- 1 of 2 Photos | View More Photos
MAGNOLIA -- Sandy Valley head football coach Zach Gardner said getting back in the win column "was just what the doctor ordered" last Friday.
The Cardinals' prescription was a balanced offensive attack and a strong second half in a 41-7 victory over East Canton. Doses of 107 rushing yards from junior tailback Dray Bracken and 252 passing yards from senior quarterback Nelson Mozden helped the Cardinals improve to 4-2 on the year.
"I was proud of the way that we came out in the second half and executed," Gardner said. "We can't get out to slow starts like that. We have to execute better, and that's on us as coaches to get our kids better."
Sandy Valley put the only points of the first half on the board with 8:28 left in the second quarter. Mozden ran it in from one yard out capping a 17-play drive. Mozden set the Cardinals up nicely five plays earlier on a 19-yard scramble to the East Canton 27. After a pump fake to the right, he found an opening on the left side and darted up the sideline.
The Hornets' defense, however, halted any other Sandy Valley production before halftime.
"Our defense was running to the ball," said Hornets head coach John "Spider" Miller. "We had some nice coverage. We got two picks and put pressure on them. In the second half, it is what it is They're a very good football team."
In the second half, short screens and intermediate slant routes powered Sandy Valley's passing attack. Mozden found senior receiver Darren Finn with 3:57 left in the third for a 16-yard touchdown pass. Bracken then dashed down the right sideline for a 75-yard touchdown run with 1:09 left in the quarter.
In the fourth quarter, Mozden connected with Finn on another 16-yard touchdown pass. Xavier Sarver later had a 40-yard catch and run touchdown. Freshman Brandon Obradovich concluded the scoring on a 67-yard touchdown run with 5:06 left in the fourth.
"We pride ourselves on being very balanced offensively," Gardner said. "Coach (Brian) Gamble does a great job calling a game, and he's going to call what the defense gives us."
East Canton got on the board with 9:37 left in the fourth quarter. Following Finn's second touchdown, senior Travis Nelson took the ensuing kickoff and sprinted down the left sideline to the Sandy Valley 5. A few plays later, he took a handoff from quarterback Mitch Mitchell and scored from five yards out.
Nelson led the East Canton rushing attack with 58 yards on 15 carries. Nathaniel Suntheimer also carried seven times for 56 yards. Mitchell threw for 29 yards in the loss.
The elements may have played a factor for both teams on a chilly night. Heavy rain fall on Thursday and Friday left a sloppy playing surface.
Turnovers were a factor in the game as East Canton committed five on the night. Sandy Valley turned it over twice.
Miller again credited Sandy Valley and added his team needs to correct its mistakes.
"Let's give them credit, they're a heck of a football team," he said. "We played pretty well in the first half. We can't turn the ball over which we did against a very good football team. We've got a lot to do. We've never been in the basics. We've got to go back and hit them hard. Blocking is easy. Blocking and tackling. That's what we've got to do."
Gardner noted the Hornets are on their way up.
"Kudos to East Canton," he said. "That's a program headed in the right direction. Their kids played with a lot of heart tonight, and they are very well coached."
Sandy Valley is back in action tonight on the road at Tuscarawas Central Catholic. The Saints are 4-2 and scored at least 35 points in their first five games.
"We need to get out to a fast start," Gardner said. "(Tuscarawas Central Catholic) is very good offensively. I don't know our defense is going to keep us in a game against a high powered offense."
East Canton is home tonight to take on Malvern. The Hornets are 3-3 and are coming off a win over Tuscarawas Central Catholic last week. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. on homecoming night.