Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
McDERMOTT — Symmes Valley’s seniors will be telling their grandchildren about what took place on Friday night.
And no matter what happens from here on out, this Vikings’ group is now forever immortalized.
With the outright Southern Ohio Conference title on the line, Symmes Valley took that trophy back to Willow Wood, scoring the game-winning touchdown with just 16 seconds left to beat Northwest by a 15-13 final.
“I thought our kids rose to the challenge. There were a couple of times where both teams could’ve laid down and quit, and they didn’t,” Symmes Valley coach Rusty Webb said. “Both understood what was on the line.”
Not only did the win give Symmes Valley (9-0, 4-0 SOC I) a league title, it also marked just the second undefeated regular season in program history — and the first in 32 years.
“We have two of our goals. One is to win the SOC. The other is to have an undefeated season,” Webb said. “The 1989 team will always have their place in history as the first one. That will never be taken away from them. Now the 2021 team is right there with them.”
After each team traded fumbles in the early going, the Vikings got on the scoreboard first with 4:33 left in the first quarter. That’s when Ethan Patterson galloped into the corner of the end zone from 20 yards out to put Symmes Valley ahead 6-0 — following a missed PAT.
The game’s next score wouldn’t come until the 4:42 mark in the second when SV’s Gavan Yates nailed a 24-yard field goal to make it a 9-0 score.
On the next possession, Northwest (5-5, 3-1 SOC I) drove to within SV’s 20-yard line. But with time winding down, the Vikings’ defense stuffed a rush attempt to end the half and keep the Mohawks at bay, taking a 9-0 lead into the break.
To begin the second half, Symmes Valley pieced together its own lengthy drive but fumbled on NW’s 11-yard line with 8:01 left. On the next play from scrimmage, Wyatt Brackman ripped off a 64-yard run deep into Vikings territory.
Northwest quarterback Austin Newman capitalized on the turnover, finally putting the Mohawks on the board with a one-yard touchdown plunge. That score cut the deficit to 9-7 with 4:16 remaining in the third.
The Mohawks then attempted and recovered an onside kick attempt to shift momentum and take possession at Symmes Valley’s 44-yard line. Nearly seven minutes later, at the 8:56 mark in the fourth, Brayden Campbell tallied a one-yard touchdown run to put Northwest ahead 13-9.
“You saw two teams making play after play,” Webb said. “We were able to make one more play than they were. That’s what it came down to.”
The Vikings’ next drive stalled with 3:41 to go, giving Northwest possession. But Symmes Valley used its timeouts wisely and forced a 4th & 1 from the Mohawks’ 37-yard line. Northwest elected to go for it, knowing it could seal a win of its own by moving the chains once.
Symmes Valley’s defense was up for the challenge, stuffing a dive attempt for a loss of two yards and handing the ball to its offensive counterparts.
Then, with 16 seconds remaining, Symmes Valley quarterback Grayson Walsh scored a one-yard touchdown to put the Vikings back on top at 15-13 — a missed two-point try.
Nails. Coffin. Pandemonium on Symmes Valley’s sideline.
“We’re the second team to do this in Symmes Valley history. It’s big,” Walsh said. “We’re just a heck of a team. This is my second year at Symmes Valley and I don’t think I’ve ever played with a better group of boys. A great coaching staff … I love every single of them like I’ve been here forever.”
The Vikings ended the night with 209 yards on the ground. Northwest knew that game plan was coming, too. Symmes Valley simply stuck to its guns and executed when it needed to the most.
Walsh, Patterson and Webb were both quick to credit that fact to the performance of their offensive line.
“I’m just so proud of that group,” Webb said of his offensive line. “They don’t get nearly the recognition they deserve. We’re averaging over 340 yards per game. Most of that is on the ground and everybody knows that. They know what’s coming. We pride ourselves on the execution of the play. Most of those guys have played since their freshman year. That year, they went 4-6 and they didn’t like that. They haven’t stopped winning since.”
Patterson led the Vikings statistically with 121 yards rushing and a touchdown on 23 carries. Levi Niece added 49 rushing yards on seven carries and Walsh, who was 4-of-6 passing for 24 yards, totaled 19 yards on the ground and the game-winning score.
Northwest was led by Newman, who carried the football 15 times for 95 yards and a touchdown. The signal caller was 3-of-4 passing for 41 yards. Brackman ended with 90 yards rushing on 12 carries and Campbell had 40 yards rushing and all 41 of the Mohawks’ receiving yards.
Both teams are projected to be in postseason action next week — the OHSAA will release official playoff matchups on Sunday.
As it stands, Northwest is projected to travel to Harvest Prep while Symmes Valley is projected to host KIPP Columbus.
“We’ve got to be more consistent,” Webb said. “Teams are only going to get tougher and tougher as we go. That’s the nature of the beast. I think our kids will rise to the challenge. We’re going to enjoy this win until Monday and then it’s back to work.”