By Fred Stabbert III
GRAHAMSVILLE October 23, 2007 The secret is under lock and key.
Tri-Valley Head Coach John Rusin and his staff of coaches aren’t telling anyone what they told their players at halftime.
“We didn’t change a whole lot,” Rusin said modestly after the game. “We keyed on some Sullivan West players and our conditioning paid off, we were able to play full speed until the end of the game.”
But whatever else was said really worked as the Bears’ defense stiffened, shutting out Sullivan West in the second half with three goal-line stands to beat a frustrated Bulldog team 13-7 before 400 homecoming fans Saturday afternoon.
The game didn’t start out too well for Tri-Valley (5-3 overall, 2-0 Class C) as a fumble on their first drive put the Sullivan West Bullodogs (4-3 overall, 1-1 Class C) in great field position near the 50-yard line.
Sullivan West quarterback Jimmy Moloney and tailback Will Schlott took turns pounding the ball up the middle with Schlott racing in from the 9-yard line for a score with 4 minutes still left in the first quarter.
The extra point by Artie Norden made it 7-0 on the windy, cool October afternoon.
But Tri-Valley stayed with its game plan and Daniel Byrne broke loose on a 61-yard scamper up the middle for a TD.
David McDonald hit the extra point and the two teams ended the first half deadlocked 7-7.
The Bulldogs looked like they were going to take the lead in the second half as Moloney broke loose for a 51-yard run on the first play of the third quarter. His keeper around the lefthand side took the ball all the way down to the 19-yard line.
But the Bulldogs would stall there, as a delay of game penalty made it fourth and 12 and a Moloney pass into the end zone fell to the turf.
Tri-Valley then started an 80-yard drive which would take up nearly 5 minutes.
Brendan Musa, who would have 82 yards on 14 carries on the day, broke a 25-yard run to midfield and then the Bears ground the ball down to the 1-yard line before senior QB Charlie Edwards snuck it in from the 1.
The kick failed and Tri-Valley held a 13-7 lead.
On the very next drive it appeared Sullivan West was going to tie the score as Moloney hit split ends Brad Reimer and Jason Leewe for gains of 25 yards and 18 yards, respectively, to keep the drive alive.
Another 20-yard pass to Leewe put the ball on the 5-yard line.
With first-and-goal, Sullivan West tried to run it in but only picked up a yard.
After an incomplete pass, Moloney tried to hit his receiver over the middle, the ball was just off his fingertips and Tri-Valley cornerback Michael Towt intercepted the ball with just 59 clicks left in the third quarter.
On the first play of the fourth quarter the Bulldog defense, which played tough all day, returned the favor. A flair pass into the flat was intercepted by defensive end Tyler Wagner and returned to the Tri-Valley 13-yard line, where Edwards made a game-saving tackle.
But the Bears’ defense shut down Sullivan West again, stopping a run by Moloney and three passes.
Sullivan West Head Coach Ron Bauer, who lost his mother, Florence, on Friday, said. “We had a lot of chances. We couldn’t do it. We had plenty of chances but couldn’t get it done.
“If we don’t win next week, the season’s over,” he said.
The Bulldogs take on Millbrook away at 1:30 p.m. Saturday while Tri-Valley travels to Pine Plains for a 7 p.m. contest on Friday.