By Steve Keenan
MEADOW BRIDGE —
Once they solved the Jake Parker puzzle, the path became infinitely smoother for the Valley Greyhounds.
In a battle of state-ranked, unbeaten teams, Class A No. 6 Valley spotted No. 2 Meadow Bridge an early lead on a score by Parker, who came into the game with 1,256 rushing yards, then the Greyhounds responded with 22 points to close out the half before eventually posting a 38-18 victory before a homecoming crowd at Frank Arritt Stadium to improve to 5-0.
After Parker carried the ball 13 times for 62 yards in an opening 16-play drive that ended with a 3-yard TD plunge by the junior back at the 4:50 mark of the first period, Valley’s defense stiffened and allowed him to gain just 44 more yards the remainder of the game.
“We were letting him come to us,” explained Valley coach Benny Hopkins. “We got on a couple of the linebackers, and we started attacking him.”
“We got that quick TD, then (Valley) just started bringing the house,” said Meadow Bridge coach Larry McClintic. “We knew it was coming.”
“Let me tell you something,” he added. “Valley is a very physical football team.
“They whipped us up front.”
In the end, Valley’s balance won out.
The ‘Hounds answered the early Parker score on the next drive, as Raeshawn Breckenridge hit tight end Mark Hess for a 9-yard touchdown on a slant pattern on a 4th-and-9 situation. Valley’s good fortune continued on the next possession, as Casey Stewart recovered a Meadow Bridge fumble on the Wildcat 37, and the visitors proceeded on a six-play march that culminated with an 8-yard keeper to paydirt by quarterback Matt Whiteside.
The biggest blow came on Valley’s third score. Meadow Bridge squandered a Peyton Richmond fumble recovery on defense and had to punt. Valley’s rangy Dante Wilkerson had trouble fielding Cody White’s punt, but then Meadow Bridge tacklers had trouble stopping Wilkerson, who raced 89 yards to the end zone for a 22-6 halftime lead.
“He’s been close a lot (to breaking one) this year,” Hopkins said of Wilkerson. “He can run.”
“If we can go in (at halftime) at only 16-6 or 16-8...,” said McClintic.
Wilkerson later caught an 18-yard TD pass from Breckenridge — his second scoring toss of the night — to make it 28-12 midway through the fourth, then Breckenridge shut the door on the ‘Cats with a 48-yard interception return for a six-pointer, and Cody Winter’s (15 carries, 107 yards) conversion run pushed the margin to 38-12 with 6:20 to play.
Meadow Bridge got a late 18-yard scoring hookup between quarterback Cole Porter and slot back
Ryan Church. Church had also scored earlier on a 62-yard punt return down the Meadow Bridge sideline.
Breckenridge was 3-of-4 for 54 yards through the air, with Wilkerson hauling in two for 45 stripes. “We can throw it,” said Hopkins, whose team relies much more on the run.
Although happy with the win, Hopkins said the ‘Hounds still can’t get too giddy.
“It’s tough (playing) down here,” said Hopkins.” (It means) we win another game, but we’ve got to start getting ready for Pendleton County.”
The Greyhounds (5-0) host Pendleton County Friday.
Meadow Bridge (5-1) travels to Grundy, Va. the same night.
Midland Trail 29 Montcalm 12
Jake Grimmett ran for 134 yards and scored three touchdowns to lead the host Patriots.
One of Grimmett’s scores was a 26-yard fumble return. He also had three solo tackles, including a sack.
Aaron Presley had a 66-yard kickoff return for Montcalm (3-3).
Trail (4-2) plays Friday at Clay County.
Valley 38, Meadow Bridge 18
Valley (5-0) 8 14 0 16 — 38
Meadow Bridge (5-1) 6 0 0 12 — 18
MB: Jake Parker 3 run (pass failed), 4:50, 6-0
V: Mark Hess 9 pass from Raeshawn Breckenridge (Hess pass from Breckenridge), 2:12, 8-6
V: Matt Whiteside 8 run (Keyshawn Payne run), 10:50, 16-6
V: Dante Wilkerson 89 punt return (pass fail), 5:02, 22-6
MB: Ryan Church 62 punt return (run failed), 11:43, 22-12
V: Wilkerson 18 pass from Breckenridge (Payne run), 7:49, 30-12
V: Breckenridge 48 interception return (Cody Winter run), 6:20, 38-12
MB: Church 18 pass from Cole Porter (pass failed), 3:41, 38-18
RUSHING — V: Winter 15-107-1, Whiteside 2-6-1, Payne 5-20, Darius Hutchinson 6-24, Breckenridge 4-(-6), Casey Stewart 6-20, Team 2-(-7). MB: Parker 29-106-1, Shane Harless 6-25, Ryan Church 4-21, Jennings Berry 2-4, Cole Porter 1-0.
PASSING — V: Whiteside 0-3-0-0-0, Breckenridge 3-4-0-54-2. MB: Porter 1-6-1-39-1, Harless 0-1-0-0-0.
RECEIVING — V: Hess 1-9-1, Wilkerson 2-45-1. MB: Cody White 1-21, Church 1-18-1.
TURNOVERS — V: Stewart (FR), Breckenridge (INT-TD). MB: Peyton Richmond (FR).
Midland Trail 29, Montcalm 12
M (3-3) 0 6 0 6 — 12
MT (4-2) 0 16 0 13 — 29
MT: Jake Grimmett 1 run (Grimmett pass from Glenn Neal)
MT: Grimmett 26 fumble return (Garrett Coleman pass from Neal)
M: Aaron Presley 66 kickoff return (Pass failed)
M: Ryan Absher 13 pass from Jason Grose (Rush failed)
MT: Ryan Wilson 5 run (Pass failed)
MT: Grimmett 44 run (Wilson kick)
RUSHING — M: Grose 14-44, Presley 16-19-1, Absher 4-0, Marcus Bailey 5-(-9). MT: Grimmett 24-134-2, Devon Steele 7-22, Paul Cooper 2-6, Wilson 2-6, Neal 2-(-3).
PASSING — M: Presley 3-9-2, 32; Grose 1-1-0, 13-1. MT: Neal 0-1.
RECEIVING — M: Dustin Williams 1-21, Absher 1-13-1, Bailey 2-11.
TURNOVERS — M: Dakota Lanter (fum. rec.), Charles White (fum. rec.), Grose (fum. rec.). MT: Grimmett (2 int., 2 fum. rec.), Evan O’Dell (fum. rec.).