After a 1-9 season in 2012, Villa Angela-St. Joseph responded with 17 wins over the next two years and consecutive seasons with a Division VI playoff appearance.
Unfortunately for the Vikings, each of the last two campaigns ended with a long bus ride home following a loss on the road in the first round of the postseason.
VASJ rallied to tie host Sugarcreek Garaway in the fourth quarter, but eventually fell to the undefeated Pirates, 35-28, in a D-VI regional quarterfinal on Nov. 7.
The Vikings, who won the outright NCL White Division championship and finished the regular season at 8-2 a year after going 9-1, got a big effort out of senior Marvelle Ross in his final high school game. The All-Ohio running back tied the game on three separate occasions — two on rushing touchdowns and one on a kickoff return. The final score of the game and the season came when Ross took a pitch on an option play and found the end zone with 11:07 left in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 28.
Garaway (11-0) broke the tie with almost 10 minutes left in regulation and held on for the 7-point victory. It is only the second time this season the Pirates won by single digits and only the third time this year they scored less than 38 points.
VASJ fell behind 7-0, 14-7, 21-14 and 28-14, but had an answer each time Garaway jumped in front.
Ross tied the game at 14 with a kickoff return with 8:58 left in the second quarter. The Pirates retook the lead, and again, Ross responded, this time with a run to knot the score at 21 as the teams went to halftime.
Garaway broke the tie with a touchdown just before the end of the third quarter to go back up, 28-21, but Ross evened the score again early in the fourth quarter on a TD run.
The Pirates advance to the regional semis in D-VI, Region 19 where they will face defending state champion Kirtland at a site to be determined by the OHSAA on Nov. 9.