The Wildcats (6-4) needed eight plays to drive 68 yards over 3:42 to cap a game that included fake punts, onside kicks and a defensive score.
Larry Harper III completed 10 of 14 passes for 153 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Wildcats, but it was his legs that set up the winning score. After an intentional grounding call pushed Waggener to the Valley 26, Harper dropped back in the pocket looking to pass. But once he saw a hole up the middle, he took off for a 17-yard gain, setting up Bryant’s score on the next play.
In the beginning, it was all Valley. After Waggener had to punt on the game’s first drive, the Vikings (6-4) had to start from their 1-yard line. But they pounded out a 16-play drive that took up 7:42, capping it with a Brandon Neely 1-yard scoring run with 10:40 left in the first half.
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Waggener would take a 7-6 lead with 7:37 left in the second quarter, but Valley dominated the rest of the half. Neely’s 18-yard touchdown run allowed the Vikings to regain the lead with 6:33 left. Then Valley, which had tried onside kicks on its previous kickoffs, finally recovered one. The Vikings took nearly five more minutes off the clock, going 47 yards in 11 plays, with Brayden Campos hitting Devious Brooks on a 5-yard pass to make it 18-7 at halftime.
Waggener got back into the game early in the second half thanks to a couple Valley fumbles. After Campos fumbled the first snap of the third quarter to give the Wildcats the ball at the Vikings’ 24, they needed just three plays to capitalize, with Harper hitting Jairus Brents on a 10-yard pass to cut the deficit to 18-14 with 10:37 left.
Midway through the quarter, Valley botched a handoff and defensive back Chris Jean scooped it up 24 yards for the score, giving Waggener its first lead of the night, 21-18.
Valley had one more answer in them as they went ahead 24-21 on an 11-yard Campos pass to Brooks on the first play of the fourth quarter. The teams would trade possessions before Waggener took the lead for good.
The two teams, which won one game combined last season, both were among the biggest turnaround teams in area high school football. Both also will advance to the playoffs next week, with Valley hosting Collins next Friday in the Class 4-A playoffs.
Class 3-A Waggener’s opponent has not yet been determined.