SULLIVAN TWP. â€” In a game filled with offensive heroes, it was a play from Black Riverâ€™s defense that sent the Pirates home with a 30-28 win over Clearview in a Patriot Athletic Conference cross-divisional game on Friday.
The Pirates (2-3, 2-0) and Clippers traded blows in the first half before the defenses took over with Clearview (1-4, 0-2) holding a 28-24 lead.
Enter senior Chad Muetzel. The 5-foot-7, 165-pound linebacker made the play of the night when he scooped up a Mike Bason fumble and sprinted 30 yards for a TD with 2:16 to play in the third quarter to give his team the lead for good.
â€œThey are fast and love to run the reverse,â€ Muetzel said. â€œWe knew we had to keep an eye on (Antwaun Carlton) and (Mike Bason). I got through the line and saw the ball laying there and did what we are taught to do on defense: Scoop and score.â€
The play was a result of Bason and Clearview quarterback Zach Anderson running into each other for the second time of the night on an attempted reverse.
â€œWe have been wanting our big players to make big plays,â€ Black River coach Al Young said. â€œTonight they did. We are excited for (Muetzel). He had a great game. It was a big step for our program and for our kids to get back on track. They are starting to see the results.â€
Black River really changed the momentum at the start of the third quarter as the defense stepped up and bottled Carlton. The running back ran wild in the first half, scoring on runs of 71 and 65 yards on his way to 218 yards in the opening two quarters. He finished with 274 yards and three TDs on 27 carries.
Brandon Freeman (17 carries, 109 yards, TD) and Seth Rowan (21-140, 2 TDs) did more than just match Carlton play-for-play, as both Pirate running backs also led the Black River defense in the second half.
â€œWe made some adjustments and started to do some things and make some tackles,â€ Young said. â€œThose (Clearview) kids are pretty good running backs and very hard to tackle. We were having a hard time bringing them down.â€
With the Pirates clinging to a two-point lead late in the fourth quarter, Muetzel came to the forefront again. This time he did it on the offensive side of the ball, converting a third-and-8 with an 18-yard run.
â€œI am real proud of our kids,â€ Young said. â€œWe racked up a bunch of yards. The backs ran hard and the linemen played hard. It all starts up front. Our offensive line did a heck of a job last week against Oberlin and I think they got even better tonight.â€
Freeman, Rowan and Muetzel noticed the improvement as well as the Pirates rushed for a season-high 301 yards.
â€œThe belly was working,â€ Freeman said. â€œThe counter was working. Our offensive line did a great job opening up the holes and our backs are good runners when they see the hole and take off.â€