GRAHAMSVILLE — The Tri-Valley Bears continued their 2023-24 campaign on Saturday afternoon as they hosted the Eldred Yellowjackets for a conference game in their home opener. After a back and …
GRAHAMSVILLE — The Tri-Valley Bears continued their 2023-24 campaign on Saturday afternoon as they hosted the Eldred Yellowjackets for a conference game in their home opener. After a back and forth first half found the teams deadlocked at 12 apiece, the Bears scored 23 second half points to walk away with a 35-18 victory.
Eldred came into the game at 1-1 while Tri-Valley was 1-2, but both of the Bears’ losses were non-league and Eldred’s was a league loss to Fallsburg.
Tri-Valley won the coin toss and elected to differ to the second half, a decision that would cost them immediately as Eldred’s Trai Kaufmann returned the kick 82 yards for a touchdown.
The quick six for Eldred put the visitors on the board just 14 seconds into the game. After an unsuccessful 2-point conversion, Eldred kicked it off to Tri-Valley and the Bears started their first drive at their own 31.
Tri-Valley moved up the field efficiently, scoring with 3:24 left in the first quarter on a receiving touchdown by Misha Khodakovski.
The two teams ended the first quarter tied at 6 apiece, with Eldred driving into Tri-Valley territory to start the second.
Eldred’s drive seemed to stall, but on a 4th and long Trai Kaufmann received a touchdown pass, his second of three touchdowns on the day, and Eldred gained a 12-6 advantage.
Tri-Valley answered quickly with another long drive, methodically moving the ball up the field en route to a rushing touchdown by Josh Fanslau to tie the game at 12.
Just before halftime both teams exchanged turnovers with Eldred fumbling and Tri-Valley throwing an interception. As the clock expired on the second quarter, both teams went to their respective end zones in a 12-12 game.
The Bears started the third quarter with a drive beginning at midfield, ending with a touchdown run to take their first lead of the game at 18-12. The first successful 2-point conversion of the game increased their lead to eight before kicking it back to Eldred.
Eldred drove down the field before an interception with 3:49 left in the quarter gave Tri-Valley’s offense another chance to work.
Back-to-back big gains gave Tri-Valley a first down in Eldred territory before a Roughing the Passer foul moved them down to the Eldred 25.
Fanslau passed it into the end zone with 1:19 left in the third and the Bears converted the 2-point conversion to make it 28-12.
The teams both turned the ball over on downs to start the fourth quarter, and Eldred started on their own 40 with 10:01 to play.
After another three-and-out, Eldred punted down to the Tri-Valley 28 with 8:06 to play, and the Bears converted a big 4th and 10 to keep their drive alive and keep the ball away from the Eldred offense.
After driving down to Eldred’s 33 yard line, Fanslau ran a QB draw for a 33-yard touchdown to give the Bears a 34-12 lead.
Typically in 8-man, scores increase by six or eight points, as many of the teams elect to run 2-point conversions rather than kicking, but with a lead, Tri-Valley elected to attempt a PAT.
Ed Koskey lined up as the kicker and sent the ball through the uprights, punctuating the win with the 35th and final point.
Eldred refused to give up, however, and scored another touchdown with 1:55 left to make it 35-18 before Tri-Valley ran out the clock on their next drive.
“They were more physical today,” Eldred Coach Sean McAveney said. “We have a young team and we struggle with the close game mindset. It’s almost like we expect to lose. We have to keep working to change that mindset and win the turnover battle.”
“We’ve gotten better since Pine Plains, improving in every quarter we’ve played,” Tri-Valley Coach Kevin Crudele said. “The guys are starting to get more confident, and we’re continuing to build and working hard every day. We’re going to enjoy this win today and go back to being 0-0 on Monday.”
Tri-Valley will have a tall task ahead of them on Saturday as they take on Sullivan West, coming off a big win against Fallsburg.
The Yellowjackets will be be on the road as they take on Livingston Manor/Roscoe under the lights on Saturday.
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