DAYTON – Edgewood coach Scott Clemmons said running back Jake Valerio – all 160 pounds of him – would play offensive guard if he asked him to.
Fortunately it didn’t come to that Friday night at Chaminade Julienne. The guards were healthy, but Tavionne Crosby, the lead back in Clemmons’ Wing-T offense, was stuck on the sideline in concussion protocol. That meant Valerio, Braden Sullivan and Jake Halsey – the one taking Crosby’s place in the starting lineup – would get extra carries.
The trio filled Crosby’s 210-pound void and 110-yard average with big plays, 100-yard performances and made tough yards when needed. They started both halves with big plays and gained control for good in the third quarter for a 35-21 victory.
Valerio did the bulk of the work with 27 carries for 146 yards and a 54-yard touchdown early in the second half that gave the Cougars (4-1) the lead for good. He entered the game with 31 carries for 216 yards. And he starts on defense.
“He’s just that had kind of competitor, does what he’s asked to do and just gets after it,” Clemmons said.
Sullivan got the scoring started with misdirection touchdown runs of 53 and 32 yards to lead 14-0 in the first quarter. He finished with 131 yards on 11 carries. In the first four games, he carried 22 times for 102 yards.
“When we do things the way we’re supposed to do and the way were coached to do, good things happen to us,” Clemmons said of Sullivan’s big plays.
Halsey didn’t have a carry this season until the third play of the game. He finished with eight for 32 yards and a two-yard touchdown that put the Cougars up 28-14 midway through the third quarter. Valerio deflected all the praise for the running game to Halsey.
“Tavionne’s a big big part of our offense and not having him really hurts us,” Valerio said. “But Clay Halsey really stepped up when we needed it. He got some big first downs for us late in the game that kept the clock running. Going into it everybody was kind of nervous, but Clay proved everybody wrong.”
Edgewood’s early domination disappeared in the second quarter. CJ’s double-wing running game under new coach Earl White finally got going in the second quarter. Quarterback Jonathan Peltier capped a drive with a three-yard run up the middle to cut Edgewood’s lead to 14-7 with 5:11 left in the half.
Then an unusual turn of events tied the score with 42 seconds left in the half. CJ fumbled a punt to set the Cougars up at the CJ 10 with a chance to regain a two-touchdown lead. But CJ stopped Valerio on fourth-and-goal from the one about 18 inches from the goal line. On the next play, Peltier kept the ball up the middle, broke a tackle and sprinted 99 yards for a touchdown.
“You try to teach young men that teams want to play and teams are going to do different things,” Clemmons said. “We got up 14-nothing and got relaxed. A Coach White team is never just going sit there and just let you beat on them. They’re going to keep fighting.”
After some firm discussions at halftime, Edgewood allowed the Eagles one first down before forcing them to punt. On the next play, Valerio went 54 yards for a 21-14 lead.
“Everybody was kind upset,” Valerio said. “We focused up, we figured out our game plan that we were going to have for the second half and we executed. You’re not going to get a 50-yard touchdown every play but four yards, five yards. When we start wearing them down, that’s when they get tired and that’s when you’re going to get the big play.”
No matter who’s in the backfield.