High school football: Edgewood blanks Fenwick for third straight win

Cougars beat Falcons 10-0 in defensive struggle

FRANKLIN -- Jake Valerio could feel his eyes grow wide when he picked up the football and saw nothing but green between him and the end zone.

Had he known how big his first-quarter score would loom as the night went on at Fenwick, they might’ve popped out of his head.

The Edgewood senior’s 31-yard fumble return for a touchdown with 9:57 left in the first quarter was the only TD for either team in a Cougars’ 10-0 non-conference win on Krusling Field at Fenwick’s Jerry Harkrader-John “Butch” Rossi Athletic Complex.

“I saw the loose ball,” the 5-foot-9, 165-pound running back-defensive back said. “They were bobbling it around. I picked it up and started running. I saw nothing but green, but you’re always worried about getting caught from behind.”

Valerio couldn’t remember returning a fumble he’d scooped up from the ground for a touchdown in his life, though he did recall a strip-six last season.

Edgewood junior David Rumpler added a 42-yard field goal with 2:54 left in the first quarter to wrap up the scoring in a grinding game that saw an offense make just one trip inside the red zone. Fenwick got inside the Edgewood 20-yard line with less than five minutes left in the game, but the Cougars’ 6-foot, 165-pound junior running back-linebacker Brayden Smith got a piece of Fenwick junior kicker Derek Morris’s 40-yard field goal to keep the Falcons off the scoreboard.

“It wasn’t pretty, but a win’s a win,” Edgewood coach Scott Clemmons said. “That was a great defensive effort. Our defense was flying around. They got after it. That was a very physical game. The physicality was amazing.”

“They do a great job,” Fenwick coach Mark Mueller said about Edgewood. “They have a great coaching staff. Our kids play defense really well, too. We didn’t do much offensively.

“That was a great high school football game. The fans got their money’s worth.”

Both teams are 3-1 after the game after having played remarkably similar schedules. Edgewood, a Division II program, has won three consecutive games after losing its opener at Milford, beating Clinton-Massie and Franklin at home. Fenwick saw snapped its three-game winning streak to open the season, having won at Franklin and beaten Madison and Clinton-Massie at home.

Fenwick was trying to go 4-0 for the first time since winning its first 13 games of the 2015 season. The Falcons went into the game averaging 32.2 points per game, tied for second Greater Catholic League Co-Ed Division. The Cougars went into the game averaging 24.7 points per game, second in the Southwest Ohio Conference, but it was the defenses that dominated on Friday.

“I love our grit,” Clemmons said. “That’s a good word. I love our tenacity.”

“Our offense wasn’t great, but our defense got after it,” Valerio said. “Give their defense credit. They were good up front. It was tough to get through their front wall.”

The lack of scoring opportunities had Fenwick trying unorthodox methods such as attempting a 47-yard field goal on third down with 1:53 left in the game. It was short.

The Cougars hope to extend their win streak to four with another non-conference road game next Friday at yet another GCL Co-Ed opponent, Chaminade Julienne. Edgewood is set to face Mount Healthy in the SWOC opener on Sept. 16.

“We have to forget what’s happened in the past,” Valerio said. “We still have some things to fix.”

Fenwick has a week off before facing Chaminade Julienne in its conference opener on Sept. 16.

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