HURRICANE - With major postseason implications for both teams on the line, Spring Valley pulled off a critical 55-27 showdown victory over an outsized but determined Hurricane team to vastly enhance its chances at a Class AAA playoff spot.
The Timberwolves (5-3), tied for the 12th slot with Point Pleasant entering this weekend's games, avoided both dropping down in position and an assured uphill climb to get back in the playoffs.
To get the win, they went with their strength of a strong ground game, led by senior Elijah Wellman, who pounded out 237 yards on 23 carries behind a massive offensive line, going over the 1,000-yard plateau for the season.
"It was kind of a big step,'' said Spring Valley coach Brad Dingess. "They've gotten the best of us the last two years. We're just getting better. And we're still very young on the line. We've got two sophomore tackles and a junior center that do a good job. We also have a sophomore quarterback, so our future looks pretty bright.
"As far as this season goes, I still don't think we have peaked. We have two games left and we need to win them both.''
The Redskins, sitting in the No. 7 spot in the rankings after three straight wins, struggled to generate enough defense to stop Wellman and company. Now, they may need wins in their last two games to get back in position for hosting a first-round playoff game.
"We have to win at least one of our remaining games to even get in the playoffs. But we can't be satisfied with that. We really need to get two more wins to make any noise," said Redskins coach Jeremy Taylor.
The Timberwolves opened the game with a six-play, 80-yard drive where senior tailback Ryan George (17 carries, 200 yards), gained most of the yardage. Wellman took it in from 14 yards out to give the Timberwolves an early 7-0 lead.
"They just physically whipped us. We did everything we could defensively but in the end, their big horses on that line just whipped us. They are just so big," Taylor said.
As the Redskins offense struggled in the first half, the Timberwolves continued their relentless power rushing with Wellman and George trading off carries to build a 21-0 halftime lead.
The Redskins came out in the second half mixing their running and passing games to stay within range at 42-21 by the end of three quarters. Zach Pate's 90-yard kickoff return gained the Redskins a little momentum, but it was short-lived as Wellman and George each scored again in the fourth quarter to get to the final score.
"We had a little trouble at the beginning of the year with our young line,'' Wellman said, "but now they have stepped up. We didn't do anything differently this game. We were just well-prepared.''
For the Redskins, Austin Hensley completed 14 of 22 passes for 143 yards. Pate was held to 30 yards on five carries.