At 10:47 p.m. last Friday night, I couldn’t resist.
Black River had defeated Clearview 64-60 less than 90 minutes earlier in a key Patriot Athletic Conference cross-division football game. Coach Al Young’s Pirates maintained first place in the Stars Division by holding on for dear life in one of the wildest games in Medina County history.
Ever the supportive local reporter, I texted him.
“Holy cow, Al,” the message read. “This team is gonna give u a heart attack!”
Surprisingly, Young responded 5 minutes later. His retort was short and fitting.
Ridiculous, incredible, unbelievable, stunning, exhilarating, whatever.
This one will be remembered by every player, coach, fan, referee, cheerleader and press box worker who was in Sheffield Township that night.
There were 1,044 yards total offense, and there would have been a lot more if one team hadn’t lost 111 on just five snaps.
A quarterback threw for 505 yards, and his opponent tossed more pick-sixes (1) than completions (0) yet won because its six rushers compiled 517 yards.
Black River scored more points than its boys basketball team has in any of its last 47 games, and the 124 combined points are the most in a game involving a county school since Medina defeated Spencer, which ironically is in the Black River School District, by a razor-thin 159-6 count on Oct. 5, 1923.
Almost as wild, North Ridgeville beat Rocky River 76-48 for two 124-point games in Lorain County on the same night.
There were NFL-quality throws and catches from Clearview and road-grading offensive line play and heady ball-carrying by Black River, but enough crude tackling, dumb penalties and you’ve-gotta-be-kidding-me moments to remind everyone why high school football is a beautiful thing.
It makes my head explode just thinking about it.
Young was kind enough to allow me access to the game film. There were too many questions to answer. Many of them had fascinating answers. Others were completely pointless and offer no legitimate use other than to satisfy my unequivocal thirst for statistics (a blessing and a curse, I can assure you).
Without further ado, let’s get to it. (Disclaimer: Statistics that appeared in previous editions of The Gazette have been adjusted accordingly.)
• Clearview quarterback Roger Engle threw or ran on 56 of his team’s 67 plays. He finished 26-of-46 for a Lorain County-record 505 yards, six touchdowns, zero interceptions and a 134.5 NFL rating.
The electric 6-foot-1, 190-pounder with truly impressive touch accounted for 46 of the Clippers’ 60 points, as he also threw five two-point conversions to four different receivers.
• Engle’s favorite targets were Gerrell Williams (10 receptions, 174 yards, 3 TDs) and Lance Billings (5, 191, 1). Eight of Williams’ grabs resulted in first downs. The two that did not went for a TD on fourth down and a 9-yard gain on second-and-10.
Billings was the big-play man with grabs of 21, 32, 36, 46 and 56 yards. A whopping eight defenders missed tackles against the rangy sophomore, allowing him to compile 96 yards after catch.
• Meanwhile, Black River running back Andrew Vaughn finished with 197 rushing yards and five touchdowns on 18 attempts. He became the first county player to record exactly 34 points in a game (5 touchdowns, 2 two-point conversions) and surpassed 400 career points late in the third quarter.
Vaughn also set a county standard for career rushing touchdowns (59) and school marks for points and rushing touchdowns in a game. He converted his 12th career two-point conversion with 6:43 left to tie the Pirates record held by Steve Dreher (1990-92) and Don Kostecki (1970-72).
• The breakout star clearly was the Pirates’ Colin Filak, who finished with 181 yards on a game-high 24 carries despite not appearing in the wing-T offense until the second quarter.
The reason behind the sophomore’s showing is three-fold.
No. 1, Young moved starting fullback David Bell (19 carries, 117 yards) to wingback in an effort to get better blocking and more physical running on buck sweeps. Filak replaced Bell at fullback.
No. 2, Filak is listed at 5-7, 160. The massive Clearview front eight had a hard time locating him on trap plays.
No. 3, the Clippers were hyper-aggressive in following Vaughn’s every move. On nearly all of Filak’s big runs — he had eight of more than 10 yards — the linebackers were out of position because they were spying Vaughn.
The odd-man out was usual starting wingback Aaron Schmitz. Instead of sulking, the senior was outstanding on defense with seven tackles and a team-high three pass breakups, including one in the end zone on fourth down just before halftime.
• Engle’s 505 yards passing were one more than Black River has compiled in the last 15 games.
• The 11 lead changes happened quickly. Opposing touchdowns were scored in spans of 19 seconds, 41 seconds, 1:16, 1:20, 1:40 and 1:55.
• Hard to believe, but true: Good field position almost didn’t factor. Clearview’s scoring drives covered two, six, one, three, seven, three, three and 11 plays and 70, 53, 48, 63, 59, 68, 83 and 95 yards. Black River’s scoring drives were two, 11, six, four, seven, five, seven and five plays for 34, 65, 75, 55, 63, 78, 62, 62 and 24 yards.
