By RICH KELLY
For the Star Beacon
The Grand Valley Mustangs dropped their first five games this season by making mistakes at critical times against good opponents. As they hit the Northeastern Athletic Conference part of the schedule, the mistakes became fewer, and they pulled things together to put themselves in position for a conference title.
Going against a young Ledgemont Redskin team with only a single win on the season, the Mustangs pushed and shoved the Redskins in the mud until a late miscue by the hosts resulted in the only lost fumble of the game as Grand Valley earned a thrilling 26-21 win to clinch an outright NAC title.
On the second Redskin play, Grand Valley’s Zach Oscar intercepted a pass at the Ledgemont 8 and took it in for the opening score of the game.
Down 26-14 with 3:49 to go in the game, the Redskins took over on downs at their own 24.
Freshman quarterback Joey Hauser, the victim of three interceptions, dropped back and found Tyler Kepes alone on a sideline pattern near the 40. One tackler slipped, no others were in the vicinity, and Kepes steamed the remainder of the way to cut the lead to 26-21.
The focal point of the GV (5-5, 5-0 in NAC) attack, Jake Vormelker, who pounded out 116 yards on 30 carries, dropped back on third down and flipped a short pass toward an unidentifiable teammate. Jonathan Ross stepped in front of the receiver and took the ball 28 yards, being dropped at the 10 with 1:19 to play.
“Our kids just played so hard tonight,” a happy Grand Valley coach John Glavickas said. “Just like early in the season, when we made a lot of mistakes that hurt us, we made a couple tonight. This time we just battled back harder, though. The kids left it all out on the field.”
Glen Zaller made the game and league saving play when he pounced on a Ledgemont fumble at the Redskins 20 in the closing moments.
“I wasn’t looking for anything special on that last play,” the senior leader said. “Our whole season has gone like this. It’s been crazy, and a lot of wild things happened to us. We love each other, though, so we expect it to be that way, so we just hang in there.”
While having trouble with Ledgemont backs Mike McKeon and Jarred Young, the Mustangs made big plays when needed.
“I didn’t have anything special in mind,” Oscar said of his 8-yard score early in the game. “I just wanted to get into the end zone. We practiced against that play all week, so we knew it was coming. It was a good feeling.”
Ledgemont could have let things fly away after that play, but McKeon (9 carries, 128 yards, 2 touchdowns) went 58 yards up the middle on the second play after Oscar’s score to tie the game.
Jason Hart’s 11-yard dash broke up a tie with 1:49 in the first period, and the teams battled back and forth.
“I’ve always tried to tell the kids,” Glavickas added, “that it’s not always who’s luckiest, but who puts themselves into position to make plays to win games. We could have folded up after losing the first five, but we didn’t. Our kids always seem to get it done the hard way, but they get it done. Credit Ledgemont, too, for a superb effort tonight. When those two backs of theirs got beyond the line of scrimmage, they broke tackles and made us pay .”
“We’re a total team family here,” a disappointed Redskin coach Joe LaRosa said. “You can hear it in how we talk with each other and care about each other. Joey (Hauser) is just a freshman, so he’ll make mistakes. We have a lot of freshmen playing, so they have to make mistakes, but they work so hard. My hats off to Coach Glavickas . He came up to me and told me that he didn’t expect a game like this. It just goes to show how much our kids really care about the team concept. Jarred Young should be an all-state candidate for how he’s played as a sophomore. He has run for nearly 1,100 yards with 12 touchdowns.
“The whole team just gets after it, and I’m so proud of them.”
Kelly is a freelance writer from Jefferson.