By Gary Fauber
Register-Herald Sports Writer
A magical season for Valley came to a screeching halt Saturday.
The Class A No. 3 Greyhounds could not stop Magnolia’s all-state running back Drew Keller, who flirted with the Class A record for rush attempts in a playoff game. He fell short of that mark, but ran for 239 yards and three touchdowns in a 42-16 win in a first-round game at UC Stadium/Laidley Field.
The No. 14 Blue Eagles (7-4) went exclusively with the run, attempting just one pass out of 55 total plays. With a player the caliber of Keller, why not?
A 5-foot-9, 180-pound senior, Keller averaged 6.6 yards per carry. His 36 rushes were 10 shy of the Class A playoff record of 46.
Keller scored on runs of 1, 13 and 3 yards. The 13-yarder was the most impressive — he appeared to be stopped by two defenders, but spun from their grasps and continued to the end zone to give Magnolia a 28-8 lead with 1:52 left in the first half.
It wasn’t Keller by himself, however. Eric Smith ran for 121 yards and a touchdown, while quarterback Jacob Brill carried nine times for 79 yards and two scores.
Tyler Anderson’s 9-yard gain late gave the Eagles 449 rushing yards. Brill completed one pass attempt for minus-1 yard.
“We didn’t play very well,” veteran Valley coach Benny Hopkins said. “If we would have come out and were able to tackle, it could have been a lot different.”
“Our offensive line controlled the line of scrimmage,” said Magnolia coach Mark Batton. “Drew did that and then you’ve got Eric on the edge a little bit, and then you always have Jacob (handing off) or keeping it. It was a great game out of those three ... but the offensive line did a tremendous job.”
Brill and Keller alternated running with direct snaps in the wildcat formation, which seemed to cross up the Valley defense.
“They’ve got a good football team,” Hopkins said. “We’ve been playing pretty well ... They are probably a sleeper in single-A. They were quicker than we thought they would be.”
Magnolia also benefited from a couple of mistakes by the Greyhounds, including Donte Wilkerson’s muffed punt that was recovered by the Eagles’ Kaje Rhode at the Valley 29-yard line. The ensuing drive saw Keller carry on all eight plays, including a 1-yard touchdown to make it 21-0 with 5:41 left in the second quarter.
Raeshawn Breckenridge fumbled at the goal line on what looked to be a sure touchdown run on the first drive of the second half.
Aside from the fumble — and a 31-yard loss on Valley’s last offensive play — the game was mostly positive for Breckenridge, a senior who emerged as a three-sport star last year after transferring from George Washington.
He led Valley (10-1) with 115 yards rushing, and completed 8 of 14 passes for 111 yards, including a 23-yard touchdown to Druw Bowen in the fourth quarter.
Bowen also caught a 2-point conversion pass from Henry Barron-Houchins on the play. Barron-Houchins took a pitch from Breckenridge and looked to be stopped along the left sideline, but was able to stay in bounds, reverse direction and fire a laser to Bowen standing at the center of the goal line.
Barron-Houchins went airborne and scored on a 10-yard run to get the ’Hounds on the board, 21-8 with 3:26 left before halftime.
Bowen had 67 yards on three receptions.
Despite the loss, 2013 will long be remembered among the Valley faithful. Last week’s 60-20 win over Gilmer County capped off the first 10-0 season in school history.
“We had a good year,” Hopkins said. “You can’t (be disappointed by) a 10-win season.”
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The Class A No. 6 Moorefield Yellowjackets rallied from a 16-8 halftime deficit with 14 unanswered points in the second half to knock off No. 11 Meadow Bridge Friday 22-16.
The Wildcats jumped out to an early lead when Craig Peters scooped up a blocked field goal attempt and raced 79 yards for a touchdown. Jake Parker added the 2-point conversion for an 8-0 lead.
Moorefield answered back with a Colton Bramsen 1-yard run and a 2-point conversion to tie the game at 8-8.
Parker put Meadow Bridge back on top with a 1-yard run followed by a Ryan Church 2-point conversion run for a 16-8 lead at the half.
After Moorefield tied the game on a Lawrence Schoonover 12-yard run, the Yellowjackets took the lead when Dakota Veter found Matthew Dolan for a 16-yard touchdown strike. The Wildcats had stopped Moorefield on a fourth down play in the same drive, but were hit with a roughing the passer penalty to keep the drive alive.
The Wildcats drove deep into Moorefield territory with 4 minutes remaining but could not find the end zone.
Meadow Bridge finishes the season 8-3, while Kennedy Award candidate Parker had 137 yards on 31 carries, 17 tackles and two fumble recoveries to go with his touchdown run in his final high school game.
Moorefield 22, Meadow Bridge 16
MB (8-3) 8 8 0 0 — 16
M (10-1) 8 0 14 0 — 22
MB: Craig Peters 79 blocked FG return (Jake Parker rush)
M: Colton Bramsen 1 run (Shane Meyers pass from Dakota Veter)
MB: Parker 1 run (Ryan Church rush)
M: Lawrence Shoonover 12 run (Matthew Dolan pass from Veter)
M: Dolan 16 pass from Veter (pass failed)
RUSHING — MB: Parker 31-137, Church 10-37, Peters 6-19, Shane Harless 2-5. M: Schoonover 18-92, Brandsen 16-61, Veter 6-80, Shane Myers 1-2.
PASSING — MB: Church 1-4-0-16. M: Veter 9-12-0-125.
RECEIVING — MB: Peters 1-16. M: Dolan 4-86, Myers 3-28, Brandsen 1-7
TAKEAWAYS — MB: Parker (2 fum rec), Peters (fum rec); M: Schoonover (fum rec)