SULLIVAN TWP. — The final score read Buckeye 13, Black River 0 on Friday night, but how it came to be is borderline unbelievable.
Regardless, one thing remained clear.
The Bucks (7-2, 6-0) are yet again Patriot Athletic Conference Stars Division football champions.
“It feels awesome to beat our rival,” said Buckeye’s Zach Maxworthy after playing the game of his life at inside linebacker. “We played some really good defense, too. It was awesome.”
Black River penetrated inside Buckeye’s 40 eight times, its 20 five times, ran 72 plays to the Bucks’ 38 and had a 19-3 edge in first downs.
However, Buckeye responded by forcing the Pirates (5-4, 4-1) into three lost fumbles, two punts and two failed fourth-down conversions inside the Bucks’ territory. Black River’s misery finally ended on the Bucks’ 10-yard line as time expired.
Maxworthy explained it perfectly.
“It’s unexplainable. It’s unexplainable,” said the senior, who had a tackle for loss and fumble recovery. “We were just doing our jobs of knowing where the ball was on the field.”
“That was tough,” added defensive end Kelton Keller, who also pounced on a loose pigskin. “We really came together when they got down there. I was yelling, ‘Pick it up. Let’s go.”’
The recipe was identical to the Bucks’ 19-17 win over Clearview five weeks earlier.
Just like in Week 4, Buckeye quarterback Mike Kelly took over in the second half.
Accumulating 132 of his game-high 147 yards rushing in the final 24 minutes, it was the senior who got his team rolling. Kelly’s 51-yard scamper in the third quarter set up the insurance, as he later bowled over from 6 yards out.
Shawn Cordes (9 carries, 86 yards) had Buckeye’s other TD on a 75-yard scamper in the first half. The jet sweep resulted in the Bucks’ only first down in the first 31:56 of the game.
“We made some adjustments at halftime,” Kelly said. “We saw what they were doing and we called plays that would work against them.”
Meanwhile, Pirates coach Al Young could only look down at the fieldhouse’s concrete floor afterward.
Not only did his team make five trips inside the red zone, it also lost fumbles at the Buckeye 15 and 1. Black River outgained Buckeye 345-117 when the long runs by Kelly and Cordes were taken out of the equation.
Neil Jones led the Pirates with 125 yards rushing on 19 attempts, while Matt Joppeck added 103 on 24.
“It’s real tough. I feel horrible for our kids,” said Young, whose team fumbled seven times and lost four. “I thought we played a great game.
“We didn’t do anything in the red zone. You can’t have turnovers in a championship game.”
Despite all the wild, wacky and unthinkable numbers, Buckeye deserved to win. Next week, the Bucks will host Keystone with a chance to clinch the outright Stars title and a Division III playoff berth.
“All of us were playing our heads out,” Keller said. “We played really great.”
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Buckeye 13, Black River 0
BUCKEYE 7 0 6 0 — 13
BLACK RIVER 0 0 0 0 — 0
Bu — Shawn Cordes 75 run (Ryan McCormick kick), 8:03.
Bu — Mike Kelly 6 run (kick failed), 1:58.