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Martins Ferry falls to Sandy Valley, 35-20

Photo/JOE LOVELL MARTINS FERRY'S Evan Carpenter looks for running room during Saturday's playoff game against Sandy Valley. The Purple Riders fell to the Cardinals.

MARTINS FERRY — A game plan is only as good as the execution. Martins Ferry operated its offensive strategy as it had planned for all week in order to keep Sandy Valley’s high-flying offense off the field. The No. 8-seeded Purple Riders dominated time of possession in the first half but still found themselves locked in a 14-all stalemate.

The ninth-seeded Cardinals (6-2) used a couple of quick scoring drives in the third quarter to snap the deadlock and go on for a 35-20 Division V, Region 17 second-round playoff victory at Purple Rider Stadium inside the Dave Bruney Football Complex.

Martins Ferry ran 90 offensive plays compared to just 40 for Sandy Valley, which advances to next Saturday’s quarterfinals against top-seeded and defending state champion Kirtland. The Purple Riders had 454 yards of total offense to 395 for the Cardinals.

“We left a lot of points off the scoreboard, and it wasn’t just one guy,” Martins Ferry head coach Chas Yoder said. “We didn’t play good football on either side of the ball. We were sloppy and they earned it.”

The Purple Riders (4-4) rallied from deficits of 7-0 and 14-7 in the first half to draw even on an Evan Carpenter 1-yard run with 9.1 seconds on the clock. Carpenter had previously scored from a yard out and added the two-point run for an 8-7 lead.

Sandy Valley took the lead for good early in the third quarter. Taking the second-half kickoff, the Stark Countians drove 52 yards on seven plays for a 21-14 advantage. Blair capped the 2-minute, 23-second march with a 6-yard scamper over the right side of the line. Kanyon McCort was true on the first of his five placements.

Martins Ferry looked to answer right back but a 4th-and-5 pass from the Cardinals’ 9 fell to the turf, turning the ball over on downs.

It only took Sandy Valley a little more than two minutes (2:11) to capitalize. A 36-yard run by Demetrius Evans keyed the drive that culminated in Ben Petro’s 9-yard run around his left end. The PAT made it 28-14 with 3:52 left in the third quarter.

The Purple Riders drove deep into enemy territory on the ensuing possession, only to see it stall when a fourth-down pass was batted away inside the 5.

Martins Ferry would slice the deficit to 28-20 with 5:30 showing in the fourth quarter. The 9-play, 69-yard march was highlighted by a 36-yard hookup between quarterback Logan Smith and wideout Alex Bennett that moved the ball to the Sandy Valley 1. Carpenter bulled his way in the end zone on the next play, but the two-point pass was incomplete.

On the Cardinals’ second offensive snap, Blair eluded would-be tacklers in the backfield before weaving his way 59 yards to paydirt. McCort’s kick made it 35-20 and took most of the wind out of the hosts’ sail.

Blair finished with 358 yards of total offense, with 158 coming on the ground. He ran for three scores and threw for a fourth.

“He’s really good and we knew that coming in,” Yoder said of the 6-2, 215-pound Blair, who has college offers from Ashland, Morehead State and Wheeling University. “They are a really good football team with good athletes. They had a good gameplan and made the plays when they needed to, and we didn’t.”

A silver lining is that the Purple Riders season isn’t over.

“That’s one good thing out of this strange mess,” Yoder said of being able to still play two regular-season games despite the postseason loss. “It’s back to fundamentals. We have to get back to playing good football on both sides and tonight we didn’t.”

Carpenter lugged the leather 16 times for 111 yards and the three scores. Smith added 85 yards on 15 carries as Martins Ferry rushed the ball 50 times for 253 stripes. Smith completed 19 of 39 passes for 197 yards, but was picked off thrice. Bennett snagged eight aerials for 99 yards and Cole Sztary had half-a-dozen grabs for 53.

Martins Ferry’s opponent for week 9 is still undecided.

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