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LaBrae hangs on, beats Pymatuning Valley

September 14, 2013
By MATT WAGNER - Tribune Chronicle (mwagner@tribtoday.com) , Underthelights

LEAVITTSBURG - With 9 seconds remaining in the game, Pymatuning Valley needed 18 yards to have a chance to tie the game up and force it into overtime.

The Lakers started at their own 21 yardline and drove the ball 61 yards in just under 2 minutes without any timeouts, down 21-14. With the game so close to slipping away from LaBrae, the Vikings needed something special from someone on defense to save the game.

When Quintin Ratliff stepped back to pass, the Vikings got just that from Charles Pifer, who rushed the quarterback and sacked him behind the line of scrimmage. The final seconds ticked away, and the LaBrae Vikings escaped with 21-14 win.

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"Anytime that you can pull victory from the jaws of defeat, you have to be happy with that," LaBrae coach John Armeni said. "Chuckie's a big time player for us and makes big plays when we need him to. Obviously, we're pleased to come out of this game with a W."

After leading by 21 points going into halftime, Armeni might be correct in saying the Vikings (2-1) snatched the win away from Pymatuning Valley (1-2).

Ratliff came out of halftime firing on all cylinders to pull his team back into it. On the second play from scrimmage, the 6-foot-2, 175-pound senior started running to the right side of the field before cutting back to the left and scampering for 78-yards and PV's first touchdown.

He engineered a 13-play, 78-yard touchdown drive the next time out to pull it back to a one-touchdown game with 1:01 remaining in the third quarter, playing at quarterback, running back and wide receiver.

"He's a real special player," PV coach Neal Croston said. "He's athletic. Broken play, he can make something out of them, but at the same time, we had better blocking. It created more for him, and he makes plays. In the end, we just came a little bit short."

This quick turnaround came out of nowhere, as the Vikings controlled the entire second quarter following a Keevon Harris 57-yard reverse late in the first quarter.

The sophomore ran clear through for 57 yards before being pulled down at the Laker 3 yardline. The Vikings punched the ball into the endzone four plays later with quarterback Justin Jenkins throwing a screen pass to Jamal Dawkins, and the Vikings returned to the endzone on the next two drives, which proved to be the only other LaBrae drives in the quarter.

"That's a huge play," Armeni said of Harris' reverse. "Keevon Harris is one of those special athletes, we try to get him the ball in different situations, and he makes the most out of those situations. He had a big run there, seemed to get the kids excited and got us going in a positive direction."

Still, in the fourth quarter, PV had multiple opportunities to tie the game before the final drive but couldn't take advantage, especially in a sequence of plays in which both teams fumbled. At the LaBrae 35, Ratliff fumbled the ball, but on the next play, Dawkins fumbled the ball right back to the Lakers. PV didn't go anywhere and turned it over on downs.

"It's like a roller coaster," Jenkins said. "I hate to see it happen. The ball wasn't even that wet, but you have to deal with the conditions whenever you play."

In the end, LaBrae will take the win, but both Jenkins and Armeni said the team wasn't happy with the style in which it occurred.

"It's about a 50-50 toss of us being happy with the win and us being disappointed with how it finished," Jenkins said. "We wanted to be up way more than we were."