Braylon Robertson
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Carson Francis

Carson is an aspiring journalist and a student at Ohio University's E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. He's a lifelong fan of all things Reds, Bengals and Buckeyes, and has seen the game through the eyes of a player, fan and reporter.

Paint Valley rallies, erases 24-point deficit to beat Piketon

The Bearcats now return home to face Huntington.

Carson Francis, Staff Writer

Southern Ohio Sports Authority is presented by OhioHealth.

PIKETON — After Friday night’s game, Paint Valley head coach Corey Dye didn’t have much of a voice left.

But he had just enough left to stand at midfield and tell his team how proud he was.

Paint Vally’s Carson Free helped his Bearcats get a win on Friday.
CREDIT: Derrick Webb/SOSA

With 1:52 remaining in the first half, Paint Valley found themselves in a 24-point hole. For most teams, that deficit would seem insurmountable. But the Bearcats are not most teams.

PV, led by the brigade of Preston Fauber, Braylon Robertson, and Carson Free, would go on to put up 41 points in the second half and escape with a 49-30 win at Piketon – keeping their Gold Ball hopes alive.

“We had a halftime attitude adjustment, and I think it was what our kids neede,” Dye said after the game. “We’re a team that never gives up and never quits, and I couldn’t be more proud of the group of kids that I have.”

The Bearcats (6-1, 4-0 SVC) started the night with possession and drove right into Redstreak territory. But Piketon’s defense was able to force a turnover on downs and took over at its own 37-yard line. From there, the ‘Streaks pieced together a methodical drive and set up Buddy Wilson for a seven-yard touchdown rush.

Following a two-point conversion, Piketon had an 8-0 lead with 6:58 to go in the frame. 

The Redstreaks (4-3, 1-3 SVC) got the ball back near the end of the first and managed to drive into the red zone once more. When the second began, they wasted no time cashing in as Wilson again found the end zone, this time from three yards out, at the 9:57 mark, extending the lead to 16-0.

The fireworks continued for Piketon when Luke Gullion dropped back and found Brent McGuire down the sideline for 55 yards and another score. The two would connect on the ensuing two-point try, making it a commanding 24-0 lead with 1:52 left in the first half.

“I have to give credit where credit is due,” Dye said. “[Piketon coach] Tyler [Gullion] does a great job. He had a great game plan for us.”

While Paint Valley faced a mountain to climb, there was still a lot of football left to play.

The Bearcats got their opportunity to finally get on the scoreboard with 20 seconds left in the second quarter. Preston Fauber found Carson Free down the middle for a 47-yard score, making it 24-8 at the break.

Even as the Bearcats played an uninspiring first half and found themselves down by two scores heading into the locker rooms, they seemed to have flipped a switch.

“In that locker room, there was probably five minutes of silence and thinking about what just happened,” Fauber said. “At Paint Valley, we like to win. We came out with a whole different mindset.”

“Our message was that the only people stopping us was ourselves,” Dye added. “We needed to be physical. We weren’t the most physical team in the first half.”

Paint Valley’s defense rose to the challenge immediately in the third, forcing a three-and-out on the opening drive. After a shanked punt attempt set up the Bearcats in enemy territory, Fauber took matters into his own hands, going almost untouched from 48 yards out to make it a 24-14 game with 8:57 left in the third. 

Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

The Bearcats’ defense once again gave its offense possession in Piketon territory, where Fauber wasted no time setting up another touchdown carry, this time from 25 yards. A successful PAT cut the lead to 24-21 at the 4:25 mark.

And all of the sudden, the tides had completely reversed course.

The Bearcats’ defense was nowhere close to being done as the unit forced a third consecutive three-and-out. From there, Carson Free returned the Redstreak punt to the Piketon’s 35-yard line, where Braylon Robertson carried the rock into the end zone with 2:51 left in the frame to give Paint Valley its first lead of the night.

“This wouldn’t be possible without our offensive line,” Free said. “[Braylon]’s just tough. He’s nonstop. He wants more.”

However, whether by four or 24, no lead is safe.

Piketon was backed up to its own 16-yard line and in desperate need of a score. Their prayers were answered after working a hook-and-ladder play to perfection. Wilson capped it off for an 84-yard score and put Piketon back out in front by a 30-28 tally going into the fourth.

However, the small deficit was nothing to the Bearcats.

After coming back from down 24, they knew they would have no problem getting a lead back, and they did just that. Robertson found the end zone once more from 11 yards out, putting the Bearcats back in front, 34-30, at the nine-minute mark.

They never trailed again.

“[Braylon]’s tough,” Fauber said. “He’s a tough kid, and it’s always going to take about five guys to tackle him.”

After forcing another punt, Paint Valley knew it would take just one more big play to put a win on ice, and who else to turn to but Mr. Fauber?

On the first play of the next drive, the signal caller kept it himself and saw nothing but green ahead of him, dashing 69 yards for a score to put Paint Valley ahead 42-30 with just under six minutes to go.

Paint Valley had one more crack at it offensively, and Robertson found the end zone for a third time to cap off a 49-30 victory – one that seemed all but unlikely at the start.

“We knew we had to win,” Fauber said. “We all have one thing in our minds, and that’s the Gold Ball. We’re going to do whatever it takes to get there.”

“It’s one of those special games that I can say I was a part of,” Dye added. “It just came down to our kids and their heart and just playing as hard as they could up until the very end.”

Statistically, Fauber completed 5-of-9 passes for 81 yards and a touchdown, while also running the ball 12 times for 157 yards and three scores. Robertson carried it 20 times for Paint Valley, racking up 131 yards and another three scores. Free caught four passes for 75 yards alongside a score.

For Piketon, Gullion completed 21 passes for 264 yards and two touchdowns, one to Brent McGuire and another to Buddy Wilson, who led the ground game with 20 carries for 83 yards and two touchdowns.

After losing their third straight game, the Redstreaks look to get back on track in Week 8, hosting Southeastern. Meanwhile, Paint Valley returns home to face Huntington. 

“One game at a time,” Dye said. “We’re focused on our next opponent. We’re focused on Huntington. We’re focused on winning that Maple Leaf Trophy and keeping it at Paint Valley.”


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