HURLEY, Va. - The Tug Valley Panthers fell just short in the first game of the Hady Ford era on Friday night as they mounted a fierce second half rally but fell by a final score of 22-14 to the Hurley Rebels.
The Rebels (1-0) jumped ahead early in the first half as they got a pair of touchdown runs in the first quarter from Dustin Stenson and Matt Blankenship to take a 14-0 lead. After a scoreless second period the score remained the same heading into the halftime locker room.
After some adjustments during the break, the Panthers (0-1) came out out and mounted a scoring drive on their first possession as senior quarterback Ethan Varney found junior receiver Caleb May on a pretty 41-yard scoring strike to put them on the board. Varney found May again on the two-point try as they trimmed the Hurley lead to six at 14-8.
The Rebels wasted no time getting those points back as they pushed in another touchdown on the ground as Stinson scored for the second time on the day from 18-yards out. The two-point try was good by John Matt Justus as they extended the lead back to 14 at 22-8.
The Panthers answered right back however on their next possession as they mounted an eight play 70-yard drive capped off by a touchdown run from two-yards out by Varney to cut the lead to 22-14 late in the third quarter.
The Tug Valley defense got a big stop on the next possession as Hurley was driving into Panther territory when Easton Davis stripped Blankenship and Grayson Spaulding pounced on it to give their offense the ball.
Their drive stalled however deep in Rebel territory as Hurley forced a turnover on downs to get the ball back at their own 15-yard line.
The Panther defense made another big stand however as they forced another turnover on downs to get the ball back at their own 31-yard line with a chance to tie the game.
The Tug Valley offense quickly moved the ball into rebel territory on nice runs by Varney and running back Zack Savage. They were faced with a second and 10 at the Hurley 15 when Varney dropped back to pass and was picked off by Tyler Young at the three yard line.
The Rebels ran out the clock on their ensuing possession to ice the game away.
Offensively Hurley out gained the Panthers with 331 yards compared to 270 for Tug Valley. 318 of Hurley's 331 yards came on the ground, as they were led by Blankenship with 134 yards and a score, while Justus totaled 117 yards, and Stinson ran for 52 yards and two touchdowns.
Tug Valley passed for 172 yards as Varney connected on 11-25 passes for one touchdown and the one interception. May was his leading receiver with seven catches for 123 yards and a touchdown while Tanner "Boo Boo" Kirk also hauled in four passes for 49 yards.
Savage ran the ball 13 times for 48 yards while Varney ran 15 times for 62 yards but he lost 23 on sacks for a net of 39 yards. He also had the two yard TD plunge late in the third quarter.
Defensively the Panthers were led by Savage as the sophomore had 18 tackles on the day while defensive lineman Aaron White also reached double digits with 12. May added eight tackles for Tug Valley while Spurlock and Davis picked up six apiece and Grayson Spaulding had five. Spurlock and Spaulding also each had a fumble recovery.
The loss for Tug Valley dropped them to 0-1 on the young season as they prepare to return home for the opener at Bob Brewer Stadium against Class A rival Sherman. This will be the 12th straight season the Panthers and the Tide have met on the gridiron and Tug Valley has seven out of the last nine games and leads the series 8-7 overall.
Kickoff in Naugatuck is scheduled for 7:30 p.m Friday night.
Score by quarters
TVHS (0-1): 0 0 14 0 - 14
HHS (1-0): 14 0 8 0 - 22
HHS: 1-yard run Stinson (Justice Two-point try good)
HHS: 1-yard run Blankenship (McCoy's PAT Blocked)
TVHS: 41-yard pass Varney to May (Varney to May Two-point try good)
HHS: 18-yard run Stinson (Justus two-point try good)
TVHS: 2-yard run Varney (Two-point try no good)
Jarrid McCormick is a reporter for the Williamson Daily News. He can be reached by email at jmccormick@HDMediaLLC.com.