Sun Valley rallies past Marvin Ridge to advance to second round

Marvin Ridge quarterback Bryce McLain. (Photo by Greg Arthur)

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By the Numbers

3 Marvin Ridge quarterback Bryce McLain threw three touchdown passes.

5 Five Different Sun Valley players caught a pass

170 Sun Valley quarterback Sam Howell rushed for 170 yards

244 Sun Valley quarterback Sam Howell passed for 244 yards

Sun Valley quarterback Sam Howell accounted for 414 yards and the Spartans scored 10 points the last 5 minutes, 22 seconds of the game to upset Marvin Ridge 45-35 in the first round of the Class 3AA playoffs on Nov. 10.

Sun Valley (9-3) lost 28-20 to Marvin Ridge on Oct. 27 and the victory was the first time the Spartans have won a postseason game since 2012. Sun Valley will host Cuthbertson on Friday, Nov. 17 in a second-round playoff game. Cuthbertson stunned Alexander Central 35-28 on Nov. 10.

Marvin Ridge had no answer for Howell as the junior was 15-of-26 passing for 244 yards and three touchdowns while rushing for 170 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries. Sun Valley finished with 509 yards of offense — 265 rushing and 244 passing.

Sun Valley tight end Luke Burnette had four catches for 92 yards while Kendall Anderson had four receptions for 77 yards. Anthony Marple had five catches for 45 yards for the Spartans.

The game was tied 14-14 at halftime but Sun Valley scored on three-straight possessions in the third quarter for a 35-20 lead with 41 seconds left in the third quarter. Howell tossed a 55-yard touchdown pass to Burnette, a 12-yard touchdown pass to Marple and he ran in on a seven-yard touchdown for the 15-point lead.

But Marvin Ridge countered when Mavericks quarterback Bryce McLain hit Marcus Robitaille for an 81-yard touchdown that cut the Sun Valley lead to 35-27 on the first play of the fourth quarter.

Marvin Ridge’s defense forced the Spartans into a three-and-out and McLain hit Michael Freeman for a 32-yard touchdown and Robitaille ran in for the two-point conversion as the Mavericks tied the game at 35-35 with 9:12 to play.

But Sun Valley marched 80-yards in 11 plays and took a 42-35 lead when Howell rushed in from the five with 5:22 left in the game.

Sun Valley stopped the Mavericks on fourth down at their own 36 with 3:26 to play and Jacob Bowman hit a 21-yard field goal with 1:36 left for a 45-35 lead that put the game out of reach for the Mavericks (10-2).

McLain finished his last high school game by completing 12-of-24 passes for 237 yards and three touchdowns. He rushed for 95 yards on 11 carries.

Marvin Ridge coach Aubrey Carter was proud of the Mavericks’ effort after trailing by two scores in the second half.

“The kids fought hard and I don’t fault our effort at all,” Carter said. “We came back and tied it pretty quick and we gave ourselves a chance to win it in the fourth quarter. We just didn’t make enough plays to win.”

Scoring Summary

Sun Valley 0 14 21 10 — 45

Marvin Ridge 7 7 6 15  35

First Quarter

MR — Woodley 33 run  (Lopez kick), 6:48

Second Quarter

SV — Anderson 50 pass from Howell (Bowman kick), 11:50

MR — McLain 22 run (Lopez kick), 7:22

SV — Artolozaga 3 run (Bowman kick), 2:16

Third Quarter

SV — Burnette 55 pass from Howell (Bowman kick), 8:25

SV — Howell 7 run (Bowman kick), 5:48

MR — Brown 58 pass from McLain (Kick failed), 4:35

SV — Marple 12 pass from Howell (Bowman kick),:41

Fourth Quarter

MR — Robitaille 81 pass from McLain (Lopez kick), 11:44

MR — Freeman 32 pass from McLain (Robitaille run), 9:12

SV — Howell 5 run (Bowman kick), 5:22

SV — Bowman 20 FG, 1:45

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Paul Nielsen
Nielsen was a sports writer for what is now the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for nearly 32 years before moving to North Carolina in February 2016. At the Democrat-Gazette, Nielsen's primary responsibility was beat coverage for Rogers High School. Rogers is a Class 7A school located in Northwest Arkansas.
Nielsen, a University of Arkansas graduate, covered the Northwest Arkansas Naturals Minor League Baseball team from 2008-2015. The Naturals are the Double-A affiliate of the Kansas City Royals.
Nielsen has experience covering University of Arkansas athletics, including NCAA Tournament basketball games and several football bowl games. He also covered amateur and professional golf tournaments in Northwest Arkansas.
Nielsen lives in Matthews with his wife, Susan. He can be reached at