WEST ALEXANDRIA – The Ansonia Tigers won a thriller at Twin Valley South on Friday night.
The game would not be decided until the very end of the last quarter. It was a contest in which both teams left it all on the field and went all out for four quarters. The Tigers made some gutsy calls down the stretch and managed to come away with a 35-28 Cross County Conference victory.
Although the Tigers passed sparingly, they were effective when they did pass. Rygh Fortkamp set up the first score of the night with a 40-yard pass from Hunter Buckingham to the TVS 3-yard line. Brock Shellhaas ran the ball in for the score from there.
Fortkamp also caught a 15-yard TD pass in the second half; he would lead Tiger receivers with 88 receiving yards.
When you have two evenly matched teams, many times it is the team making the fewest mistakes that wins. But Ansonia dodged a bullet just before halftime.
The Tigers had just stopped the Panthers and forced a punt. With just 22 seconds in the half, Ansonia coughed up the ball at about its own 22-yard line.
The Ansonia defense stopped Twin Valley South from advancing and when the Panthers tried to kick a field goal, it was blocked. So Ansonia was able to enter halftime with a 21-14 lead.
In the second half the Ansonia strategy was to control the ball and play smash mouth football. TVS had tied the game at 21-all, and Ansonia had answered with a TD of its own to regain the lead.
South tried to respond but its drive stalled at midfield when the Ansonia defense held firm on fourth and 2.
Now the offense methodically went to work at the start of the fourth quarter and slugged out yardage. Twice Ansonia obtained first downs with a hard count that drew TVS offside on short yardage.
Max Wardrip would score on a 1-yard run to put Ansonia up by two scores. And more importantly, this drive ate up clock. Twin Valley South would not get the ball back until there was 4:39 left in the game.
The Panthers still had some fight left in them. Chandler Napier caught an 8-yard TD pass from Cade Cottingim to put TVS back in reach with 3:05 left on the clock.
Ansonia had to find a way to keep the Twin Valley South offense on the sidelines. South did try an onside kick, but it was easily covered by Cody Sanders.
Now the game was in the hands of the offense and specifically, as Coach Eugene Hoening would later relate, it was up to the offensive line. Ansonia was faced with a fourth and 1 situation. Instead of punting at midfield, the Tigers elected to run the ball.
“We called a simple play where the line forms a wedge for the running back,” Hoening said. “They were able to push the line forward, and our back was able to go through the line and get a first down. It’s like running a seven-man sled on Tuesday.”
After that first down, it was time for the victory formation, and Ansonia got another step closer in its quest for the playoffs.
Also scoring for the Tigers, Sanders had a 1-yard touchdown run. He was a workhorse with 126 yards for the night.
“He is the smallest of our running backs,” Hoening said. “But he is so quick that he can get outside and make a cut and get down field. He uses that quickness to his advantage. He ran that little toss play several times and got us out of some bad situations and put us in good situations.”
Devyn Sink had a 17-yard TD run. He also set up another TD with a kickoff return to the TVS 15-yard line.
Coach Hoening was impressed with Twin Valley South.
“South really put out the effort,” he said. “It was a hard fought game. It could have gone either way. Both teams played extremely hard. They are an explosive team. They ran well and scored on a couple of big pass plays. They have some nice players and a big offensive line. It was one of those games where you didn’t know until the end who was going to pull it out. The fans got their money’s worth.”
Ansonia currently sits at ninth place in its region but has another big game on Friday against Tri-Village – another team that would like to play the role of spoiler.