PADEN CITY - There was no playoff positioning on the line Friday night between rivals Valley and Paden City, not even the slightest chance of a postseason spot.
However, there was plenty of good, hard-hitting football in a battle for small-school, Wetzel County supremacy in a game that went to the wire.
Senior Casey Pingley scored on a 60-yard run early in the fourth quarter before the Lumberjacks recovered the ensuing kickoff and used a long march to help capture a 28-22 victory against the Wildcats on a cold, rainy night at Berger Field.
The victory closes the campaign for Valley at 4-6, but gives Coach Tom West just what he wanted, his young squad to go out with a winning taste in its mouth.
''With our young kids a win like this at the end of the season really means a lot,'' West said. ''But this was just a very good football game between two teams that played hard and battled all the way to the end.''
The Jacks took control early, scoring on an opening 11-play, 67-yard march that peeled 5:03 off the clock and had Pingley busting in from 5 yards out.
Not to be outdone, Paden City (3-6) went 65 yards on 11 plays, using 6:04 of the first-quarter clock to hit paydirt. Taylor Still's 17-yarder was the big play, before Geoffrey Bidwell found senior Payton Hinkley on a 14-yard strike over the middle for the score on a third-and-12 call. The point-after, however, never came about thanks to a botched snap and a quick tackle, leaving the score at 7-6.
A Wildcats fumble late in the opening half led to the only score and put the visitors up by a 14-6 margin at the break.
The drive started at the Paden City 44, with a long John Smallwood run, this time 18 yards setting the stage for a 3-yard Pingley burst at 3:42. Palmer again booted the PAT.
The third belonged to Still and Paden City. Still not only collected 113 of his game-high 184 rushing yards, he also scored both of the Wildcats' touchdowns.
Taking over at their own 41 to begin the second half, the hosts needed three Still runs, the final one from 48 yards out, to get back into the game with 10:55 showing. Bidwell carried in the 2-point conversion to knot the game at 14-14.
Following a Valley punt, Paden City went 54 yards on 13 plays, converting a pair of fourth downs along the way to take its first lead. Still bullied his way into the end zone from a yard out with 1:11 on the clock and then ran in the deuce for a 22-14 upperhand.
While the Cats owned the third, the fourth belonged to the Lumberjacks.
First, Valley capped a short drive with Pingley going straight up the middle for 60 of his 160 yards. Smallwood carried in the 2-point try and with 11:06 to play the count was tied at 22-22.
But things got even more interesting when a short Jacks kickoff was recovered by the visitors at midfield. That led to a very impressive 14-play march, with Valley also moving the sticks on a pair of fourth down calls.
The capper came 4:33 showing on a Smallwood 4-yard run. The try for two off a fake failed, but the Lumberjacks had a 28-22 edge.
Paden City did not go away easily. Taking over at the 49, the Wildcats moved all the way to the Lumberjacks 19 before a dropped pass on a fourth-and-6 call ended the drive and any hope at victory.
''You really have to give both teams a lot of credit here,'' Paden City coach Brent Croasmun said. ''This was an extremely hard-played game, especially in the second half, but they just got a few more breaks than we did.
''Not fielding that kickoff in the fourth quarter was huge, but we also had a penalty that stopped a drive in the first half and a turnover that led to a score for them.
''It's a tough loss, our seniors played as hard as they could. We challenged the kids in the second half and I am very proud of the effort. We had opportunities, we just didn't make enough plays.''
West was also proud of his troops, and the way they rallied.
''This is a big lesson for our young kids,'' West said. ''That was a great second half and like the old saying goes, it's not over until it's over.
''We have worked on that kickoff all year. There is always a chance it will hit the ground or the other team will drop it and we can fall on it and we did (Friday).
''There were a lot of running backs who had big games in this one also. Even though most of the credit will go to Pingley and Still, a lot of kids made plays.''