HUNTINGTON - The big guys are proving to be a big pain for South Charleston.
Fullback Elijah Wellman barreled his way for 209 yards and four touchdowns on 23 carries Friday night as Spring Valley finally broke into the win column with a 37-36 victory over South Charleston.
The Timberwolves (1-2), considered a Class AAA top-10 team in the preseason, churned out 493 yards on 65 rushing plays against a tiring SC defense.
Besides Wellman, tailback Ryan George ran for 154 yards on 17 totes, including a 35-yard TD burst in the first quarter. Backup Tyler Robertson nearly made it a trio at the century mark as he finished with 89 yards on eight attempts.
"We finally busted out,'' Wellman said. "Our line did a terrific job. They blew their line up. We whipped them and opened up a lot of holes for the running backs. Up to this game, we hadn't had a run of 10 yards, but we had five or six there in the first quarter.''
The 6-foot-3, 232-pound Wellman, who has given a commitment to West Virginia University, kept ripping off huge chunks of yardage all night and scored on runs of 51, 2, 1 and 3 yards. He also tacked on a pair of key 2-point conversion runs, with several of his scoring runs in goal-line situations coming as he was untouched by the defense.
It brought to mind SC's difficulty in tackling George Washington fullback Dustin Crouser, another Division I prospect, in the opener. Crouser, who's headed to Charlotte, ran for 150 yards and two TDs in GW's 36-24 win.
"I saw this coming when we got off the bus,'' said SC coach John Messinger. "They obviously saw the film [against GW]. He's been ready for breaking out. We knew it was going to happen. We just had to tackle him and we didn't do it.
"I will say this is one of the best-executed game plans I've ever seen at the high school level. Maybe the best offensive line play I've ever seen in our conference, or in the state of West Virginia. That offensive line stepped up tonight and plain whipped us.''
About the only thing keeping the game close - Spring Valley racked up 24 first downs and didn't punt - was the Timberwolves' penchant for turning the ball over.
Spring Valley had six turnovers - losing five of seven fumbles and throwing an interception in the end zone.
The Wolves led 37-22 in the fourth quarter when SC's Trevond Reese picked up a fumble and returned it 64 yards for a TD to make it 37-28. The 2-point conversion try failed, leaving SC down by at least two possessions.
Spring Valley's next drive churned out three first downs and reached the SC 14, but Wellman lost a fumble and the Black Eagles (1-2) immediately turned it into points on a 72-yard pass from Jon Alexander to Kevin Forrest with 2:51 left. Forrest finished with seven catches for 177 yards.
Alexander, who threw for 221 yards, ran in the 2-point conversion to bring SC within 37-36.
The Wolves, who ran much of the game out of wing-T formation, covered the ensuing kickoff and picked up two more first downs to salt away the remaining time.
"We controlled the line of scrimmage in that football game all night,'' said Spring Valley coach Brad Dingess. "We were just stressing it all week.
"We thought last week the offensive line blocked well, but the backs didn't block well. They blocked well tonight, they blocked well at the second level even when they had everyone up in the box. Our line surge was there. We hit people 10, 15 yards downfield. Our backs were running hard, always falling forward. It was a great effort on offense for us tonight.''
Spring Valley made an early statement, rushing for 209 yards in the first quarter alone. About the only thing that kept the game from getting out of hand was the Wolves' problem keeping the ball in their hands. They lost three fumbles in the game's first 13 minutes and led just 14-8 at halftime.
SC wasn't blameless in that department, either, losing the ball four times on three fumbles and one interception. One fumble came in the Spring Valley end zone.
"We shot ourselves in the foot three, four times when we tried to make plays,'' Messinger said, "and didn't make plays. They did the same thing and turned three or four into scores.
"We told our team coming in here that this was not a situation where 0-2 meant anything. They were a preseason top-five pick, and I've said all along they may still be a top-five team. I don't see them losing another football game.''
Ken Haynes led South Charleston's ground game with 61 yards and one TD on eight carries. A.D. Cunningham added 46 yards and two short scores on nine attempts.
Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or firstname.lastname@example.org