East Xtra: Upstart Valley faces challenge in first-round game
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Valley will have to beat the odds to take down Beaver Area in Friday's WPIAL Class AA first-round playoff matchup.
That's nothing new to the Vikings, who have beaten the odds all season.
Valley came into the 2012 season having lost 22 consecutive games, but under the direction of first-year head coach Chad Walsh, it finished the regular season 6-3 overall and in fourth place in the Allegheny Conference with a 5-3 mark.
So Valley will take the field at Beaver for a playoff game Friday night for the first time since 2008. Considering most of the players on Valley's roster had never won a game coming into this season, it will be a special moment.
"It's big, especially for our seniors," Valley coach Chad Walsh said. "You can see in their faces. To go through 22 straight losses and then make it to the playoffs, that's a big accomplishment."
While Valley was just trying to get into the playoffs this season, Beaver was fighting for a perfect regular season all the way to the last game. The Bobcats entered last week's contest with an undefeated mark and were going against Aliquippa, which was also undefeated. The Quips proved to be too strong for Beaver, winning, 36-7.
Beaver coach Jeff Beltz doesn't think the loss will have a lingering effect on his team.
"It was a tough loss, but kids are resilient," Beltz said. "I think sometimes we forget how quickly they can turn the page. A lot of times players have an easier time moving on than us coaches."
In fact, Beltz thinks the experience of playing Aliquippa, the top-seeded team in the WPIAL Class AA tournament and the defending WPIAL champions, was good preparation for the playoffs.
"Sure it helps," Beltz said. "When you are playing a team of that quality, you learn how to play at a faster speed."
The experience will help Friday against Valley's speedy Demetrius Houser. A 6-foot-2, 200-pound junior, he rushed for 1,100 yards and 12 touchdowns this season while averaging almost 10 yards per carry.
"He's been our best back by far," Walsh said. "He's explosive. Any time he touches the ball he can go all the way."
Beaver will answer at running back with Darian Bradley. Bradley has a combined 988 yards rushing and receiving this season and has scored 25 touchdowns. Only four players in all classifications of the WPIAL have found the end zone more times than the 205-pound senior.
"He's a big back and he's running behind a large offensive line," Beltz said. "He's been able to run downhill and we've gotten a good push from our line up front."
The Bobcats have other offensive threats than Bradley, as Anthony Fidurski, Austin Ross, Anthony Keriotis and Alex Rowse have all rushed for at least 148 yards this season.
Walsh said it will be key for Valley to win the running game battle Friday.
"We have to run the football and handle their big guys up front," Walsh said. "We need to control them at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball."
The winner of Friday's game will play the winner of the South Allegheny-Jeannette contest in the quarterfinals.
• Game: Valley (6-3) at Beaver Area (8-1).
• When: 7:30 p.m. Friday.
• Where: Pat Tarquinio Field, Beaver.
• Skinny: After a 22-game losing streak Valley is a playoff team.