Rams lose in final seconds
Two last-second plays — six weeks apart — have kept Laurel Valley from being undefeated.
In the opening game, Laurel Valley lost when Blairsville linebacker Jerome Nadeo tipped a Chris Smithley pass away from Justin Chop with 11 seconds remaining.
On Saturday, with 15 seconds to play, United linebacker Chuck Boring denied Smithley another chance for last-second glory.
“I was looking for that the whole way down the field,” United coach Chris Matava said. “Chucky stepped in and made the big play, and we have to thank him for that.”
With the Rams threatening to score, Boring intercepted Smithley at the 4-yard-line, to seal the 20-13 win for the Lions and hand Laurel Valley its second loss of the season.
“We made a big play when we had to,” Matava said, “and that’s what makes you a good ball club is making the plays even when your backs are against the wall.”
With United clinging to a 14-7 lead with 8:25 in the fourth quarter, the Lions were looking to put the game away with the ball on their own 34-yard-line. On the first play of that drive, Boring mishandled the snap and Chop fell on the loose ball with 8:17 left.
From the Lions 26, the Rams used two plays to score – both Jon Saxton runs — but missed the two-point conversion.
On the ensuing drive, Laurel Valley forced the Lions to punt on four plays. Laurel Valley’s David Howard, however, received a roughing the kicker penalty, giving United a fresh set of downs. Five plays later, Adam Capitosti scored from 10 yards out, to put the Lions up 20-13.
Chop fumbled the return on the kickoff, and Brian Floyd recovered the ball for the Lions. The Rams, however, forced another punt, and after a personal foul penalty, Laurel Valley started at its own 46 with 1:17 left.
The Rams used four plays, all passes, to march down to the Lions 37 yard line. Following two incomplete passes, United was flagged for two consecutive penalties – a pass interference and holding – setting up Boring’s last-second heroics.
“You never know what’s going to happen,” Laurel Valley coach Jerry Page said. “These are high school kids playing this great game.”
Laurel Valley managed only negative eight yards in the first half but led 7-6. The Rams took the lead with 4:50 left in the half when Justin Shetler fielded an Adam Mack punt, then handed it off to Saxton on a reverse. Saxton eluded tacklers and scored from 46 yards out.
“That’s a credit to the United defense,” Page said. “We never got it working offensively in the first half. The punt return gave us a nice lead.
“These were two evenly-matched teams. The team with the fewer mistakes was going to win. They earned the victory.”
Kurt McGinnis got United on the board when he scored from 33 yards out with 19 seconds left in the first quarter.
“It’s something we’ve been wanting for the seniors,” Matava said of the win. “Our seniors deserve (the win). Coming out top and winning against a great team like Laurel Valley (is) just tremendous. It speaks volumes for our kids and our seniors.”