Tri-Valley scrappy to the end in 13-3 playoff loss


Tri-Valley senior quarterback Luke Fargus attempts a deep pass to wide receiver Rob Wachter in the first half of Friday night’s 13-3 loss to Wadsworth.

By Nick McWilliams, Sports Director

Tri-Valley has a history of dominance in the Muskingum Valley area, but after the departure of long-time coach Justin Buttermore, some wondered what would become of the Scotties without his guidance.

Kevin Fell and the team answered those questions with another playoff run, even with a 13-3 loss Friday night in Dover to Wadsworth.

Without their dual-threat quarterback Aiden Fritter and senior Luke Fargus dealing with a sore shoulder, the Scotties were unable to produce much offense, mustering just 169 total yards. Fargus went just 4-for-16 for 68 yards with two picks, backing the offense into a corner and forcing Tri-Valley to lean heavily on the run.

“I was surprised that we were able to hang in as tough as we were,” Fell said. “You take away our best offensive football player, and then take our other quarterback with a sore shoulder and you could tell he wasn’t right. I’m not making excuses at all, I’m just saying we didn’t have a passing game at all tonight, and we needed one. You can only run it so much against that many guys.”

The Scotties held a 3-0 lead at halftime, stuffing a pair of fourth-down conversion attempts in the first quarter. Kicker Kaden Bay knocked through a 24-yarder midway through the first, but it was the only time Tri-Valley would make a notch on the scoreboard.

Wadsworth quarterback Trey Shaffer was electric when he needed to be, going 16-for-26 for 179 yards and a key touchdown in the fourth quarter. His passing was complimented by running back Dom Loparo, who showed brute strength in the trenches and plenty of finesse on outside runs to the tune of 104 yards on 21 carries.

Senior running back and linebacker Mason McMillen ran in a short touchdown in the third quarter, while Shaffer connected over the middle to Tyler Montgomery on a crossing route on fourth-and-five from nine yards away. The route saw both Montgomery and teammate Jack Simmons meet in the middle of the end zone at nearly the same time, creating a two-player wide wall that boxed out the Tri-Valley defenders.

A turning point came on a key fourth-down conversion in the third quarter for Wadsworth, when Shaffer threw wide of the mark to his intended receiver. That stop was ruined by a roughing the passer call drawing a flurry of boos from the Scottie faithful, who then fell silent on the McMillen touchdown run.

It was a moment Fell was upset about during the game, and was not afraid to mention after the final whistle.

“We had a tough call,” he said. “We had them stopped on fourth and four, and had a personal foul. (If there’s no call), who knows then. We knew when they got ahead of us, we were going to have trouble.”

A second defensive personal foul came in the fourth on a late hit, following a long run down the Wadsworth sideline, helping set up the Shaffer touchdown pass. But Tri-Valley remained resilient, with Sam Slaboden forcing a fumble and recovering it deep in Grizzly territory.

In the end, costly penalties, and costly mistakes on offense, including a botched handoff in the final minute with possession deep in Grizzles’ territory, made for a rough night for a team that was looking for a second-straight Final Four appearance.

Wadsworth will advance to the regional finals to face powerhouse Massillon, while Tri-Valley will start to look ahead to next season. And if history has taught fans anything, there will still be plenty of fight in the Dawgs.