In about the sixth week of this season, Valley's football team emerged as one of the top story lines in the WPIAL.
The once-proud but recently dormant Vikings entered the season riding a 22-game losing streak -- with their last win coming Oct. 3, 2009 -- and were coming off consecutive winless seasons. Behind new coach Chad Walsh, the team was able to rally to a surprising 6-3 record and an appearance in the Class AA playoffs, creating an inspiring turnaround story.
Beaver, however, wanted to make it a tale with an abrupt final chapter.
Even with a tumultuous and bizarre start to the third quarter that saw Valley score touchdowns on consecutive fumble recoveries, the Bobcats scored a 28-14 victory in the first round of the Class AA playoffs Friday at Pat Tarquinio Field.
Statistically, it was a game Beaver dominated throughout.
The Bobcats (9-1) more than doubled the Vikings (6-4) in total yards, 285-139, as well as first downs, 18-10. Yet, for a brief sequence in the third quarter, none of it mattered, as what once looked like a comfortable Beaver lead disintegrated in seconds.
Entering the second half with a 13-0 lead, one it achieved with touchdowns from running backs Anthony Keriotis and Anthony Fidurski in the second quarter, the Bobcats were forced to punt on their first possession of the second half. However, the snap was high and through the hands of the punter, and after rolling forward with several players trying to recover it, the ball ended up in the hands of Valley's Demetrius Houser in the end zone for a touchdown that put the Vikings within six points.
On the ensuing kickoff, Beaver took the ball upfield near the 25-yard line, but Valley forced another fumble, one which was picked up by the Vikings' Kevin Frame and returned for a touchdown. Improbably, a team that trailed by almost two touchdowns a minute earlier led, 14-13, two minutes into the second half.
"I told our kids that that was the worst 30 seconds of my life and I really think that's true," Beaver coach Jeff Beltz said.
Beaver responded, though, with an out-of-the-ordinary moment of its own. After recovering a fumble and returning it 60 yards to the Valley 20, Beaver quarterback Aaron Ross pitched the ball to running back Jordan Yates, who ran sideways, hesitated for a second, and threw a pass to backup quarterback Alex Rowse, who hauled it in for a touchdown to give the Bobcats, after a two-point conversion, a 21-14 lead with 5:49 remaining in the third quarter.
A series of possessions later, Beaver gave itself some much-needed breathing room in the fourth quarter with a 75-yard drive that ended with a 15-yard touchdown run from Keriotis to extend the lead to 28-14.
Despite the loss, Walsh praised his team. "What we were able to accomplish this year, I'm just proud of those kids," he said.
Craig Meyer: email@example.com and Twitter @craig_a_meyer.