June 29, 2016

Mostly clear

Pirates turn Cardinals blue

SULLIVAN TWP. — In high school football, sometimes it’s not how you start, but how you finish.

Or both.

That would describe the thoughts of Black River coach Al Young and his staff Friday after the Pirates held on for a 36-29 win over Brookside in Patriot Athletic Conference Stars Division play.

“We didn’t make the plays we had to,” Young said. “But we made the plays at the end, and a win is a win.”

Black River (3-3, 3-0) held the Cardinals (1- 5, 0-3) on their final possession at Stevenson Field to seal the win.

With Brookside starting on its own 11, senior quarterback Carl Fitzer, who had torched the Pirates for 367 yards before the final possession, threw four incomplete passes.

One was broken up by Anthony O’Connor, another by Chase Smith.

“That was a big defensive stand,” O’Connor said. “We were finally able to make a stop.

“Give credit to Brookside. They played a hell of a game, but our defense stepped up at the end.”

For Young, that final stand was something he wants to see more often.

“They should play like that all the time,” he said. “But we didn’t play that way. I don’t know what it is. I guess we didn’t have a sense of urgency. We’ve got to grow out of that.”

The stand was poetic justice for Black River, which had a 60-yard kickoff return by Smith called back due to an illegal block. The play would have put the ball on the Cardinals 19-yard line.

It also was a relief for a Pirates defense that stopped the run (22 carries, 24 yards), but couldn’t stop Fitzer’s passing and the receiving of senior Zach Upton (6 receptions, 143 yards).

Fitzer blazed four passes over the Black River secondary for scores to rally his squad from a 22-point deficit. The 5-foot-10 quarterback tossed three scores to Upton. The other went to Randy Brandshaw late in the first half.

“We blew four coverages tonight and that’s absolutely ridiculous,” Young said. “We’ve got to play better and we didn’t do it. I’m not happy.”

In the early going, the Pirates looked as if they were going to run away with the game, scoring on their first three possessions.

Chad Muetzel and O’Connor had rushing scores. O’Connor then found Smith for another TD midway through the second.

Seth Rowan, who had another standout night with 188 yards on 21 carries, scored early in the third to give the Pirates a 30-8 edge. Brandon Freeman also was solid, going for 75 yards on 13 attempts.

“We were moving the ball and I thought we were in control,” Young said. “Seth’s a great runner, but it was just one of those things tonight.

“We have a lot of work to do defensively.”

About Liz Sheaffer