Amazingly, the total yardage on scoring drives for each team (Clearview 539, Black River 518) was more than it had offensively (527 and 517) because of defensive penalties.
l The Pirates’ Brock Waltz rushed off-tackle for a 7-yard touchdown with 7:10 remaining the first half.
Whoop dee doo, right?
Consider this: It was the senior’s first carry at fullback after spending the first four games under center. This is nothing new for Young, who has moved a quarterback to another position midway through the season two other times in his career.
• Clearview faced third-and-43 in the first quarter following a sack, incomplete pass and wild shotgun snap. Coach Mike Collier cut his losses and punted from his own 35-yard line on third down.
The depressing part? Seven plays before the sequence, an arrant shotgun snap from the Black River 2 was recovered by Waltz 39 yards behind the line of scrimmage. Vaughn capitalized by stiff-arming a defender and going 32 yards to the house shortly thereafter.
As if that wasn’t wacky enough, the Clippers were at it again in the fourth quarter.
Clearview was forced to punt on fourth-and-58 — 58! — because Engle was called for intentional grounding (minus-23 yards) and Billings lost 12 and 13 yards out of the Wildcat formation.
The sequence began after Billings returned a kickoff to the Black River 30.
• Black River yardage by holes — Left/odd numbers (188 on 38 attempts), Right/even (329 on 33).
Congratulations center Sean Holly, right guard Jeremy Wiggins and right tackle Gabe Eaton. Y’all brought the pain. (Of course, left tackle Ryan Slone, left guard John Ternes and tight end Nick Sas were very solid, too.)
• Clearview receivers had 231 yards after the catch, while Black River runners only had 165 yards after contact.
This means the Clippers gained 274 receiving yards without being touched, while the Pirates compiled 352 rushing yards. The 626 combined yards were more than the entire outputs of the Brunswick-Normandy, Wadsworth-Cloverleaf and Lutheran West-Buckeye games.
One word: Absurd.
• Young wasn’t kidding when he complained about tackling so bad peewee teams would blush. Black River missed 35 tackles — eight less than Highland successfully made in a win over Copley. Three Pirates players whiffed more than five times, but their names will not be released because of the Defenseless Protection Act (at least that’s my story).
• Though Clearview finished with 22 rushing attempts, only 11 were designed runs.
• Sensing his defense couldn’t make a stop with less than 6 minutes left, Collier elected to go for broke on fourth down twice inside his own 30. The first attempt was fourth-and-inches from the 29, but a false start negated a sneak by Engle that would have moved the chains.
The next play turned out worse, as Engle fumbled the snap and threw high to Billings, who was blanketed by Vaughn. In Engle’s defense, the Pirates’ coverage was perfect (didn’t expect to read that, did ya?). Sas had Williams, Schmitz had Tyler Stevenson and Brad Spencer had Dominic Jacovetti.
Vaughn capitalized five plays later from 13 yards on a third-and-10 counter to make it 64-52 with 2:34 left.
• Clippers defensive lineman/linebacker Brad Doughty was an absolute beast with a game-high 16 tackles. When the first-team All-PAC Stripes Division selection was in on the stop, Black River averaged 3.7 yards. When he wasn’t, the number ballooned to 8.3.
• Willams’ 4-yard touchdown grab on fourth-and-goal in the third quarter was a gem. Engle was pressured and attempted to hit Alex Pearson on a crossing route just in front of the crossbar despite triple coverage. Schmitz hit Pearson hard and the ball popped over top of Bell and Vaughn and into the arms of Williams as he was falling to the ground.
• Williams, a 17-point scorer for the basketball team, saved his best efforts for last, as he had three grabs for 58 yards on Clearview’s final drive, which started on the 5 thanks to a block in the back. Williams finished the night by using every inch of his 6-3 frame to soar over a defender and haul in a 21-yard TD.
Engle was clutch, too, by converting fourth-and-9 from his own 6 (17 yards to Stevenson) and third-and-15 from his own 45 (19 to Williams).
• A blown call allowed Clearview to score its first touchdown just a minute in. On first-and-15 from his own 30 — the Clippers were called for a false start the play before — Engle rolled left and threw to Billings on a 3-yard out route.
Billings caught the ball, tucked it with his right arm and took three steps before Vaughn’s perfect wrap tackle knocked the ball free. However, the referee blew the play incomplete as five players from each team scrambled to the pigskin.
On the next snap — you guessed it — Engle connected with Pearson for a 70-yard touchdown.
• If you made it to this point, kudos.
More importantly, the young men who left it all on the field deserve kudos, too. That was an awesome performance.
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or firstname.lastname@example.org.