By Lori Brown
GRAHAMSVILLE The Tri-Valley Bears celebrated with tears of joy moments after their 31-20 Homecoming victory over the visiting Millbrook Blazers on Friday night in a Section IX Class C Division II football game.
For the T-V seniors not only was this their last home game, but the victory also vaulted them into the Class C playoffs despite an overall record of 3-5. They will face James I. O’Neill at Dietz Stadium in Kingston at 4 p.m.
Following the game, those members of the T-V Class of 2012 walked down the field with their arms locked together for one last time.
“I am just proud of my team today,” T-V senior quarterback Greg Swarthout said. “The offensive line shuffled in and out today. This is our last home game and if feels good to walk away playing the best game of your life.
“I hope we make a run at sectionals,” he continued. “We’ll see what we can do.”
From the opening kickoff, the T-V fans cheered on the home team and were excited by the intensity of the game.
Millbrook (4-4, 2-2 Class C) squelched the early enthusiasm when Henry Cardinal took a handoff from quarterback Kyle Rudy and ran 63 yards for a touchdown. Devon Jackson made the extra-point kick to give the Blazers a 7-0 lead just 46 seconds into the game.
On its subsequent possession, T-V (3-5, 3-1 Class C) slowly moved downfield. Swarthout capped the drive by running for a touchdown. However, the extra-point kick was unsuccessful because of a bad snap which didn’t allow the Bears to get the kick off. So with 6:43 left in the first quarter T-V trailed Millbrook, 7-6.
But the Bears took the lead when Swarthout ran for a 35-yard touchdown with only 47 seconds elapsed in the second quarter. Joe Mickelson ran for the two-point conversion to put the Bears up 14-7.
T-V increased its lead when Swarthout threw a 30-yard TD pass to Cody Exner with 6:36 remaining in the quarter. Anthony Beale kicked the extra point to give the Bears a 21-7 advantage.
The Bears received the kickoff to begin the third quarter and wasted little time in scoring another TD. Mickelson ran for 25 yards on the first play of the quarter and ran for 12 yards on the next play to give T-V a first down at the Millbrook 28-yard line.
On that first-down play, Swarthout ran for a touchdown. Beale’s extra point extended the Bears’ lead to 28-7 with 11:17 on the clock.
Lucas Lehmkuhl answered for the Blazers with a 10-yard touchdown run with 8:18 to go in the quarter. Devon Jackson’s extra-point kick cut the T-V lead to 28-14.
Millbrook forced the Bears to punt early in the fourth quarter. Seconds later, Millbrook quarterback Kyle Rudy threw a 36-yard touchdown pass to Lehmkuhl. The extra point kick was no good and the Blazers still trailed by eight points at 28-20 with 9:04 left in the game.
Lehmkuhl recovered a fumble near midfield with 6:22 on the clock. But the Blazers were unable to take advantage of the turnover as incomplete passes forced them to give the ball back to T-V.
With 1:27 remaining, Beale kicked a 25-yard field goal to put the game away.
Millbrook Coach Sean Keenan said, “[T-V Coach] John [Rusin] did a great job coaching. We knew coming into the game it was going to be a war. The best team won tonight.”
Rusin was very pleased with his team’s performance.
“We made it to the playoffs today,” he said. “Millbrook is extremely well-coached. Millbrook is a great team offensively. We made it difficult for them to move the ball.
“We moved the ball offensively,” Rusin added. “Anthony Beale sealed the game with the big play. Greg Swarthout played great offense. Aric Boyes and Troy Rossi did great too. Our team pulled together and the team played just phenomenal tonight.”
Note: The seniors on the Bears’ football team and cheerleading squad were recognized at halftime and presented their family and friends with roses.
The 14 senior football players are: Anthony Beale, Fred Dumond, Jon Edwards, Tyler Lopez, Andrew Malone, Shawn Markle, Joe Mickelson, John Monforte, James-henry Osterhoudt, Rafael Ramirez, Josue Ramos, Troy Rossi, Greg Swarthout and Conor Walsh.
Six cheerleaders will be graduating next June. They include: Amber Buley, Stephanie Hyzer, Jessica Lee, Brittany Rennison, Jackie Wallace and Amber Watch.