SULLIVAN TWP. â€” In high school football, sometimes itâ€™s not how you start, but how you finish.
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.
â€œWe didnâ€™t make the plays we had to,â€ Young said. â€œBut we made the plays at the end, and a win is a win.â€
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 Oâ€™Connor, another by Chase Smith.
â€œThat was a big defensive stand,â€ Oâ€™Connor said. â€œWe were finally able to make a stop.
â€œGive credit to Brookside. They played a hell of a game, but our defense stepped up at the end.â€
For Young, that final stand was something he wants to see more often.
â€œThey should play like that all the time,â€ he said. â€œBut we didnâ€™t play that way. I donâ€™t know what it is. I guess we didnâ€™t have a sense of urgency. Weâ€™ve got to grow out of that.â€
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 couldnâ€™t stop Fitzerâ€™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.
â€œWe blew four coverages tonight and thatâ€™s absolutely ridiculous,â€ Young said. â€œWeâ€™ve got to play better and we didnâ€™t do it. Iâ€™m not happy.â€
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 Oâ€™Connor had rushing scores. Oâ€™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.
â€œWe were moving the ball and I thought we were in control,â€ Young said. â€œSethâ€™s a great runner, but it was just one of those things tonight.
â€œWe have a lot of work to do defensively.â€