NYSSA – The annual game between neighbors Vale and Nyssa lived up to the hype. Players limped off the field with sore legs and arms, medical staff were busy and parents were livid with the officiating. As the clock hit zero, it was Vale that gathered on the field to once again take possession of the wagon wheel trophy after a 29-8 victory on Friday, April 2 in Nyssa.
Bulldog fans appeared to have a chance to cheer early as Nyssa took the opening kick-off and marched down to the Vale 5-yard line in six plays. The Viking defense held on a fourth down and Nyssa came away from the drive without a point, a series Nyssa coach Lee Long would discuss in his post-game interview.
The Vikings promptly used a 13-play drive to go 95 yards for the first score of the game coming off a 25-yard run by Nathan Kimball. After each team having a possession, Vale led 8-0.
The Bulldogs found their rhythm on the first possession of the second quarter using only four plays to knot up the score after Andrew Enders found Landon McDowall on a 35-yard passing play and the two teams stood at 8-8.
The Vikings looked to answer, but a fumble and recovery by the Dawgs ended the drive.
For both teams, the defensive side of the ball settled down coming out for the third quarter. A series of punts by both teams and a Vale fumble late in the third by Vale ended up with zero points added to either score.
Early in the fourth quarter, Nyssa was again picked off and using only six plays, Viking quarterback Tanner Steele ran the keeper for six yards and the score. The Viks added to the lead with just over two minutes left in the game when Steele found Dawson Lunt for a 28-yard passing play.
“This was the best game the offensive line played all year,” said Vale coach Jeff Aldred. “We wanted this game bad and this was great for our seniors who are going out in style for their last game. You could see how bad they wanted this in practice all this week.”
The Viking offense showed great balance in the game, rushing for 158 yards and putting up 187 yards in the air. Kimball was the work horse for Vale, carrying 21 times for 124 yards.
Wolfe, in addition to an interception and punt return for a score, had eight catches for 104 yards. Steele was a solid 16-for-19 passing for 187 yards.
“We just had missed opportunities and Vale capitalized on them,” said Long after the game as he thanked each of his 15 senior players. “We marched down the field on our first series and just could not put the ball in. Vale came right back and capitalized with a score.”
Long also said special teams was a factor in the Nyssa loss.
“We gave up the punt return for a score and that was big,” said Long. “I am just happy we had 50 kids out for the team and we will be back next year.”
The Bulldog offense put up 187 total yards and only 56 total yards in the second half. Enders had 16 carries for 54 yards to lead the Nyssa ground game. McDowall ended his night with five catches for 84 yards and quarterback Frankie Cervantes was 9-for-21 and two interceptions.