By DAVE MORRISON
PINE GROVE - Perhaps it would be wrong to tab Jacob Highley as a tough mudder.
Truth is, the Tyler Consolidated running back enjoys running in all types of conditions.
It just so happened to be that Friday night found Highley and the Silver Knights slogging through the mud at Valley.
Highley handled those conditions like he has every other this season, rushing for 116 yards and three touchdowns as Tyler Consolidated (5-4) kept its playoff hopes alive with a 33-14 victory against Valley on Friday night.
"I don't think it really makes a difference to him," Tyler Consolidated coach Ryan Walton said. "He's going to do what he has to do. You know you're going to get everything he has every time he comes out here. He ran the ball well."
You will get no argument from Valley coach Shane Highley, who is a distant relative.
"He's just a hard runner," Coach Highley said of the younger Highley. "When he had to make plays, he made them. I thought for the most part we did a pretty good job of corralling him but he came through with runs when they needed it."
The Knights actually did a lot of what they wanted to do early, namely making the Lumberjacks (3-6) pay for mistakes.
It started off the bat with a little trickery, when Tyler began the game with an onside kick.
Three plays later quarterback Jordan Baker found the end zone from 10 yards out.
"That was something our assistant coaches spotted, and they said that it would work," Walton said. "It was kind of a spur of the moment thing. You really don't want to start the game giving up good field position to (the opponent). We tried that a couple times early in the season and it didn't work. But our kids went out and executed it and we came up with it. We wanted to grab the momentum early."
That did the trick.
After a Swen Scheidemantel interception (one of three on the night against the Lumberjacks) , Highley gave Tyler a 14-0 lead with a 12-yard touchdown run.
Although the Lumberjacks were sputtering early on offense, the defense came through late in the first quarter when Thomas West returned an interception 42 yard to make it 14-6.
The Lumberjacks were not done.
On the kickoff the ball was nearly kicked straight up in the air. Tyler tried to fall on the muffed kick but Valley came up with the loose ball and looked to be in business.
Tyler's defense held, however, and Highley again took advantage, scoring from 24 yards out, leaping a defender at about the five-yard line, to make it 20-6 at the half.
"You take away a couple of mistakes in the first half and it's 6-6 at the half and it is a different game," coach Highley said. "We had some opportunities there, we just didn't take advantage. I thought our kids fought hard. Tyler has a good team."
One potentially capable of making a playoff run. It was the Knights' fifth win in a row after an 0-4 start and the Knights own a win over No. 12 Ritchie County, which beat Williamstown Friday night.
"We're starting to see some of our younger kids get some experience under their belts and it is showing in how we play," Walton said. "We told the kids our playoff run started a few weeks ago, when we got off to a tough start. We told them every week if they want to keep playing, they have to keep winning. They've done that to this point."
The Knight have a short week, playing Bishop Donahue Thursday in Moundsville in what could be a win-and-advance game for both teams.
Highley was on the sideline replacing long-time Valley coach Tom West, who took a scheduled trip to Ireland this week and said he was going to resign next month.
"I enjoyed it," Highley said. "You have to learn quick. The kids went out and had fun and they played hard for me and I really appreciate that."