The West Valley football team didn’t clinch a state playoff berth Friday, but it’s in better shape than its rival.
The Eagles, behind a senior quarterback who weighed 100 pounds as a freshman and receiver/defensive back Connor Whitney, held off the East Valley Knights 38-21 in a Great Northern League game much closer than the final score.
West Valley (7-1, 2-1) pulled into a second-place tie with Clarkston, and the Eagles will travel to play the Bantams in a league finale next week with most likely a playoff berth on the line.
League-leading Pullman travels to EV (3-4, 1-2), and the Knights must try to find themselves in a three-way tie to have a chance for the postseason.
“It was a good ballgame,” WV coach Craig Whitney said. “Both teams – offense, defense, special teams – every group made plays on both sides of the ball. And we made a couple at the end.”
Hunter Wright, who has grown to 175 pounds, passed for 234 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 82 and a game-securing 15-yard TD scamper that sealed the game with 1:39 remaining.
Whitney returned an interception 40 yards with 32 seconds to go to provide a final TD.
WV led 17-7 at halftime, but the Knights closed the gap in the third quarter.
A 1-yard TD run by Nik Young allowed EV to pull within 24-21 with eight seconds left in the third quarter.
The Knights wouldn’t get any closer.
For whatever reason, the schedule has WV finishing for a second straight year at Clarkston.
The Eagles were in the same position last year with a chance to secure a playoff berth. But the Bantams handled them.
“They killed us,” Wright said. “We would have been in the playoffs if we would have won. Our team is a lot better this year. I’ve improved a lot. Last year I turned the ball over a lot. I’m making a lot more plays this year.”
Whitney’s son was all over the field. He caught seven passes for 73 yards and had double-digit tackles.
“He missed a couple tackles so we’ll talk about that when we get home,” coach and father deadpanned. “Connor was put in a spot to try and contain Rodrick (Jackson, EV’s speedy receiver). I was pleased with our kids. They didn’t quit and they executed, and they had the drive to just keep coming back.”
WV has some work to do. The Eagles had a couple of unsportsmanlike penalties for talking back to the referees.
“We had some untimely penalties for whatever reason, so we’ve got to clean those up,” Craig Whitney said.
Wright thought both teams played well at times.
“Both teams had big plays but we had more when it counted,” he said. “I know we have athletic guys and they have athletic guys, too, but I believe ours are better. I just put some passes up there and hoped that they came down with it and they did.”
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