By Brad Morris
It’s a respectable average, but one that Teays Valley coach Mark Weber still knows is very deceiving.
“On paper, we are giving up around (18.4) points per game but, in reality, our defense has probably only been responsible for four touchdowns that we’ve given up through our first five games,” he said. “The rest of the points have come from turnovers on offense and miscues on special teams that either led directly to points or put our defense in really bad situations.
“Truth be told, our offense is still learning and growing. It’s our defense that is putting us in position to win the games that we have this season.”
And that was once again the case on Friday. The Vikings used a pair of key fourth quarter takeaways that led to the go-ahead score and later allowed them to run out the clock to claim a 21-14 Mid-State League Buckeye Division win over host Liberty Union.
Teays Valley (3-2, 2-0) limited Liberty Union to 198 yards of total offense and forced three takeaways on the evening.
“Our defense is an interesting mixture right now,” Weber said. “We’re playing freshmen, we’re playing sophomores and we’re also playing seniors.
“We’re giving up some yards between the 30s, at times, but when push comes to shove these guys are playing a bend but don’t break defense that is allowing us to have success as a team.”
Liberty Union (2-3, 1-1) tied the game on the first play of the fourth quarter when Caden Courts took a direct snap and scored from three yards out on fourth-and-goal. Cooper Meachem then connected with Troy Meyers on a two-point conversion toss that made it 14-14 with 11:51 remaining.
“It’s always been a battle when we’ve come over here to Baltimore,” Weber said. “Liberty Union is playing a lot of seniors, they have some nice size, and they like to strap it up and hit, just like we do.”
The two teams combined for four turnovers in the final quarter, three of those committed by the Lions and two that were especially costly.
Parker Baisden intercepted a pass midway through the fourth quarter and set the Vikings up on the Liberty Union 13-yard line.
Gavin Karshner scored on the very next play, taking the handoff out of a power-I formation and going around right side. The third and final extra point of the night by Cale Clifton gave the Vikings a 21-14 advantage.
“I told our guys I had a feeling that we’d get a pick across the middle and that was a huge momentum swing right there,” Weber said. “Then our line does a nice job and Gavin finishes it off like we needed to.”
Liberty Union tried to answer behind the running of Courts, who would have picked up a first down with a 15-yard carry. Instead, Weston Gray pried the football loose and Karshner came away with the recovery for the Vikings on their own 37-yard line with 4:43 remaining.
The Vikings used eight consecutive runs by Karshner and Richard Odum to move the ball down to the Liberty Union 11, where they lined up in victory formation to take a knee that allowed the final 10 seconds to drain off the clock.
“Our line play on both sides of the football has always been our backbone and we felt comfortable having those guys lead the way with our backs fighting for extra, tough yards to finish the game,” Weber said.
Teays Valley struck first in the second quarter, amassing a seven-play drive that stretched 61 yards.
Trent Wolpert capped the possession by catching a 29-yard touchdown pass from Matt Farmer to put the Vikings ahead 7-0.
Liberty Union trimmed its deficit to 7-6 when Courts scored on a two-yard run with 2:12 remaining before halftime.
Teays Valley used its opening possession of the second half to assemble a 12-play drive that went for 70 yards and drained five minutes and eight seconds off the clock.
Facing a third-and-goal from the nine, Farmer rolled to his right and connected with Wolpert in the right back corner of the end zone to extend the Vikings’ lead to 14-6.
“We’re going to play both Matt and Kaden Hines at quarterback, because that forces the defense to have to prepare for two quarterbacks and allows us to do some different things,” Weber revealed. “Kaden had a fine start for us, but we decided to switch things up there in the second quarter and went with Matt.
“Matt is a senior captain and a leader for us and when we brought him in during the second quarter he said, ‘I’m taking this game’. He threw an interception in the fourth quarter, where he came over and said he’d fix it. That’s the type of dude Matt is, he’s accountable. He also led us down the field in the third quarter on a very nice drive and he made a great throw to Trent on that touchdown where he placed the ball where only Trent could get it.”
Teays Valley finished with a balanced 344 yards of total offense.
The Vikings gained 200 yards via their ground game, paced by Odum using 15 carries to gain 101 yards and Karshner covering 98 yards on 25 totes with a touchdown.
Farmer completed 6 of 10 passes for 92 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Hines was 3 of 5 for 52 yards.
A pair of freshmen made all nine receptions for the Vikings with Wolpert hauling in seven passes for 116 yards and two touchdowns and Kole Nungester chipping in two grabs for 28 yards.
“When you put on that Teays Valley varsity uniform, it doesn’t matter if you are a freshman. You are expected to produce, and Trent and Kole are freshmen who are playing like sophomores midway through the season,” Weber praised. “Trent didn’t get a lot of balls thrown his way in our first couple of games, but he listened, kept working hard and asking questions because he knew his time would come. He’s earned the balls he is getting thrown his way and so has Kole.
“Kole is another guy who is starting to flourish out there on the field and I know both of those guys are appreciative of the opportunities that they have and what their teammates are doing for them.”
Courts led the Lions with 117 yards rushing on 24 carries and a pair of touchdowns.
The Vikings conclude their two-game road swing next week against Hamilton Township (2-2, 1-1), which rallied to defeat Fairfield Union 32-24 last night. The Lions (2-3, 1-1) remain at home and are slated to take on four-time defending league champion Bloom-Carroll (4-1, 2-0), which rolled past Amanda-Clearcreek 42-13.
“It’s not always pretty, but we’re 2-0 in the league and we’ll continue to grow and get better as a football team,” Weber said. “We’re still having every other game where we are committing a lot of penalties (the Vikings had 15 for 120 yards against Liberty Union), so we need to work and get things like that cleaned up for good.”
Teays Valley 21,
Liberty Union 14
Score By Quarters 1 2 3 4 F
Teays Valley 0 7 7 7 21
Liberty Union 0 6 0 8 14
TV — Trent Wolpert 29 pass from Matthew Farmer (Cale Clifton kick), 9:26.
LU — Caden Courts 2 run (kick failed), 2:12.
TV — Trent Wolpert 9 pass from Matthew Farmer (Cale Clifton kick), 4:15
LU — Caden Courts 3 run (Troy Meyers pass from Cooper Meachem), 11:51.
TV — Gavin Karshner 13 run (Cale Clifton kick), 5:45.
First downs 21 11
Rushing yards 45-200 36-156
Passing yards 144 42
Comp.-Att.-Int 9-15-1 3-8-1
Total yards 344 198
Fumbles-Lost 2-0 2-2
Penalties-Yards 2-15 7-75
Punts-Ave. 0-0 4-42
RUSHING – Teays Valley — Richard Odum 15-101, Gavin Karshner 25-98, Trent Wolpert 2-10, Ethan Schwalbauch 1-2, Matthew Farmer 1-0, Kaden Hines 1-(-11). Liberty Union — Caden Courts 24-117, Cayden Carroll 6-34, Max Harris 1-8, Jacob Baird 2-8, Camden Manson 3-(-11).
PASSING – Teays Valley — Matthew Farmer 6-10-1-92, Kaden Hines 3-5-0-52. Liberty Union — Cayden Carroll 3-6-0-42, Cooper Meachem 0-2-1-0.
RECEIVING – Teays Valley — Trent Wolpert 7-116, Kole Nungester 2-28. Liberty Union — Landon Piccirillo 1-31, Storm Wolfe 1-7, Caden Courts 1-4.
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