It was a much different game than the first meeting but it ended with the same outcome.
No. 6-ranked Valley put on an offensive exhibition to out gun Follett 94-62 in a Class 1A Division II state quarterfinal game on Friday night at Buck Stadium in White Deer.
Valley improves to 11-2 overall and will head to the state semifinals for the sixth time in the last seven years.
“It’s unbelievable,” Valley head coach Brandon Smith said. “I credit former coach Bret Tyler for a lot of the tradition. He set the bar way up there. Last year when we got beat early it made us upset. We just hope the road keeps going on.
The Patriots will face unbeaten and No.4-ranked Balmorhea (13-0) at a time and place to be determined., Balmorhea beat Grandfalls-Royalty 87-32 on Friday night to advance.
Follett ends the year 10-3 after making it back to the state quarterfinal for a fifth straight year.
Unlike the 54-6 beating Valley gave Follett in week two, the Panthers came out hot. Follett took a 16-8 lead with 4:24 left in the first quarter after a Luis Loya 11-yard touchdown run. However, Valley woke up quick thanks to the speed of running back Adrian Espinoza. Espinoza answered the ensuing kickoff with an 80 yard touchdown return to tie the game at 16. That fed the Patriots momentum, as Valley scored 38 unanswered points to take a 46-16 lead they’d never relinquish.
“It was a different battle from the first game,” Smith said. “We saw they were pressing us pretty hard. We had to get the ball off quick. So we got the ball to Adrian and see what he could do.”
Espinoza was by far the game MVP. Anytime Follett tried to rally, the Panthers hopes were quickly dashed by the senior tailback, who was hardly touched in the open field. Espinoza finished with 313 yards rushing on 17 carries with six rushing touchdowns, He added a had a receiving TD and the 80 yard kick return for another score.
Espinoza was just a big a factor on defense, containing Follett’s spread back Fabian Gordillo. With Espinoza spying Gordillo most of the night, the Follett junior rushed for 82 yards, well below the 300 per game average in the previous two playoff games. Espinoza also totalled two sacks.
“We were fired up,” Espinoza said. “I got a fire lit under me. Defensively, we just rushed hard. If I get tired Dax Allen is there to help. We’re a team and we pride ourselves on that.”
Valley quarterback Zack Stumbo was efficient in the win. Stumbo avoided Follett’s heavy pressure, going 13-of-15 for 171 yards with a pair of touchdown passes.
“I had been working hard on avoiding pressure,” Stumbo said.
“Coach has been pushing me hard to bounce around and throw on the run. We just have to keep working and do what we keep doing. Valley has a great tradition and we want to continue that.”
Valley 94, Follett 62
Valley 30 24 16 16 - 94
Follett 16 16 16 14 - 62
F-Charles Al-Ag 15 pass from Fabian Gordillo (Fernando Cruz kick), 5:53
V-Adrian Espinoza 56 run (Juan Villarreal kick), 4:40
F-Luis Loya 11 run (Cruz kick), 4:24
V-Espinoza 80 kickoff return (Villarreal kick), 4:13
V-Jayton Smith 46 run (kick fail), 1:23
V-Espinoza 41 run (Villarreal kick), 0:12
V-Espinoza 11 pass from Zack Stumbo (Villarreal kick), 9:52
V-Smith 61 pass from Stumbo (Villarreal kick), 5:45
F-Al-Ag 3 run (Cruz kick), 2:23
V-Dax Allen 18 run (Villarreal kick), 1:59
F-Al-Ag 2 run (Cruz kick), 0:17
F-Jeremy Earsley 25 pass from Gordillo (Cruz kick), 7:48
V-Espinoza 47 run (Villarreal kick), 4:47
F-Taylor Russell 45 pass from Al-Ag (Cruz kick), 3:01
V-Espinoza 21 run (Villarreal kick), 1:30
V-Espinoza 20 run (Villarreal kick), 9:01
V-Espinoza 27 run (Villarreal kick), 5:55
F-Earsley 11 pass from Gordillo (kick failed), 1:32
V-Espinoza 50 run (Villarreal kick), 1:23
F-Joshua Vermilya 3 pass from Gordillo (Cruz kick), 0:03
First Downs 20 14
Rushing Yards 382 285
Passing Yards 171 272
Total Yards 553 557
C-A-I 13-15-0 14-31-0
Punts-Avg. 0-0 1-66
Fumbles-Lost 2-2 1-1
Penalties-Yards 3-20 6-45
RUSHING-Valley: Adrian Espinoza 17-313; JayonSmith 3-59; Dax Allen 3-24; Zack Stumbo 2- (-14). Follett: Charles Al-Ag 15-18 Fabian Gordillo 12-82; Luis Loya 7-49 Jeremy Earsley 1 (-3); John Hibler 1-2; Joshua Vermilya 1-0.
PASSING-Valley: Zack Stumbo 13-15-0-171; Follett: Gordillo 12-29-0-251; Al-Ag 1-3-0-21.
RECEIVING-Valley: Jayton Smith 4-102 Allen 4-55 Espinoza 2-20; Trey Smith 1-7; Juan Villarreal 1-5. Follett: John Hibler 1-23; Al-Ag 4-55; Holden Born 5-47.