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Valiant football on a roll, wins fourth straight


Valley Catholic crushes Umatilla with Welsh leading way

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Valley Catholic junior running back Clayton Kemper ran for 125 yards and caught two touchdowns against Umatilla on Friday.

Oh, how times have changed for the Valley Catholic football team.

The Valiants turned the tables on Umatilla, beating the Vikings, 56-0, for their fourth straight win of the season.

The final score was in fact the same tally at halftime, as head coach Doug Ierardi was able to get all his players into the game in a good old-fashioned blowout that had a running clock in the second half.

For those Valiant upperclassmen who suffered through their fair share of one-sided drubbings over the last two or three seasons, Friday was a sort of exoneration — and hopefully the start of a special season.

“Finally,” said a relieved junior running back Clay Kemper. “Since my freshman year, going 0-6, it's just nice to be able to play with the people I played with freshman year, go out and beat up on a team. We just have to stay humble. We can't be cocky about anything. We have to play like how we can play, and we'll win games.”

“That was good for our program,” said junior wide receiver Jacob Vincent. “We haven't had a shutout in a really long time, and we've been working really hard to turn this around. No days off, no plays, that's kind of our team motto this week. Practices, games, we have to go hard and do anything possible to win.”

Valley started the game on fire, topping off an 81-yard drive with a 60-yard touchdown pass from freshman quarterback Aidan Welsh to Alex Hyland to go up 7-0.

After the first of five three-outs for the Valiant defense, Welsh rolled right on 3 and 4 and hit Kemper — who ran a crisp route out exiting the backfield — in the numbers on the perimeter. Kemper caught the rock and darted 20 yards to the house to push the lead to 14-0 with seven minutes left in the first.

On Valley's ensuing series, Kemper ran twice for 40 yards and caught another offering from Welsh that he turned into a 23-yard touchdown with 4:28 to go to make it 21-0.

Kemper said Valley's offensive line tore open considerable gaps that were easy to shoot through, and Welsh's ability to make Umatilla pay with the deep ball created running lanes inside.

“We had a lot of good talk upfront, where we're blocking, where to get off blocks, when to go to the second level,” said offensive lineman Drew VanderZanden. “Just staying low and keeping our feet moving is the key, and that's what we do all game long. We keep fighting. The line did a good job upfront and got a good push all night long. It was a good win overall.”

“We were able to run the ball, pass the ball, basically do anything we wanted,” added Kemper.by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Valley Catholic running back Liam Walsh scored two touchdowns in the first half of the Valiants 56-0 rout of Umatilla.

Timely turnovers

Valley's defense created bedlam all night and kept the Valiant offense busy with quick stops and timely turnovers. Free safety JD Menkens picked off a pass that led to a Liam Walsh 2-yard touchdown up the gut that extended the lead to 28-0 with 11:49 to go in the second quarter. Vincent's fumble recovery with 3:35 left set up a Walsh-to-Kazuma Lane 69-yard touchdown on a go pattern that made it 49-0.

“We were really on pace today,” said Lane who also returned a punt 59 yards to pay dirt in the second quarter. “We didn't miss a beat. The offensive line did great blocking for us. Aidan really stepped up. He definitely got some confidence today. I'm excited for him.”

In his first ever varsity start, Welsh was as cool and collected as a three-year starting senior.

After senior quarterback Carter Buuck went down for the season with a separated right shoulder against Sheridan last week, the 5-foot-7, 135-pound Welsh was pushed into duty.

Through two games, Welsh has looked right at home executing the Valiants' spread offense, and against the Vikings, he was stellar, throwing for five touchdowns and 245 yards.

“I felt like I was ready for it,” said Welsh. “Before the game, I was a little nervous, but once you get in the game, it just starts coming naturally. I had a lot of fun.”by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Valley Catholic defensive lineman Drew VanderZanden and the Valiant defense had little trouble shutting out Umatilla, 56-0 on Friday.

Vincent was a recipient of one of Welsh's rainbows in the second quarter, after the freshman shook off the Umatilla safety, came back to his right and fired a seed to Vincent who hauled in the 40-yard bomb and strolled untouched to the end zone to go up 34-0.

“He showed he's good enough to be out here,” said Vincent of Welsh. “Me and Aidan do that play all the time in practice, and I knew if I got behind the defense, he would be there to help me out. I feel really comfortable with Aidan. He's a really reliable kid who's going to do great things in the future.”

Spot-on throws

Welsh was accurate and on the money, hitting his Valiant receivers with catchable balls in space that were easy to clench and turn upfield with. The freshman showed off a surprisingly strong arm too, uncorking a couple of deep balls when the Viking defensive backs stacked the box, expecting Valley to stick to the ground game.

“Our passing was just great tonight,” said Kemper. “You wouldn't really expect a freshman to be throwing spot-on balls like that, but it's nice because it keeps me in flow and all the other players in flow on the catch.”

“They didn't know what to expect,” added Vincent. “It gives our offense way more options. The first two years of the program we had to rely more on running because we didn't really have a quarterback. Then we had Carter, and now we have Aidan who's going to do some really great things for us.”

The Valiant skill position players and offensive line made a concerted effort to surround their young signal caller and ensure he wouldn't have to beat Umatilla alone.

“We're really proud of how Aidan stepped up,” said VanderZanden. “He's a little small, but he sure gets the ball off. He reads the routes well, and we give him time, and he uses it, which is awesome.”

“That's a ton of help,” said Welsh of his team's effort. “They've all been playing since they were sophomores or even freshmen sometimes. They make all the catches. They're real crisp in their routes, and they know everything. All the work we put in practice, paid off in the game.”

Even when Buuck started the first three games and received the bulk of the practice reps at quarterback, Welsh mentally prepared as if he were the starter. Walsh studied the playbook and took every mental rep in practice, just in case his number happened to be called like it was last week against Sheridan, when Buuck went down with a separated right shoulder.

“I feel like I can do my part as a quarterback and lead this team fairly far,” said Welsh. “I've run the spread in seventh and eighth grade, and it's the same stuff just different names for the routes. But at this level, everybody's bigger and stronger, and the intensity of the game is different.”