Defense, Blake Kendrick play key role in Tri-Valley victory


Blake Kendricks (No. 21) had a sack and an interception Friday night, playing an integral part in Tri-Valley’s win.

By Nick McWilliams, Sports Director

Tri-Valley coach Kevin Fell had one simple message to his defense leading up to Friday’s pivotal Muskingum Valley League matchup. With star quarterback Ethan Heller for Sheridan poised to make a big impact, keeping him from connecting with his receivers down field and finding the end zone was not what the coaching staff was trying to instill in the team.

It was the opposite.

“Don’t get down if he makes a couple plays,” he said. “We expect him to make some plays. Just make sure he doesn’t kill us.”

The Scottie defense listened, and did exactly what was needed to give the Tri-Valley offense a chance to break through enough for a victory. Heller finished his night going 15-for-29 for 209 yards and a score and two touchdowns on the ground, but his stat line was a far cry from his normal output.

The Scotties picked him off in a crucial moment, as Ben Reiss plucked a deep sideline pass out of the sky in the fourth quarter with seven minutes to go. Although the play did not directly result in points for the Scotties, it took nearly four minutes before the Generals finally found the goal line, precious time that could have made the difference in the long run.

Pair that with a rush defense that gave way to the upper-echelon rushing ability of Heller, who ended up with negative rushing yards, and the dynamic backfield combination of Isaiah Austin and Will Hamilton to less than 60 yards as a group, and you’ve found the winning formula for the Scotties.

“It was just a good effort on our defensive part,” Fell said. “We had defensive guys all over the field to make defensive plays. We told them all week, ‘They’re going to catch the ball … just tackle them. And we did and didn’t miss too many.”

Linebacker Chase Kendrick, along with his counterpart Blake, each registered a sack. But the amount of pressure forced by the Tri-Valley defense on the entire offense can not be overstated.

Blake Kendrick has played well all year, but Friday night was a different kind of output. Aiden Fritter’s big day on offense and Blake Sands’ late touchdown look like the biggest plays of the night, but the collective effort of the black and gold on the other side of the ball is where the game was won.