MONTGOMERY — On a steamy night at WVU Tech's Martin Field, Valley showed it still has some steam.
Despite losing a bevy of skill players from a squad that finished 10-1 and was in the Class A playoff field last season, the newest group of Greyhounds flashed good form in whipping Wirt County 30-15 Friday.
"No," Valley coach Benny Hopkins said when asked if he expected his Greyhounds to get by the Tigers with the ease they did. "We got a good break early on (a nicely-timed interception by Valley's Henry Barron-Houchins that resulted in the game's first score).
"We just outran 'em."
"A lot has to do with team speed," said Wirt County coach Jason Hickman. "We knew that coming in.
"And that pick-6 early on changed things."
Valley got the scoring started when Barron-Houchins, a 5-foot-7 junior, stepped in front of a Mike Burns pass midway through the opening quarter, snared the interception and raced 45 yards to paydirt.
On the night, the elusive Barron-Houchins also rushed for 147 yards on 13 carries and added two more touchdowns on the ground (a 48-yard gallop midway through the second period and a 42-yard jaunt early in the third, the latter which stretched Valley's margin to 30-7).
On his last score, Barron-Houchins collected a pitch from quarterback Damaria Davis on a second-and-11 from the 42, ran to his right, then sliced through several Wirt defenders and reversed field to the end zone.
"We didn't tackle well," said Hickman. "We could not stop (Barron-Houchins).
"He's a really good player. On a third-and-13, we had him pinned in and he reversed field on us."
It wasn't all Barron-Houchins, though. On the Greyhounds' first offensive drive of 2014, senior fullback Seth Harmon notched the team's second TD on a 39-yard burst through the right side of the Valley line, and Davis's two-point run made it 16-0 with 3:28 left in the opening quarter.
Harmon, who helped create the holes as an offensive lineman last year, carried nine times for 93 yards.
Wirt didn't help itself on that drive, as a late hit unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the Tigers on a Barron-Houchins run along the Valley sideline immediately preceded Harmon's scoring run.
The Tigers narrowed the gap to 16-7 with a 12-play, 45-yard drive in the second period. Quarterback Kyle Windland connected with back Cam Nelson on two key pass plays covering 16 yards during the possession, and Windland had a crucial 11-yard burst up the middle to set up a first-and-goal at the 3. Two plays later, Trent Hardbarger used a second-effort burst to register a 1-yard TD at the 7:02 mark.
Valley hurt its cause by committing two offsides penalties in the drive.
Hopkins said he felt Wirt was slowed somewhat by an earlier injury to Hardbarger. "Their big kid is hurt," said Hopkins. "He's a pretty good player."
Wirt closed out the scoring on Josh Ellison's 4-yard TD run with 10.8 seconds to go.
"We need to be a grind-it-out team, and getting behind the eight-ball early was not what we needed," said Hickman.
Windland passed for 46 yards and ran for 41 more to lead the Tiger offense.
Valley's Dylan Sargent had an interception in the end zone that thwarted a Wirt drive as the third quarter wound down. He also broke up another Tiger fourth-down pass midway through the final period on the VHS goal line.
Hopkins wasn't pleased with losing four fumbles and amassing 60 yards in penalties, but he was glad for the win.
"That first one is the most important one, always, every year," he said.
Valley will host Fayetteville Friday, while Wirt County visits St. Marys the same night.
• • •
Also last week, Riverside went on the road and suffered a 63-13 setback to Cabell Midland.
For Riverside, Darius Booker scored on a 90-yard kickoff return and Lance Hudnall had an 8-yard TD run.
The Warriors host Capital Friday.
Valley 30, Wirt County 15
WC (0-1): 0 7 0 8 — 15
V (1-0): 16 8 6 0 — 30
V: Henry Barron-Houchins 45 interception return (Barron-Houchins run), 8-0, 8:34
V: Seth Harmon 39 run (Damaria Davis run), 16-0, 3:28
WC: Trent Hardbarger 1 run (Hardbarger kick), 16-7, 9:37
V: Barron-Houchins 48 run (Jaden Bess pass from Patrick McKnight), 24-7, 7:02
V: Barron-Houchins 42 run (run failed), 30-7, 8:56
WC: Josh Ellison 4 run (Ellison run), 30-15, 0:10.8
RUSHING — WC: Cam Nelson 12-36, Hardbarger 7-9-1, Kyle Windland 16-41, Brant Freeland 2-8, Matt Toney 2-8, Matt Murray 3-25, Ellison 3-21-1, Team 1-(-9). V: Barron-Houchins 13-147-2, Harmon 9-93-1, Damaria Davis 2-14, Blake Williams 5-24, Nicholas Morrison 2-10, Garyn Pritt 2-3, Kalif Politino 2-1, Team 2-(-2)
PASSING — WC: Mike Burns 0-2-1-0-0, Windland 4-10-1-46-0. V: Davis 0-3-0-0-0
RECEIVING — WC: Nelson 3-40, Jared Blair 1-6. V: None
TURNOVERS — WC: Dylan Pickrell (FR), Nelson (FR), Matt Toney (2 FR). V: Barron-Houchins (INT-TD), Austin Thornton (FR), Dylan Sargent (INT)