HAZELTON — The one knock against the Valley High School football team through five games was its schedule.
That demerit was demolished on Friday night.
The Vikings improved to 6-0 with a 22-12 Snake River Conference win over Raft River, the No. 3-ranked team in the latest state media poll. Valley is tied for No. 1, and it backed the ranking up with a strong all-around performance at home on Friday night.
“We were coming in trying to prove that we were strong enough and tough enough to beat a good opponent,” Valley junior Jason Hardy said. “It was a good win.”
Valley outscored its opponents 270-56 in its first five games. Only one of those opponents, Challis, has a winning record.
But Valley’s 50-20 season-opening win over SRC’s other Vikings looks increasingly impressive every week. Challis has a 29-28 win over Raft River on its resume.
Valley was a higher-ranked team at home Friday night, but Raft River was healthier. The Vikings were without junior running back/linebacker Zackary Gomez and senior wide receiver/defensive back Victor Lopez. The Trojans were at full strength, according to coach Brian Poole.
Valley’s absences hardly seemed to matter.
The Vikings opened the game with a long drive a touchdown to go up 8-0, and they recovered the ensuing onside kick. The next drive stalled, but Valley forced a fumble to halt a promising Raft River drive.
The 8-6 score at halftime foreshadowed a tight final two quarters, but Valley sucked most of the excitement out of the game, mainly thanks to its defense. The offense scuffled for most of the middle two quarters, but Hardy and Alex Korom remedied the issues early in the fourth.
With four minutes left in the third quarter, Valley called a delayed draw for Hardy on fourth down and 1. The junior found a seam up the middle, evaded a couple tackles and sprinted past the defense for a 46-yard touchdown. The two-point conversion put the Vikings up 16-6.
Early in the fourth quarter, Hardy found Korom for a long pass and a conversion on fourth and 14. On the next play, Korom made a brilliant over-the-shoulder catch for a 19-yard touchdown. The score was 22-6.
The Trojans made a push after that, but they couldn’t break Valley’s bendy defense. Hardy even booted a couple of long punts, which are rare occurrences at the 1A level.
“We’ve never punted before, since I’ve been here,” Hardy said. “All three dimensions of our games are very strong.”
Perhaps the toughest blow came with 8:36 left, with Valley up 22-6. Raft River quarterback Keegan Chatburn ran left and reached Valley’s 10-yard line before taking a big hit. The ball was jarred loose and rolled into the end zone, where Vikings senior Victor Nava jumped on top of it.
Both teams ended up with similar yardage totals — 301 for Raft River, 267 for Valley — but a couple of turnovers and a boatload of penalties contributed to the Trojans’ lowest-scoring game since 2013 (a 58-8 loss to Hagerman).
“I love how our defense played,” Valley coach Ryon Jarvis said.
Hardy was 10-of-23 for 112 yards and a touchdown, and he rushed for 71 yards and a TD on 12 carries. Senior Kodi Burk rushed for 78 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries.
For Raft River, Chatburn rushed for 116 yards on 23 carries, and Rylee Spencer caught six passes for 116 yards.
Valley (4-0 in conference) plays at Grace next week, and Raft River (2-2) hosts Shoshone. Both are conference games.
Valley 22, Raft River 12
V — Kodi Burk 1-yard run (Zane Mussman pass from Jason Hardy) 8:11
RR — Quintin Ward 2-yard run (pass failed) 6:11
V — Hardy 46-yard run (Nic Anderson pass from Hardy) 3:49
V — Alex Korom 19-yard pass from Hardy (pass failed) 10:03
RR — Keegan Chatburn 18-yard run (run failed) 5:40