GREENFIELD — Still playing for a playoff berth, the Nodaway Valley/O-M Wolverines posted their first district win last Friday, beating visiting West Central Valley.
The Wolverines came away with a 14-6 win, bouncing back from an early deficit.
“I think we’re definitely taking steps in the right direction,” NV/O-M head coach Seth Comly said. “We’ve still got some things to improve on, but overall I’m very impressed with how this team played tonight. I think we’re starting to play more as a team and more unified, so it was a great night.”
The visiting Wildcats drew first blood, scoring early in the game after they received possession on a Wolverine interception. Hunter Keller ran the ball in for a 6-yard touchdown with 10:26 remaining in the first quarter, but NV/O-M senior Elliot Cooney sniffed out the point after attempt and blocked it.
The Wolverines, with the ball in the second quarter, moved the ball downfield on catches by Tyson Ross and Cooney, who carried it down to the WCV 5 yard line. On fourth-and-goal from the 3, quarterback Nathan Russell punched it in off the right side with a rushing touchdown of his own, but the 2-point conversion was denied.
West Central Valley got a heavier dose of a running game from NV/O-M than any other team has faced, it seemed. Adam Ayase, who had previously been in an offensive lineman role, moved into the backfield and saw 18 carries for 123 yards and a touchdown.
Ayase scored with 8:32 remaining in the third quarter on a 1-yard plunge into the end zone. He also converted the 2-point conversion, which gave the hometown purple-and-black a 14-6 lead.
Russell was 17-for-29 and one interception. Others with positive rushing yards included Cooney with nine carries for 12 yards, Boston DeVault with one carry for six yards, Caelen DeVault with one carry for two yards and Jon Gebbie with one carry for a yard.
Russell liked how the team was more balanced in this game between run and pass.
“We put together good drives, I wish we would’ve capitalized on more of them,” Russell said. The Wolverines came up empty when they fumbled the ball deep in WCV territory on a punt return. They also had a catch by Caelen DeVault in the corner of the end zone that appeared to be a catch but was ruled out of bounds.
“It’s nice to know that if its third and short or fourth and short I don’t have to worry about getting the ball to a certain spot, I just give it to Adam,” Russell said.
Listed at 6 feet, 1 inch, 205 pounds, Ayase liked being a ball carrier who was hard to bring down.
“I feel like it just added another run element for us,” Ayase said. “I also felt like it opened up the passing a little more for us.”
With six receptions and 75 yards receiving was Caelen DeVault. Ross had three catches for 54 yards, Blake Lund four for 43, Gebbie one for 31, Boston DeVault one for 17, Cooney one for five and Ayase one for two.
Caelen DeVault was the team’s leading tackler with 7.5 tackles. Matthew Weber had 6.5 and Cooney five.
Nodaway Valley/O-M now turns its attention to Panorama. With a win over the Panthers in Panora, the Wolverines can make the playoffs as a fourth-place team. The Panthers are winless since beating Colfax-Mingo on the opening night of the season.
Ethan Blomme, who is a senior and serves as a student assistant coach for the Wolverines, said he has all the faith in the world in this NV/O-M team.
“I want to see them win, I don’t want to seem them lose. I try to keep them motivated,” Blomme said.
Comly said there’s only one focus this week, and that is to beat Panorama.
“We just need to play them, worry about beating them, and let the chips fall where they may from there,” Comly said. “They’re a team that likes to spread it out too, so I think that matches up with us well. I like our chances, but we have to remember to keep it in perspective and beat Panorama.”