Valley View avenges only loss, beats Milton-Union to reach Division V state semis

PIQUA – Matt King looked at his players, all down on a knee in the middle of the field, and smiled a winning smile. Everyone in Valley View navy and white smiled back. He paused ... he didn’t know what to say.

“Pride ... I’m just so proud of you.”

King felt speechless. His team had just avenged its only loss this season with a 21-7 victory over previously unbeaten Milton-Union in the Division V, Region 20 final at Alexander Stadium to earn the program’s first state semifinal berth since 2002.

“It’s good,” King said of the moment where he didn’t know what to say. “You hope that it happens a lot in your life. but it probably doesn’t very much. They did a great job ... I mean, what else can you say.”

The Spartans (13-1) will meet Ironton (14-0), a 34-0 winner over Canal Winchester Harvest Prep, in a state semifinal at 7 p.m. Friday at Princeton High School. The Spartans, who won three state titles in the 1990s, will play in their eighth state semifinal.

On Aug. 26, Milton-Union forced four turnovers and beat Valley View 24-14.

“There’s some adversity there, and they fought through it, and that’s the great thing about a football game,” King said. “You get mad at each other and you’re frustrated but you just keep battling.”

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

In a game of clear momentum shifts, Valley View had to win one final line-of-scrimmage battle in the fourth quarter. Milton-Union seized control early in the quarter, marching from their 20 to the Valley View 16 in six plays. A tying touchdown seemed only two or three plays away in a game the Spartans were dominating statistically. Then the Spartans tightened up.

King said the Bulldogs were running out of a different formation on the drive, so with he called timeout and adjusted. Two plays later linebacker Bryce Reed threw the Bulldogs for a one-yard loss on second down, killing the drive.

“We didn’t recognize it very well, and it was pretty good call on their part,” King said. “Then Bryce knifed through and it was a huge play.”

And the Spartans had the momentum back, forcing a 32-yard field goal try by Mason Grudich that was just wide left to preserve the Spartans’ 14-7 lead.

Five plays later Spartans quarterback Caden Henson threw a short pass to the left side to Austin Stidham and Stidham did the rest for a 60-yard touchdown and 21-7 lead with 8:19 left. Twenty-three seconds later Stidham went high, won the battle with a receiver and pulled down an interception near midfield with 7:56 left.

And that was it for the Bulldogs, who are now 0-3 in regional finals. Some early mistakes, struggles to convert third downs and an inability to stop the Spartans on third down, especially two big scramble runs by Henson, kept them playing from behind most of the night.

The best moment for the Bulldogs (13-1) came on a 34-yard pass play to star receiver Blake Brumbaugh that kick-started their only touchdown drive, tying the score 7-7 late in the first half on Jordan Foose’s 10-yard run.

“We just had some uncharacteristic mistakes that got us on our heels at the beginning, and we never really recovered,” Bulldogs coach Bret Pearce said. “They took advantage and got momentum. We got a little back right before halftime, but I don’t think they got our best effort tonight.”

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