Tri-Valley Dawgs captalize, grind way past Marian

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HEGINS - Tri-Valley has risen to meet challenges all season.

That's part of the reason the Dawgs have exceeded the expectations of those outside the program.

Saturday night, Tri-Valley stared down adversity and rose to the occasion for a 10th time in 2012.

With a relentless ground attack paced by Blake Bowman and Dalton Miller, the Dawgs beat Marian 28-13 in the District 11 Class A semifinals at Bulldog Stadium.

"It's our kids all year. Our kids rise to the challenge," Tri-Valley coach Mike Kogut said. "When they are challenged, they don't get upset with adversity or anything like that. They may be mad, but they quickly refocus. They know what needs to be done. They execute. They've done everything and then some for us all year.

"We were just extremely proud of our kids. And, a great staff effort, too. We're all making calls and making adjustments. It's a total group effort from the kids to the staff. It's fun to be a part of."

The reward is at least one more chance to rise to the occasion, this time with a district championship on the line. Oh yeah, the Dawgs will also have a chance to avenge their only loss of the season.

Tri-Valley (10-1) meets Tri-Valley League champion and backyard rival Williams Valley, which beat Shenandoah Valley 42-28, in the district final on a day and time to be determined.

The Dawgs finally seized momentum for good in a tense contest when Ty Waizenegger recovered a fumble one play after Tri-Valley coughed up its own fumble at its own 16.

Waizenegger returned the fumble 19 yards to the Dawgs' 40, then Bowman and Miller took turns carrying the rock. On second-and-2 from the Marian 34, Miller made a play-action fake and hit Hunter Harner alone down the middle of the field for a 21-7 lead with 7:24 left in the third.

"Fooled 'em. We fooled 'em," Miller said. "They were coming up on run all night, and the little dump out to Harner and he was wide open. I was just hoping I didn't overthrow him."

Added Kogut: "I think the play-action was huge. Dalton sold it really well, and Hunter made a nice read. That was a read-route for Hunter, either to sit down or we got the safety to come up a little bit. I thought that was big, too."

For the most part, it was the Dawgs' pounding rushing attack that won the day. Tri-Valley rushed for 336 yards on 47 carries as Bowman went over 2,000 yards for the season with a 219-yard performance. Miller added 70 yards on 17 carries.

Both seniors credited their teammates with their rushing success. Center Gavin Kline, guards Max Kroh, Lyle Troutman and Lance Schultz, tackles Devin Masser and Hunter Herb and tight end Harner paved the way.

"Our line blocks very well, and we block for each other all night," Miller said. "It's all to our line. Everything goes to our line. They block their butts off week after week."

After forcing a punt by the Colts (8-3), Bowman helped finish it off.

Disappearing into a bunch of Tri-Valley and Marian players, Bowman emerged and raced 53 yards to set up a 5-yard TD run by Miller for a 28-7 lead with 2:34 left in the third.

"Our line got their blocks and they went to second level and kept pushing," Bowman said. "I just followed them. I really didn't even get hit, actually. I just followed them, ducked under them and when they broke their blocks I found a hole."

Marian wasn't without its chances. Tri-Valley fumbled the ball away three times, but the Colts couldn't convert any of the turnovers into points.

Also, the Colts were unable to keep momentum to start the second half after tying the game late in the second quarter with a 10-play, 93-yard drive that was capped by Dylan Quirk's 2-yard touchdown run.

"We had our chances to stay in the ballgame," Marian coach Stan Dakosty said. "They're an outstanding team. (Bowman) is as good as we've seen all year. A lot of credit to Coach Kogut. They play hard; they're physical. That's probably the best football team we've played all year.

"We had chances, and we didn't get it done."

Instead, Tri-Valley made the most of its opportunities to advance and earned another chance to continue proving its doubters wrong.

"It feels great," Bowman said. "We all kind of knew that we had something good here and that we were going to do some truly awesome things. It was awesome to prove them wrong. I'm glad we're getting respect now."

Marian finished its successful campaign with a playoff berth for the first time since 2008. Dakosty was disappointed with the result Saturday night, but pleased with the efforts of his seniors throughout the season.

"These kids were super all year. They're a pleasure to coach," Dakosty said. "I enjoyed this year. My senior class was outstanding. We have some really nice football players in that class. I hope our underclassmen learned something from them. They put us back in the playoffs; they put us back on the map."

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