At the start of the game with Pine Bush and Valley Central, the match-up looked like an even pairing for opposite reasons, and the Vikings’ Chandler Toth took little time proving that notion.
Toth, who set a single-season passing record at Valley Central during his first varsity season in 2016, hit Jayden Rose with a 75-yard touchdown pass with just 17 seconds on the clock to start the first quarter.
But Pine Bush, with its solid ground game and defiant defense, made it work in their favor, too, when Anthony Potts tied it 7-7 with five minutes to go in the first with a 35-yard touchdown run.
Valley Central led 22-14 on Toth’s three-yard sprint into the end zone before the Bushmen pushed back very hard and stopped the Vikings in the second half to win 41-22.
“We knew we had to make some adjustments. They have a prolific passing game. Ron (Introini) and those guys are excellent at throwing the football, and we knew if we were going to win this game, we were going to have to get some stops,” said Jim Wright, Pine Bush’s coach.
Haakon Meland, Pine Bush’s quarterback who throws the ball very little, made three short runs into the end zone in the second half to complete the Bushmen ground game, which gained more than 500 yards in the game.
Potts led the Bushmen with 222 yards, and Tyler Waller, who scored on a four-yard touchdown run in the second, gained 174 yards. Xavier Martinez, the Bushmen six-foot, four-inch fullback, gained 103 yards.
“We didn’t think we were going to shut them out in the second half,” said Wright. “When you run the ball like we do, and get a lead, it reduces their possessions.”
Toth hit Connor Fitzgibbons with a 46-yard strike down the middle toward the end of the first quarter to give Valley Central a 14-7 lead. But that’s where Valley Central’s aerial attack seemed to hit its peak.
Toth struggled in the second half when he was picked twice trying to regain the game’s momentum for Valley Central.
And that momentum was moved by the Pine Bush’s ground game.
“We had some opportunities in the second half. We didn’t make play, dropped a couple of balls and had some picks,” said Ron Introini, Valley Central’s coach.
“We didn’t play like we did in the first half. Defensively, they ran the ball right down our throat. They are a good football team, but we can’t play one half of football. We have to play two halves of football.”
Pine Bush now takes its powerful ground game to Newburgh Friday, and Valley Central is home against Monroe-Woodbury. Both games start at 7 p.m.
By Bond Brungard