Valley Catholic gets stiff lesson from Indians, but is improving in 4A

TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Valley Catholic junior quarterback Aidan Welsh drops back to pass in the first half against Scappoose on Thursday during the Valiants defeat.

One lopsided loss does not decide a season's outcome or a team's character.

The cockeyed 72-7 score that Scappoose stamped on the Valley Catholic football squad on Thursday was hard to swallow, surely. The Valiants looked and played better than they did a year ago when the Indians went off on Valley's brand new home turf, yet Scappoose had the clock running by the third quarter, comfortably ahead 59-7. Moral victories don't have the same sort of ring they used to around Valley's program. The Valiants are properly and rightfully impatient. They want to win now and take the next step today, not tomorrow.

In any event, Valley hatched more than a few eye-catching moments: peeks of promise that will be praised, harped on and harkened back to during film as the Valiants prepare for a critical two-week stretch when they face Banks and Tillamook that will define whether they reach the postseason or not.

TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Valley Catholic senior Jakob Pruitt celebrates his second quarter sack against Scappoose on Thursday.

There were two fourth down stops inside the Indians' red zone forced by the Valley defense in the first half. Senior linebacker Avery Jones lit up a Scappoose wide receiver who dared to cross the middle and got rocked by the all-league defender. Senior defensive end Jakob Pruitt came crashing down from the left side of the defense and pounded Indian quarterback Robert Lohman into the grass for a sack in the second quarter. Welsh showed off his mobility by rushing for 75 yards, many of which came off broken plays where the veteran signal caller simply tucked the ball away and took off with nobody open downfield. And of course, there was the highlight of the night: a striking 54-yard touchdown from Welsh to Alex Hyland just before halftime that staved off the running clock until midway through the third quarter. Omens were everywhere, though the final tally may have indicated otherwise. With the win, No. 1 Scappoose upped its record to 4-1 and 2-0 in Cowapa League play. Valley fell to 1-4 overall and 0-2 in Cowapa.

TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Valley Catholic junior wide receiver Alex Hyland races to the end zone for a 54-yard touchdown toward the end of the second quarter against Scappoose.

“I love the hard work and the work ethic from all our guys,” said Pruitt. “No matter what the rest of the season brings I'm confident everyone is going to put their best effort out there at all times. We can build on that.”

So, while Scappoose's explosive spread offense and stacked squad of slick athletes was too much to control, the uber-competitive Valiants came to play for four quarters and refused to wave the white flag.

“I never question our guys' effort level, ever,” said Pruitt. “That's what is great about our whole team. We have guys who have never played before giving it all they got and that's just great to watch.”

“We never give up,” added Jones. “We always have that fight in us. When it looks bad, it's football. Anything can happen, so we just have to keep fighting.”

Valley — a team that's trying to get where the tradition-rich Scappoose has been via the spread attack and fast, swarming defense — made the Indians pause, if only for a moment, in the first quarter. Trailing 8-0 after Scappoose scored on its opening drive, Valley junior defensive back Charlie Bevins blitzed through the line of scrimmage and drug Lohman to the ground to force a 4-and-12 from the Valiant 15-yard line. Then, junior Joey Braun brought Scappoose junior running back Braden Clark down two yards short of the sticks on a halfback pass in the flat to give the ball back to Valley with 5:45 left, down just a score.

“It's a big game-changer when you get a stop against a team like that,” said Hyland. “We all clicked. We were all in the place we were supposed to be. We just performed. It gets our offense hyped up and ready to go.”

TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Valley Catholic senior linebacker Avery Jones tries to tip a ball in pass coverage versus Scappoose.

However, on the ensuing possession, backed against the shadow of its own goaline Welsh was stripped of the football trying to flee the pocket and the pigskin rolled out of the back of the end zone for a safety that gave the Indians a 10-0 lead. From then on, Scappoose's high-flying offense scored 34 straight points while the Valiants went three-and-out five straight times.

“It makes you wonder if we hadn't been backed up what could've turned out from that,” said Pruitt. “It's great to learn and see. It's important to have a no-quit mentality all through the game, no matter what the score is, and I think we did that tonight.”

Valley's defense rose to the occasion again late in the second quarter. After the Indians marched inside Valiant territory to the Valley 17 yard-line, Pruitt came screaming off the edge and wrangled Lohman down for 12-yard sack. Valley's defense forced two incompletions and then held Scappoose to a 20-yard run on 4 and 22 to cause another fourth down, red zone stop with less than a minute to go before halftime.

“We knew if we got the ball, we could score and be in that game,” said Jones. “It wasn't over.”

TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Valley Catholic junior offensive lineman Joe Engstrom readies to take on an Indian blitzer in the second quarter on Thursday.

After a pair of chain-moving scrambles by Welsh, the junior quarterback hit Hyland on a perfect post pattern for a 54-yard touchdown strike to stave off the running clock and get Valley on the scoreboard, 44-7 with 22 seconds to go. With the Indians lined up in all-man defense across the board, Hyland was able to get past the Scappoose secondary with his speed, haul in Welsh's frozen rope in stride and outrace the Indians to pay dirt. Junior Joey Biever recovered the following onside kick for the Valiants, who couldn't capitalize on the special team triumph and went into the locker room down 44-7.

“He hit me right where I wanted it,” said Hyland of Welsh's throw. “I was running as hard as I could. I wanted to get that touchdown more than anything. It showed we can score against these high-caliber teams. We know we can do it now.”

“I knew he was going to get it,” added Welsh of Hyland's catch. “That was the play of the game. Alex is our fastest kid and whenever they line up in man (defense) that play is going to be there.”

Valley closes the season with home games against Banks next Friday and Tillamook on Oct. 23.

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