Clay Archer, Contributor
BAINBRIDGE — Coming into last week’s matchup with Southeastern, Paint Valley had to find a new identity … again.
After losing starting quarterback Bryce Newland to injury early in the season, the Bearcats had compiled four straight wins and that had a lot to do with running back Brayden Ison. But when Ison tore his ACL in Week 8, Paint Valley was left searching for answers yet again.
Friday’s 35-0 regular season-ending win over Westfall makes it seem like those answers have presented themselves.
The win not only gives the Bearcats (8-2, 6-1 SVC) sole possession of second place in the Scioto Valley Conference, but it also likely clinches the No. 2 seed in the Division VI, Region 24 playoff rankings, meaning a home playoff date is imminent.
“With this group of seniors, with all the adversity that we’ve dealt with, there’s not an adjective right now that can describe this,” Paint Valley coach Pete Hollon said. “These kids have been through so much, not just with the two major injuries but one after the next, after the next. We’ve got guys that are playing through it right now. We’re extremely blessed with this senior class.”
The Bearcats came out in their first possession and started pulling tricks out of their hats. After moving the chains on a fake punt attempt via Cruz McFadden, the senior wideout fittingly ended up finding the end zone first with a touchdown reception to make it 6-0.
At the 10:31 mark in the second quarter, Lane Mettler made it a 14-0 ballgame with a four-yard touchdown run and a successful two-point try.
On the next two Westfall possessions, Paint Valley’s defense came up with an interception and a fumble recovery. The Bearcats returned the recovery 90 yards for a touchdown with 7:32 to go in the second quarter before taking a 21-0 lead into halftime.
They kept the ball rolling in the third quarter as McFadden found the end zone again with 7:15 left, making it 28-0. Later, with 11:52 to go in the fourth, Iann Cockrell rounded out the 35-0 final with a touchdown run.
“[Defensively], we went back to assignment football,” Hollon said. “We missed that last week against Southeastern but that’s what we had the four or five weeks before that. [Not having it] probably cost us a league championship honestly. But the defense was outstanding. We were definitely the aggressor tonight.”
The Bearcats will have at least one more chance to shine this year as they look to host a playoff game in Week 11. Projections show the Bearcats most likely matching up with No. 7 seed Grandview Heights.
The pair also met in Week 11 last season, which ended in a 39-36 Bearcats win.
“This is kind of what we live for,” Hollon said. “People think I’m crazy when I say this but we live for playoff football. We’ve had conference championships but we’ve added another playoff year to our board. That’s what we do. I’d love to be a little more healthy going in but it’s the hand that we’ve been dealt. We’re just tickled to death to be playing another week.”