KENOVA — It’s been a long time coming for the South Charleston Black Eagles.
After 11 years of football futility, the 10th-ranked Black Eagles (6-2) are assured of a winning season following a 32-19 victory over winless Spring Valley Friday night.
In addition, SC essentially locked itself into the Class AAA playoff field for the first time since it won the state championship in 1994.
“We’re tickled to death,” South Charleston coach Vernon Redman said of his team’s success. “Just two years ago, these seniors were 0-10. They made a commitment to get in the weight room and our coaching staff has been working year-round and it’s been a united effort.”
The Timberwolves gave Redman’s crew all it could handle in the first half, as the Black Eagles held a slim 20-13 lead at the break. However, a strong defensive effort in the second half allowed SC to pull away. The Black Eagles held Spring Valley to just 9 yards of total offense in the third quarter.
“We didn’t really do anything different,” Redman said. “We just questioned the defense and told them to play with some heart and step up. I don’t know if we were taking them easy or whatever. We shouldn’t have, because Spring Valley came out and hit us. They played well.”
South Charleston struck first on the opening possession, thanks in large part to the Mountain State Athletic Conference’s second-leading passer, Shaad Coleman. After misfiring on his first attempt, Coleman went 5-of-6 through the air for 44 yards as the Black Eagles marched 66 yards in 12 plays to open up an early 6-0 lead. Tyrone Lang capped off the drive with a 3-yard touchdown run.
That lead was short-lived, however, as Spring Valley evened the score just 56 seconds later when Justin Thompson raced 62 yards for a touchdown. Thompson took the handoff out of the I-formation, cut to the left where he picked up a key block downfield by Kyle Wright and cruised into the end zone. Thompson finished with a game-high 167 yards on 22 carries.
South Charleston responded on its next possession by driving 70 yards in just six plays. Coleman connected with Cameron Twyman on a slip screen, and Twyman eluded two Spring Valley defenders and sprinted 36 yards down the right sideline to put SC back in front 13-6.
Spring Valley answered by marching 60 yards in nine plays to take its first lead in six weeks. It didn’t come easy, though, as the Wolves faced a critical fourth-and-6 from the Black Eagles’ 40.
After calling a timeout, Spring Valley coach Don Money threw a curveball at the South Charleston defense by calling for a fake handoff to Thompson off left tackle. Instead, the ball went to sophomore wingback Nicco Niday on a counter to the right, and the play picked up 28 yards. Zane Moore put the Wolves ahead 13-12 on the next play by lumbering into the end zone from 12 yards out.
The lead was the Wolves’ first since holding a 14-12 halftime advantage over Greenbrier East on Sept. 9.
A fumble by Will Collins on South Charleston’s next possession set the Wolves up in good field position at their own 46. However, the offense couldn’t capitalize and the Black Eagles special teams made them pay when Dominique Green blocked a Danny Brody punt at the Spring Valley 36. The ball rolled all the way to the 12-yard line, where Jeremy Booker fell on it for the Black Eagles.
“That’s the defense,” Redman said. “The defense is our automatic punt return. That was a big play for us.”
It took South Charleston just four plays to capitalize on the blocked punt, as Lang plunged into the end zone from a yard out for his second score of the night.
Spring Valley had one last chance at tying the score before halftime, as the offense marched 49 yards to the South Charleston 4-yard line in the waning minutes of the first half. The drive stalled, however, when Zane Moore was stopped a yard shy of the first down marker on fourth-and-2.
Coleman hit Jeremy Booker for a 23-yard touchdown to give the Black Eagles some breathing room with 2:54 left in the third quarter. Coleman took the snap out of the shotgun, rolled right and hit Booker streaking across the field from the left to extend the lead to 26-13. Coleman finished the night 14-of-19 passing for 163 yards to complement his three touchdown passes. That effort ups his season total to 1,257 yards passing.
Coleman put the game out of reach midway through the fourth quarter as he connected with Tommy Spurlock on a 5-yard out route for South Charleston’s final points. Spurlock also rolled up 135 all-purpose yards for South Charleston, 114 of which came on the ground.
Thompson would pick up his second touchdown on the night for Spring Valley on the next possession, scoring on a 26-yard run off right tackle to set the final score.
Spring Valley (0-8) dropped its tenth consecutive game dating back to last season. The Wolves’ last victory came over South Charleston last October.
The last two games on the schedule do not favor Spring Valley. Next week the Wolves play host to 12th-ranked Princeton before closing out the season on the road against fifth-ranked John Marshall.