SPRING VALLEY Spring Valley assistant coach Aaron Ferguson informed the Timberwolves in their postgame huddle on Friday night that they were being given the day off today from weightlifting, to only slightly restrained celebration.
Spring Valley’s big boys up front and bruising backs can probably afford a cheat day. They dominated the clock, the line of scrimmage and the score in the Timberwolves’ 35-0 victory over Ashland.
The matchup of teams ranked No. 4 in their respective states and classes at the Wolves Den didn’t develop into a down-to-the-wire showdown such billing might have foretold. Spring Valley saw to that by asserting its style of play from the get-go.
The Tomcats won the coin toss and deferred to the second half, and by the time Luke Christopher opened the scoring with a 2-yard plunge, the Timberwolves had assembled a 15-play, 91-yard drive melting 7:51 off the clock.
“That’s our style of football,” Spring Valley coach Brad Dingess said. “If you limit possessions, especially against a big-play team like (Ashland), it plays in our favor. If we can control the clock and methodically move the football and keep the ball out of their hands, it makes it easier on our defense.”
Christopher rushed for 109 yards and two touchdowns, David Livingston added 93 rushing yards and quarterback Nate Ellis tacked on 49 yards on the ground.
Spring Valley owned time of possession in the first half, keeping the ball for 16:27 to the Tomcats’ 6:20. The Timberwolves’ Zane Porter and Brody Brumfield added fourth-quarter scoring runs to seal it.
Ashland answered Spring Valley’s opening drive by moving from its own 32-yard line to the Timberwolves’ 20. Blake Hester chased down Jake Gregg’s toss for 36 yards to convert a third-and-7 and set the Tomcats up pretty.
But Hester was swallowed up by a pack led by Cole Diamond on third-and-1 for a loss of two yards, and after an Ashland false start penalty, Gregg’s fourth-down pass fell incomplete when his intended receiver slipped and fell.
That was a theme: the Tomcats’ first three drives, excepting the one of only one play that ended the first half, reached the Spring Valley 20, 37 and 32. Each stalled — Ashland committed four turnovers on downs and threw an interception in Timberwolves territory.
“You have a desperation about yourself when you’re playing (an effective ball-control team) because you feel like you have to score immediately in order just to keep up with them at times,” Tomcats coach Tony Love said. “Their defense is solid. There’s a reason why they’ve been to the state championship three years in a row. Their cupboard is not bare, by any means. They keep reloading here, and that’s a sign of a great program.”
Nowhere is that more evident than on Spring Valley’s massive offensive line. Junior Wyatt Milum has Division I offers, junior Bryce Biggs is getting strong D-I consideration and sophomore Evan Ferguson is on such coaches’ radar, Timberwolves O-line coach Brent Terry said.
Milum is listed at 6-foot-7 and 265 pounds, while Biggs checks in at 6-5, 275.
“(We were) up close and personal to Division I talent,” Love said. “They’re an impressive team. They’re not fancy. They do things very well. They don’t beat themselves.”
Christopher capped another long drive of 14 plays, 73 yards and 7:07 with a 5-yard TD with 5:06 to go in the second quarter. The Tomcats gave it back on downs at the Spring Valley 37 with 1:43 to go before halftime, and the Timberwolves (8-1) showcased the ability to score quickly, too.
Corbin Page made a sensational one-handed catch of Ellis’s throw at the front right pylon despite Ashland double coverage for a 25-yard TD with 14 seconds to spare, putting the Tomcats in a 21-0 hole at intermission.
Hester ran for 62 yards and had 48 receiving for Ashland, which concluded its regular season 8-2.
Spring Valley’s win was its 100th under Dingess. He caught a celebratory postgame water cooler bath, and despite it being 37 degrees by that point, he wasn’t inclined to be upset.
“Usually, you get a cold shower, something good’s happened,” Dingess said. “I’ll take it.”
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ASHLAND 0 0 0 0 — 0
SPRING VALLEY 7 14 0 14 — 35
SV — Luke Christopher 2 run (Zane Porter kick), 4:09
SV — Christopher 5 run (Porter kick), 5:06
SV — Corbin Page 25 pass from Nate Ellis (Porter kick), :14
SV — Porter 2 run (Porter kick), 7:10
SV — Brody Brumfield 13 run (Porter kick), 2:12
First Downs 6 21
Rushes-Yards 26-67 49-296
Comp-Att-Int 10-18-1 3-5-0
Passing Yards 67 39
Fumbles-Lost 1-0 0-0
Punts-Avg. 0-0 0-0
Penalties-Yards 5-50 8-78
Ashland rushing: Hester 15-62, Pittman 7-8, Palladino 1-3, Workman 1-0, Mullins 1-(-2), Team 1-(-4).
Spring Valley rushing: Christopher 19-109, Livingston 15-93, Ellis 8-49, Porter 3-16, Brumfield 2-16, Diamond 2-13.
Ashland passing: Gregg 10 of 18 for 67 yards, 1 interception.
Spring Valley passing: Ellis 3 of 5 for 39 yards.
Ashland receiving: Hester 4-48, Garrett 2-11, Humphrey 2-5, Pittman 2-3.
Spring Valley receiving: Page 3-39.