NAUGATUCK — The Tug Valley Panthers kept their playoff hopes alive on Friday night as they jumped ahead early on and never looked back, cruising to a 34-15 win over Richwood in the 2019 Homecoming game at a wet Bob Brewer Stadium.
The Panthers (5-3) came into the contest needing a win in their final two games to qualify for the WVSSAC Class A Playoffs. They got the first step of the equation out of the way on Friday night jumping ahead to the 28-7 halftime lead.
“We had a really good first half tonight, I thought we came out with a good game plan and were able to do what we wanted to do,” Tug Valley coach Hady Ford said after the win. “I think some of the mud and rain got us a little bit in the second half, we were a little sloppy there and had a couple of fumbles.”
“But none of that matters, we’re exactly where we need to be. The last two weeks have basically been playoff games, and we’ve taken care of business. And we have another playoff game next week. If we win we’re in (the final 16), if we lose we’re out.”
Tug Valley was once again led quarterback Ethan Varney as he totaled 369 yards of total offense and scored four touchdowns on the day. He completed 15-26 passes for 224 yards and three scores while also running 19 times for 145 net yards and another score.
Varney has now completed 120-214 passes on the season for 2,044 yards and 30 touchdowns on the season, making him the first quarterback in the state regardless of class to reach 30 passing TDs.
The senior is also one of the Panthers top defensive backs and he proved it against the Lumberjacks as he intercepted two passes in the first half giving him seven on the year.
Coach Ford was singing high praises for his signal caller following the win, “A lot of times we are putting him the other teams best offensive player and he does a great job for us. I can’t say enough about the kid and what he’s meant to this team this season. He’s blew the expectations out of the water.”
Varney’s top target in the passing game was once again junior receiver Caleb May as he had another monster game, hauling in nine passes for 154 yards and two scores. He now has 67 receptions for 1,159 yards, and 16 receiving touchdowns on the season.
Varney found May on a beautiful 31 yard strike over the middle on the Panthers first drive of the game and then hit him for the two-point try to give them the early 8-0 lead.
The duo connected again just before the end of the first half as Varney hit May in the back corner of the endzone from 20 yards out, as the two-point try gave them the 21-point lead going into the break. In the second half Tug Valley extended their lead to its largest margin at 34-7 when Varney ran the ball in from 19 yards away to put the dagger in the Lumberjacks.
Richwood (2-6) got the final score of the game when Joshua Landreth scooped up a Tug Valley fumble midway through the fourth quarter and ran it in from 15 yards out. The two-point try was good which brought the game to its final margin of 34-15.
Tug Valley dominated the game in total yardage as they amassed 440 yards of total offense on 65 plays while Richwood only gained 52 total yards on 42 plays.
The Tug Valley defense played lights out on the night holding the Lumberjacks to just over a yard a play, only seven first downs, four turnovers, and zero pass completions on the day.
“We were pretty good defensively, the last two weeks I feel like we have been pretty good,” coach Ford said. “They’ve got a good offense, they’ve got a good system and a good blocking scheme. So for us to do what we did with them I was pleased.”
Sophomore linebacker Zack Savage was a terror on that side of the ball as he racked up 13 tackles on the night, including four behind the line of scrimmage, a sack and a fumble recovery.
Savage also picked up his second straight 100-yard rushing contest as he ran the ball 14 times for 102 yards for an average of seven yards a carry.
Senior Grayson Spaulding also finished with double-digit tackles as he recorded 11, including two behind the line of scrimmage. Senior Parker Brewer added six tackles while Cade Thompson also recovered a fumble.
Tanner “Boo Boo” Kirk caught five passes for 61 yards offensively with four of his five receptions coming for first downs, while junior Easton Davis grabbed one ball for nine yards and a score.
Senior Dustin Balentine touched the ball one time on offense and made the most of it, taking a carry into the endzone from one yard out in the second quarter.
Quarterback Caleb Jantuah ran 19 times for 103 yards but lost 46 total yards on the day due to sacks and botched snaps. Doye Ward added 36 yards and the lone score for the visitors.
Tug Valley jumps to two games above .500 with the win as their record moves to 5-3 and they turn their sites to the Class AA Man Hillbillies.The Hillbillies were undefeated at 7-0 and ranked No. 5 in Class AA before their 7-0 loss at Point Pleasant on Friday night. With a win against the seven win ‘Billies, Tug Valley would receive enough bonus points to boost their rating and jump them from outside the Class A playoffs to anywhere from a No. 8 to a No. 10 seed in the final 16.
“We’ve went above and beyond expectations so far this season, so I asked our guys why stop now?,” coach Ford said. “We’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain. We’ve just got to go out there and give everything we’ve got.”
Tug Valley is 6-3 all-time against Man and has won 3 of the last four games dating back to 2015. Man won last year’s meeting however by a score of 30-8 at George A. Queen Memorial Field.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at Bob Brewer Stadium in what will be the final regular season game of 2019, home or away, for Tug Valley.
They initially had a game scheduled in the final week on Nov. 8 against Notre Dame to start the season, but the Irish had to fold the program due to low numbers leaving the Panthers with a nine game slate.
Score by quarters
RHS (2-6): 7 0 0 8 — 15
TVHS (5-3): 8 20 6 0 — 34
TVHS: 31-yard pass Varney to May (Varney pass to May good)
RHS: 14-yard run Ward (Alberts PAT good)
TVHS: 1-yard run Balentine (Varney pass no good)
TVHS: 9-yard pass Varney to Davis (Varney pass no good)
TVHS: 20-yard pass varney to May (Varney run good)
TVHS: 19-yard run Varney (Varney pass no good)
RHS: 15-yard rumble return Landreth (Jantuah pass to Freeman good)
Jarrid McCormick is a reporter for the Williamson Daily News. He can be reached by email at jmccormick@HDMediaLLC.com.