WEST LIBERTY – WL-S got off to a nightmarish start in the first quarter of Friday night’s non-league football opener against Valley View, eventually losing to the Spartans, 37-31.
The Tigers allowed Austin Clark to go 85 yards to the end zone on the game’s opening kickoff, giving Valley View a 7-0 lead right out of the gate.
“Obviously, the opening kickoff, we did a poor job executing that,” WL-S Coach Dan McGill said.
It didn’t get any better for the home team early in the contest.
Jake Netherton intercepted a pass for the Spartans and returned it for a huge gain, setting up first and goal at the Tigers’ 9-yard line. Netherton finished the score off himself two plays later, scampering in to the end zone from 9 yards out.
Netherton wasn’t done, running for a 66-yard score following another turnover just four minutes later and giving the visitors a 21-0 advantage.
Brandon Wolfe went down early with an apparent ankle injury and was forced to sit out the rest of the contest for WL-S.
“It threw us out of some offensive rhythm,” McGill said.
The Tigers finally buckled down offensively and didn’t turn the ball over the rest of the half, with Trevor Anderson scoring on a 1-yard leap over the pile early in the second quarter to put WL-S on the board.
Valley View responded with another touchdown of its own, using two monstrous gains through the air to score on a 41-yard pass to Micah Matheson with just over 8 minutes left in the second quarter.
Anderson blocked the extra-point attempt, leaving the score 27-7 in favor of Valley View.
The second half saw the Tigers claw back to within a score before the Spartans opened it back up.
Brandon Upton threw short touchdown passes to Jared Smith and Stephen Whetstine, but both extra points were missed and left WL-S trailing 27-19.
“They’re just things we’ll clean up and we’ll be fine,” McGill said.
Valley View extended the lead with yet another long touchdown pass early in the fourth quarter, making it 34-19.
The Tigers responded with a strong drive capped off by an Anderson touchdown from inside the 1-yard line. The two-point conversion attempt was no good and WL-S trailed 34-25.
Valley View tacked on a 34-yard field goal with 3:47 to play and extended the lead to 37-25.
WL-S scored once more to narrow the deficit, a 7-yard strike from Upton to Dusty Moell with 1:50 left.
But the Tigers missed the extra point and then ran out of time.
Anderson finished with 156 yards on the ground to shoulder the load for WL-S.
The Tigers (0-1) play at Benjamin Logan next Friday night.
Reach Justin Miller at 652-1331 (ext. 1776) or on Twitter @UDC_Miller.