ROCKSPRINGS, Ohio — A tale of two halves.
The Meigs football team led Tri-Valley Conference Ohio Division guest River Valley 32-0, midway through Friday night’s showdown at Farmers Bank Stadium. The Raiders turned it around in the second half, but the Silver and Black fell just short of a miraculous comeback, as Meigs claimed a 38-34 victory.
Meigs (3-2, 1-1 TVC Ohio) wasted little time getting on the scoreboard, as junior Lane Cullums broke a 31-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage.
Marauders junior Christian Mattox intercepted an RVHS (3-2, 1-1) pass on the ensuing Raider possession and gave the hosts the ball back at the RVHS 36.
On the ninth play of Meigs’ drive, quarterback Zach Helton found paydirt on a six-yard run. Marauders’ senior Layne Acree was 2-for-2 on first quarter extra point kicks and Meigs led 14-0 at the end of the period.
After forcing the Raiders to punt on the first play of the second quarter, Meigs setup shop at its own 15. On the sixth play of the MHS drive, River Valley senior Jacob Dovenbarger intercepted a pass, but the Marauders regained possession on the same play, after a fumble.
Meigs was eventually punted to RVHS, but on the second play of the Raider drive, MHS recovered a fumble and regained possession at its own 43. On the very next play, Helton connected with junior Bailey Caruthers for a 57-yard touchdown pass, giving Meigs a 20-0 lead with 7:00 left in the first half.
MHS — which was able to kick from the RVHS side of the field thanks to an unsportsman-like conduct penalty after the touchdown — recovered the ball on the kickoff, and set up its offense at the Raider 17.
The Marauders scored on the second play of the possession, as Zach Bartrum found paydirt on a six-yard run. MHS failed on the two-point conversion run and led 26-0 with 5:56 left in the first half.
Meigs forced River Valley to punt after a three-and-out on the next drive, and the Marauder offense began at its own 10. After a successful fake punt extended Meigs’ drive, Bartrum broke a 63-yard run deep into Raider territory. Four plays later, Helton scored from one yard out, putting Meigs up 32-0 at halftime.
River Valley received the second half kickoff and Tre Craycraft put the Silver and Black in prime position at the MHS 23. From there RVHS quarterback Patrick Brown took over, rushing on four consecutive plays and scoring a one-yard touchdown to cap off the drive. Jaykob Mabe ran in the two-point conversion for RVHS, cutting the deficit to 32-8.
On Meigs’ first play from scrimmage in the second half, RVHS sophomore Layne Fitch intercepted a pass and returned it 35 yards for the touchdown. The two-point run failed and Meigs led 32-14 with 10:10 left in the third quarter.
The Marauders went to the ground on all 11 plays of its next drive, and Cullums capped off the 64-yard drive with a three-yard scoring run, that gave Meigs a 38-14 lead with 5:11 left in the third period.
River Valley answered with a 12-play, 65-yard scoring drive that featured only running plays, and was capped off by a five-yard touchdown by Mabe. The point-after kick failed and RVHS trailed 38-20 with one quarter remaining.
Meigs was forced to punt on the next drive, but the Maroon and Gold ran over four minutes off of the clock. River Valley covered 52 yards in eight plays and 2:19, with Mabe scoring on a one-yard run. The Raiders extra-point kick was missed and RVHS trailed 38-26 with 5:14 remaining.
Meigs recovered an attempted on-side kick at midfield, but on the first play of the Marauder drive, Craycraft intercepted a tipped pass and returned it 50 yards for the touchdown. Brown ran in the two-point conversion and the Marauder lead was cut to 38-34 with 5:03 remaining.
River Valley never regained possession, however, as Meigs burned the remaining time with 11 running plays to cap off the 38-34 homecoming victory.
“Up 32-0, you have to finish, that’s simple,” Meigs head coach Mike Bartrum said. “Hats off to those guys, River Valley fought their tails off when they could have just given up. A win is a win and we’ll take it. The finish wasn’t the best, but we were able to hang on, which shows character.”
Meigs has now won 13 consecutive over the Raiders, and pushes its record to 20-3 in all-time meetings with the Silver and Black.
“As a football coach, I am so proud of the way my guys for the way they came back and the resiliency they showed,” RVHS head coach Jerrod Sparling said. “We came up short at the end, but as far as heart and passion, that’s the biggest I’ve seen their hearts. The other part of the head coach coach in me says don’t give up 32 points in the first half and don’t do stupid things. Give Meigs credit, they came out and put it to us.”
Meigs held a 19-to-11 advantage in first downs for the game, including 9-to-3 in the first half. MHS outgained River Valley 370-to-225 in total yardage, including a 279-to-200 edge on the ground. Both teams committed three turnovers and four penalties in the game.
Coach Bartrum noted that a change to Meigs’ after school routine was a factor in the Marauders’ great start.
“After school today we went and sat in the stands, we didn’t watch film like we usually do,” Coach Bartrum said. “We asked them ‘what do you want this to feel like, what do you want to feel like after homecoming and what do you want to feel like tomorrow?’”
For Coach Sparling and the Raiders the second half surge may have saved their season.
“The truth is, if we played a second half like we did the first half, pack us in for the rest of the season, we’re done,” Sparling said. “As a program, I know we don’t have a great history, but in the last couple of years we’ve played really good football and, for the first time in a couple weeks, I saw us get back to that. I think we’ll be okay, we need to heal up a little bit, but I saw my guys hearts today and I can’t be more proud of them.”
Meigs’ offense was led by Cullums with 141 yards and two touchdowns on 29 carries. Zach Bartrum ran five times for 71 yards and a touchdown, while catching four passes for 23 yards.
Helton — who was 5-of-10 passing for 87 yards with one TD and three interceptions for Meigs — ran 18 times for a total of 63 yards and two scores. Mattox ran once for four yards, while Caruthers and Jared Kennedy each caught one pass for 57 and 11 yards respectively. Acree threw one pass in the win and completed it for a four-yard gain.
Brown — who was 4-of-8 passing for 25 yards with one interception for the Raiders — posted 70 yards and one TD on 17 rushing attempts. Tre Craycraft ran seven times for a total of 70 yards, Jacob Campbell ran 10 times for 53 yards, while Mabe ran three times for seven yards and two touchdowns.
Mabe, Dovenbarger, Dustin Barber and Craycraft each caught one pass for RVHS, gaining 22, 11, minus-2 and minus-6 yards respectively.
Meigs will visit 3-2 Nelsonville-York on Friday at Boston Field, while River Valley will return to Bidwell, where they will clash with 3-2 Wellston.
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.