeout and less than four minutes left to save its season.
But on first down Michael dropped Strock’s screen pass and on third down Strock was sacked for a 9-yard loss. On fourth down a deep desperation pass floated above the head of Michael on the left sideline and out of bounds, effectively ending Tri-Valley’s hopes for a comeback.
Lee was able to drain the remainder of the clock and clinch a win without completing a pass in the second half and only managing to complete two for the entire game. The Eagles’ signal-caller ran for 144 yards and two touchdowns to complement Watson.
Any time Tri-Valley was able to gain some momentum, New Albany was able to snatch it right back. The Eagles’ read-option offense, fueled by their two horses, proved to be too much for the Scotties’ defense to handle, as they were incapable of tackling Lee or Watson once they got to the second level.
Tri-Valley’s rushing attack was centered on Austin Jones, who had a solid night, racking up 165 yards rushing of his own. However, the Scotties’ feature back was not able to make the game-changing plays that he usually makes, only scoring one touchdown on the evening, which was from just 1 yard out.
The Scotties’ offense actually outgained New Albany, 455-413, and controlled most of the game, running nearly two-and-a-half times as many offensive plays as their opponents.
Five different Scotties scored Tri-Valley’s five touchdowns on the night. In addition to the scores by Krouskoupf, Michael, and Jones, Adam Reiss hauled in a 10-yard touchdown catch and Strock ran into the end zone from 15 yards out for a rushing score.
Despite the bitter and abrupt end to their season, Tri-Valley’s 2012 squad will always be remembered for being the first group of Scotties to finish a regular season unbeaten.
The New Albany Eagles, who are now riding a 10-game winning streak, will face Marion-Franklin (11-1, 7-0), the team that ended Tri-Valley’s playoff run last year, in the regional final next Friday night at 7:30 p.m.