Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
BAINBRIDGE — Speed and power. Lane Ruby and Mikey Nusser. They go hand in hand.
Southeastern’s backfield duo has been magnificent all season long. Nusser has provided the thunder with punishing runs through the heart of the opposing defense while Ruby has used his lightning-like speed to torch defenders and rip off lengthy touchdown runs at any given time.
Friday night, in the biggest game on their schedule so far, Ruby and Nusser once again created an offensie storm as they were responsible for all six of Southeastern’s touchdowns in a hard-fought 46-34 win at Paint Valley.
The victory allows Southeastern (9-0, 5-0 SVC) to clinch at least a share of the Scioto Valley Conference title — the program’s second championship in the last three years and fourth in history — and puts it in a position to claim the outright crown next week.
And, to no surprise, the Panthers’ eyes are still on that ultimate prize.
“This win means a lot. But we have unfinished business,” Ruby said. “We’re excited about the win but we’ve got to come back next week and play another good football team. I think we have a really good chance to make a run in the playoffs. But we’re focused on next week first.”
In a matchup that featured a combined 691 yards of offense, it was two stops on the defensive side that ultimately sealed Paint Valley’s fate.
On the first possession of the game, Ruby intercepted a pass, which led to a score, and with 1:36 left in the third quarter, SE’s Jarrett McWhorter repeated that process. Those turnovers allowed Southeastern’s offense to control possession, which led to the final 12-point difference.
Ruby ended the night with 15 carries for 198 yards and four scores while Nusser accounted for 20 attempts for 95 yards and two scores on the ground. Both were quick to give credit to their offensive line after the win.
“None of our points would’ve came if it wasn’t for our offensive line,” Nusser said. “It’s all in the heart. Our linemen have a lot of heart. We couldn’t do what we do without them. It’s simple.”
The Panthers began the night with a 6-play, 58-yard scoring drive, capped by a five-yard touchdown run from Nusser with 6:57 to go in the first quarter. However, Paint Valley (7-2, 5-1 SVC) answered quickly as Lane Mettler tied the game 6-6 with a two-yard score of his own.
Nusser added his second touchdown with 10:06 left in the second, making it a 14-6 ballgame after a successful two-point try. But the Bearcats once again answered when freshman quarterback Cavan Cooper found Cruz McFadden for a five-yard touchdown strike at the 3:09 mark, tying the game after another two-point try and ending a 12-play, 62-yard drive.
Ruby had one more trick left in his first half bag, though.
The senior signal caller led his offense on an impressive drive before scoring from six yards out with just 17 seconds left, giving the Panthers a 22-14 halftime lead.
Out of the break, with 10:02 left in the third, Ruby hit a home run with a 62-yard touchdown run. It came on a scramble after a designed pass play fell through and gave SE a 30-14 edge.
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Cooper wasn’t done playing yet, though. On the next possession, the freshman found Dane Miller for a 61-yard touchdown pass to cut the Panthers’ lead to 30-20. Shortly after, following a much-needed defensive stop for PV, McWhorter picked off a pass and set up the final dagger.
Ruby scored from 13 yards out with 11:56 to play in the third, capping a 4-play, 34-yard drive, and pushing the lead to 38-20. Cooper later scored on a six-yard run, followed by another touchdown run from Ruby and a late score from PV’s Iann Cockrell to round out the 46-34 final.
Following Ruby and Nusser’s performances for the Panthers, Cockrell led Paint Valley with 87 rushing yards on 13 carries while Cooper passed for 136 yards and two scores.
Initial projections now have Southeastern having claimed a home playoff game while the Bearcats have unofficially clinched a spot in the postseason.
“We’re focused on next week. But after that, we’re just trying to make school history,” Nusser said. “We want to get it done.”
Southeastern will now travel to Adena in Week 10 with the chance to claim an outright conference title. Paint Valley hosts Westfall with a chance to clinch a share of the SVC crown … if the Panthers would lose and the Bearcats would win, it’d create a three-way tie for first place.
But Ruby, Nusser and the Panthers aren’t planning on that happening.
“We have to treat it as just another game,” Ruby said. “Yeah, it’s got hype around it. But we have to stay true to ourselves and go into the game with the same mentality we’ve had for the past nine weeks.”