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Vikings face another big playoff test

Long trip to Napoleon to meet strong foe


1:00 AM, Nov. 02, 2012 EDT

River Valley Vikings quarterback Matt Green avoids an Elgin Comet tackler during the final game of the regular season at River Valley High School. / Bill Sinden/The Marion Star

CALEDONIA — 

River Valley's Vikings have been presented with another tall order.

A season ago the Vikings were the eighth seed in their Division III region and fell 35-0 to top-seeded Columbus DeSales in the first round of the high school football playoffs.

This fall River Valley (8-2) qualified for the playoffs as an eighth seed in Div. III's Region 10 and it will play at 7 p.m. today at top-seeded Napoleon (9-0-1).

River Valley coach Doug Green said his Vikings are taking a different approach to this year's eight-versus-one matchup.

"It's a big thing to qualify for the playoffs, but with a lot of returning kids the initial excitement to qualify is over since we did it last year," Green said. "We've been here before. This year we are not just satisfied with qualifying. We tell the guys, 'Let's go play to win.'"

The Vikes were teetering on the edge last Friday as far as the 2012 playoffs were concerned. They were ninth in their Region 10 standings, with the top eight making the postseason.

River Valley did what it had to do by beating Highland to close its regular season, and the Vikings began celebrating a playoff berth when they saw that Columbus Independence and DeSales, two teams which had to lose in week 10 for RV to advance, were both beaten.

"We knew early Friday night that DeSales had lost and we had heard that Independence was up at halftime of its game," Green said. "At that point it did not look too good for us, but later some of the guys looked on their phones and saw Independence had lost to Walnut Ridge. It was an amazing feeling."

Even with that help, it's obvious River Valley had to play well to get into position to make the postseason.

The Vikings finished second in the Mid Ohio Athletic Conference Red Division, and their lone losses were to fellow playoff participants Wynford (Division V) and North Union (Division IV).

River Valley features a bruising front line which keys its running attack and clamps down on opponents' offenses.

The Vikes use several runners, including junior quarterback Matt Green who paces the team in rushing yardage with 800 on 100 carries. He also leads RV in rushing touchdowns with 10.

River Valley has also used junior Dylan Kelley (560 yds., 9 TDs), junior Gage Stuckman (558, 9), senior Carson Gibson (434, 6), senior Hunter Mercer (320, 5) and junior De Clarke (190, 1) out of the backfield.

Green said Napoleon's offense should look familiar to RV fans.

"They don't have that one big weapon, and in that aspect they are similar to us," Green said. "They have a lot of kids who could come on and have a big game. You have to defend all of their weapons."

Napoleon is led in rushing by senior halfback Charlie Harris, who averaged 10.64 yards per carry this season, and senior fullback Max Westhoven (5.75 yards per carry).

Senior quarterback David Yunker completed 61 percent of his passes, but he threw sparingly.

"Defensively, they like to run a 3-3 stack," Green added. "We saw it a couple of times this season at times, but no one we played ran it as their base defense. They also have really good special teams."

Napoleon has a tie on its 2012 schedule after lightning brought a halt to the Wildcats' third game of the season at Kettering Alter.

Napoleon took the ball after the opening kickoff of that game and ran eight plays to near Alter's goal line when lightning stopped the proceedings.

Following a delay of more than two hours, coaches from each team decided not to finish the game either that night or on another day. Napoleon was wary of making another long trip from northwest Ohio back to the Dayton area, and Kettering Alter, which rents its home field, wasn't crazy about shelling out another $2,500 to again secure the field.

The schools sent information about the doings to the Ohio High School Athletic Association which ruled the game could end in a 0-0 tie.

The Wildcats had some trouble in maintaining their undefeated record in the latter stages of the season.

They beat 5-5 Anthony Wayne 34-31 in two overtimes and edged 8-2 Perrysburg 35-34 in one overtime session.

 

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2 River Valley High School
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14-5-0
3 Pleasant High School
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4 Jonathan Alder High School
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5 Highland High School-Sparta
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