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SALINEVILLE OH- On the coldest night of the year so far, the two top teams in the Eastern Ohio Athletic Conference met on the gridiron with history in their minds. The Southern Indians came in with hopes of their fourth conference title in five years and their second undefeated season since 2019. They defended home field for the first time against the Valley Christian Eagles who came in on the hunt of their first conference crown in fifteen years and a shot at their first ever undefeated season.

This game was an instant classic that sent us back in time as Southern’s nearly 100-year-old offensive scheme dominated the trenches for three quarters of football. Their offensive line opened some huge holes that the Indians runners were able to gallop through time and time again. They were led by Wyatt Morris who had some of the biggest runs of the day. Quarterback Ryan Exline was the only Indian to reach the endzone, as he punched it in on a QB sneak in the first half. Drive after drive they were able to push onto the Valley Christian side of the field, but Valley’s defense eventually stopped them before the endzone. However, despite the dominant front line this would be the only six points they could muster against the ferocious War Eagles redzone defense.

Valley Christian did not have a great start to the game. They had to punt over and over and couldn’t get the ball moving. The 4-4 Southern defense shut down every run Valley Christian tried to put on the field. The Eagles would go three quarters without even sniffing the redzone. That would all change as the clock ticked inside of the final twelve minutes. As on the first play of the fourth quarter Jhordan Peete would complete just his second pass of the day as he found VeShun Gurley streaking over the middle of the field for the first time all night for a 41-yard touchdown reception. This would light the fire for the dormant Valley Christian offense. As off the touchdown they would hold Southern to a three-and-out. Then disaster struck the Indians, as a high snap on the fourth down punt was muffed and punter Markell Smith would attempt to pick it up and find a lane, but Valley was in hot pursuit and tackled him down at the one-yard line. The next play Valley would send in the beast known as Jon’Trell Mixon who jumped down the middle of his offensive line through a horde of Indians to score their second touchdown of the fourth quarter.

This would be the final nail in the coffin of tonight’s instant classic as Valley’s defense forced another stop with a two-possession lead and was then able to drain the clock down to zeros to win the game. Valley Christian and Southern put together the best game in the EOAC this season and left everyone wanting a rematch. Southern’s undefeated season comes to an end following Friday night’s loss as they are now (7-1), but despite the loss their title hopes are not completely out of the picture. They will travel on the road next week to take on East Palestine and then will finish the season back in the Wigwam against United. They can still win either the whole or a partial title if Valley was to lose one or both of their next two games and they were to win out. That doesn’t seem overly likely as Valley Christian is now (8-0) and has Wellsville on the road next week, and East Palestine in Week 10 back in John Knapick. If Valley Christian wins just one of the two games they will split the title, but if they win out and complete their first ever undefeated season, then they will be known as the undisputed 2022 EOAC champions.

*Contributed By YSN’s Alek Koberna

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