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The attitude has changed around the Sandy Valley High School football program.
That's what head coach Zach Gardner expressed after last Friday's 34-27 loss to Garaway, the state's seventh ranked team by the Associated Press in Division V in its first poll of the season.
"I have never been more proud to coach this team," Gardner said. "The way our kids fought to get back in the game shows the culture change our program has under went. Garaway made one more play than us."
Both teams went back and forth until the closing minutes of the game. The one play that made the difference was a 9-yard touchdown run by Brady Winters with just under three minutes left in the fourth quarter.
Sandy Valley tailback Dray Bracken tied it a little earlier on a 1-yard touchdown run, his second touchdown carry of the game. He scored in the first quarter on a 21-yard TD in the first quarter to tie the game at 6-all.
It was Bracken's first game back following an ejection in a win over Tusky Valley in week three. The junior finished with 100 yards on the ground.
Cardinals quarterback Nelson Mozden connected with Xavier Sarver on a 14-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter. He also found tight end Chad Neisel in the third quarter for a 7-yard touchdown pass. Mozden finished the game with 275 yards passing.
"We strive for balance offensively," Gardner said, "and when we are able to fire on all cylinders, it shows."
Senior quarterback RJ Jacobs was a dual threat for Garaway against Sandy Valley. He was the Pirates' leading rusher with 193 yards. He also threw for 269 yards.
Jacobs has mainly been a threat with his arm, throwing for more than 1,200 yards in the Pirates' first four games.
The Cardinals held Garaway to its lowest point total of the year thus far. The Pirates scored 40-plus points per game in weeks 1-4. It was also the Pirates' smallest margin of victory.
Sandy Valley (3-2, 0-2) now turns its attention to getting back on the winning track. The Cardinals will start the second half of their schedule by welcoming East Canton tonight.
The Cardinals will look to stop a multiple threat rushing attack led by Travis Nelson and James McCullough.
"East Canton is very talented and very well coached," Gardner said. "We need to have a great week of practice to prepare us. It's time for us to see all the good things our program is doing show up again in the win column."
Kickoff at Sandy Valley is set for 7 p.m.