Brock Netter, Staff Writer
BAINBRIDGE — Maybe it was Week 1 nerves, maybe it was opening a new facility in front of a large crowd … but no matter the case, Paint Valley didn’t look like itself from the start Thursday night.
But just when that thought started to creep into the minds of many, the Bearcats came up with a huge play that swung every bit momentum of momentum into their favor.
Holding a one-point lead, Cordell Grubb intercepted a pass and ran it back for a touchdown … a play that led to 42 unanswered points as the Bearcats eventually rolled to a season-opening 56-13 victory over Eastern.
“That play changed the complex of the game and gave us some juice,” Paint Valley coach Pete Hollon said. “We had missed a few tackles on edge, typical things that happen in a first game. But once that happened, you could see the life get taken from them a little bit. After that, there wasn’t a feeling that they could stop us and our kids fed off of that.”
Although Paint Valley (1-0) was eventually too much to handle, Eastern (0-1) came out ready for a battle. After a swing pass from quarterback Wyatt Hines to tailback Dillon Mattox went for 43 yards, Mattox later scored from six yards out for to put the Eagles on top, 6-0 (missed PAT).
Paint Valley answered quickly with a 43-yard strike from Bryce Newland to Cruz McFadden that put the ball on the seven-yard line. Three plays later, Lane Mettler found pay dirt from two yards out, giving PV a 7-6 lead.
Eastern followed suit, scoring on their next play from scrimmage when Hines found Jackson Williams for a 57-yard touchdown pass … just to have the Bearcats counter with a 55-yard rushing touchdown via Brayden Ison, making it 14-13.
“Honestly, that slow start was probably the best thing that could have happened to us,” Hollon said. “I dreamed that that was how we were going to start. You can’t simulate that up-tempo offense in practice and our defensive coaches made some great adjustments as the game went on.”
The Eagles attempted throw another punch, but Grubb found himself at the right place at the right time, and secured a 20-yard pick six that changed everything.
“To be honest, we came out with the wrong mindset,” Ison said of the team’s slow start. “We weren’t all there mentally, but once we set ourselves in, you saw what happened.”
From that point on, Ison scored another touchdown from 59 yards out while Mettler scored two more times on the night.
Newland also threw a touchdown pass to Beau Blankenship in the right corner from 23 yards out, and Tramel Byrd also found the end zone to complete the Bearcats’ offensive outburst.
“All credit goes to the offensive line and the lead blockers,” Ison said. “All I needed was a hole to run through and it all worked out. Those guys were great.”
Ison finished with just five carries for 140 yards and two touchdowns, while Mettler had six carries for 21 yards and three scores. Newland finished 3-of-7 passing for 75 yards and a touchdown.
The Bearcats outgained the Eagles 339-94 on the evening, despite Eastern running more plays. The Eagles also committed three turnovers.
“I can’t say enough about the defense. They were outstanding tonight, despite the slow beginning,” Hollon said. “We were down three starters tonight, and I can’t say enough about Trent Mettler and Cavan Cooper. Those guys had just two days to prepare and they played great.”
Paint Valley is back in action next Friday at Pleasant before its showdown with Newark Catholic the following week. The Eagles will host Huntington in Week 2.
“Coach always preaches one game at a time,” Newland said. “We just have to stay focused and continue improving. We’ll have our film study, learn from our mistakes and be better for Week 2.”