WEST ALEXANDRIA – Mississinawa Valley actually had a halftime lead and seemed to have the upper hand Friday night at Twin Valley South, although with a score more befitting a baseball game, 6-2.
The defenses of both teams kept a lid on scoring with just one touchdown allowed in the first half. South has twice scored more than 40 points this season so throttling the Panther offense was no trivial feat.
But in the second half the defense bent and finally broke – allowing Twin Valley South to score. And the offense kept tripping up at the wrong times – penalties and missed opportunities stopped several drives.
South was able to find the end zone finally in the second half and would score two touchdowns plus another safety to win 18-6.
The Blackhawks only score of the night came early in the first quarter when an interception by Max Dirmeyer put the ball on the 14-yard line of South. Nate Gladdish punched the ball in from there and gave MV a first quarter lead.
The defense played fairly well for most of the game with a couple of interceptions by Trent Collins and Dirmeyer to stop the Panthers from passing very much and keeping them out of the end zone most of the game.
Uncharacteristically, the Blackhawks gave up two safeties. Those hurt the team in two ways. First it gives up free points and then the opponent gets the ball back and ends up with a short field for its offense.
The first safety was on a bad snap on a punt, and the punter played it safe by kicking the ball out of the end zone. The second safety was the result of a missed opportunity. South drove inside the red zone and Gladdish made a great play on fourth down to give the Blackhawks the ball. But the team lost any momentum that this stop would have generated by getting two penalties back to back. Then on their own 3-yard line a Blackhawk fumble in the end zone gave the Panthers another score.
On the ensuing possession after receiving the kick after the safety Twin Valley South, who had been hammering in between the tackles all night, got sneaky and passed for a 28-yard touchdown for its first lead of the night so quite a swing in momentum indeed.
But Mississinawa had another opportunity in the second half. Billy Bridges recovered a fumble for the Blackhawks, and they had great field position deep in Panther territory. They moved the ball and seemed ready to advance for their second score of the night, but a fumble on third down ended that drive.
South’s strategy was to grind down the Blackhawk defense by pounding the ball inside. And the Blackhawks seemed to have no answer after that fumble as the Panthers methodically chewed up yardage and clock in the fourth quarter. They controlled the ball until they scored with about four minutes left.
Mississinawa Valley managed to get the ball to the red zone of TVS on its possession but on fourth down the Hawks were stopped just short of the 3-yard line to end any chance of a comeback.
“Defensively I thought we played really good,” Mississinawa Valley coach Mike Griffin said. “That last TD we gave up – it was because we were just gassed. But on offense I thought we shot ourselves in the foot. We missed several chances. We set up passes where guys were open and we missed them or we trip our own runner up. We simply kept getting into our own way. We try to set up big plays, and every time we failed to execute. To only score 6 points was disheartening.”
Griffin credited Twin Valley South.
“South did what they do – they are a ground and pound team with big linemen,” he said. “All the credit to South they worked hard and got the W. We have another team in Ansonia next week that does the same thing. And they have a tall receiver to throw to this year. So we have our work cut out for us this week.”