One play set the tone for this cross-town rivalry: Converted lineman Jace Malek fumbled a kickoff only to gather himself and rumble 85 yards for a touchdown.
The runback answered East Valley’s first touchdown of the game and started a run of big plays that eventually doomed the Knights and allowed the West Valley Eagles to claim a huge 39-26 rivalry win.
With the win, the Eagles (4-3, 3-1) move into a Great Northern League tie with the Knights (4-3, 3-1) behind league-leading Pullman, which comes to East Valley next week.
“It’s huge,” a cold WV coach Craig Whitney said of the win. “We talked about making a memory before the game. I told the players, ‘Catch the paper boy. I want that headline to read West Valley tops East Valley.’ ”
On their second drive, the Knights drove down the field before quarterback Connor Ramm hit Dan Keplin-Jensen on a 21-yard scoring strike.
The two-point conversion failed, leaving East Valley with a quick 6-0 lead over the Eagles. It wouldn’t last long.
On the ensuing kickoff, West Valley’s Malek answered with the touchdown run. The kick was good and just like that West Valley took the lead.
West Valley marched 90 yards before Austin Lee passed four yards to Malek for the Eagles’ second touchdown. With the missed point after, West Valley led 13-6.
After another failed drive by the Knights, West Valley got the ball on their own 18. On the first play from scrimmage, Lee hit Marcus Jackson on a short pass. Jackson caught the ball in traffic and then raced 82 yards for another Eagles touchdown.
Another failed kick left the Eagles leading 19-6.
The Knights finally put a sustained drive together that was capped by a one-yard J.T. Phelan touchdown run and a two-point conversion to cut the lead to 19-14.
On first down, West Valley fumbled and East Valley got the ball at the 18. Phelan ran it in from there, making it 20-19. The Knights had erased the 14-point deficit in only 12 seconds.
The teams traded drives before the half. Ramm then hit Phelan on a 37-yard-touchdown at the end of the half, but referees ruled that Phelan pushed off and called him for offensive interference.
“That was a transition point,” East Valley coach Adam Fisher said. “That was a difficult one to take.”
On the first play of the second half, West Valley’s Martin Herford ran 79 yards for a touchdown that put West Valley up again, 25-20. The Knights answered with 10-yard run by Phelan to go up 26-25 in the see-saw game.
Austin Lee then hit Marcus Jackson on an 88-yard pass to the 1. Lee punched it in to take the lead for good. Lee added another touchdown, this time a 5-yard-run in the fourth quarter, to complete the scoring.
“We gave up some uncharacteristic big plays,” Fisher said. “You have to give them credit. They came out inspired and played more physical than we did.”