LAGRANGE — For most of the week leading up to the Black River game, Keystone fans were eagerly anticipating what the Pirates offense would do next.
The Pirates had put up approximately 48 points per game in Patriot Athletic Conference play and senior Andrew Vaughn had gone over the 2,000-yard mark rushing, so everyone expected them to put up video-game numbers one more time while securing the outright Stars Division championship.
But a funny thing happened Friday night at Wildcats Stadium. Keystone came to play defense.
Vaughn was held to a season-low 87 yards and the Wildcats forced two turnovers in a 28-6 decision that forced a three-way tie atop the division between Black River, Keystone and Buckeye.
Vaughn came into the game averaging 10 yards per carry, but was never able to break off a big run. His longest was 16 yards and nine of his 19 carries were for 2 yards or less.
“We got beat in every phase of the game,” Black River coach Al Young said. “We said we couldn’t turn the ball over but we did, and Keystone took advantage of our mistakes.”
The Wildcats (7-3, 6-1) took the opening kickoff and marched 59 yards in nine plays, with Tyler Polen capping the drive with a 5-yard touchdown. Black River (7-3, 6-1) went three-and-out on its first drive.
It proved to be a sign of things to come.
The Pirates’ first four drives ended in a punt, two turnovers on downs and a Brock Waltz interception before Vaughn finally found the end zone with 10:30 to play in the game. Vaughn’s 4-yard touchdown run, his 28th of the season, cut the Keystone lead to 14-6.
“We’ll have to watch film and figure out why we didn’t play very well tonight,” Young said. “No excuses. Credit to them. They came to play. We didn’t. We came out and had a nice drive going to start the second half, then we committed two holding penalties. Every time we started to do something, we just shot ourselves in the foot.”
The good news for Black River is that there will be a next week. The Pirates will be in the Division V, Region 15 playoffs.
Keystone was led by senior quarterback Tyler Gullett, who rushed for a game-high 169 yards on 19 carries and threw for 174 more. He rushed for two touchdowns and threw a 62-yard scoring strike to junior wide receiver C. J. Conrad on fourth-and-2 that put the Wildcats up 21-6.
“We felt like the game was going in our favor all night,” said Gullett, whose team snapped a five-game losing streak against Black River. “I knew the touchdown to C.J. was like a dagger. It pumped up our crowd and our bench. Our seniors knew this would be our final time on a football field, so that gave us an edge tonight.”
Contact Todd Shapiro at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Keystone 28, Black River 6
BLACK RIVER 0 0 0 6 — 6
KEYSTONE 7 0 7 14 — 28
K — Tyler Polen 5 run (Turner Giesel kick), 8:18.
K — Tyler Gullett 9 run (Giesel kick), 3:10.
B — Andrew Vaughn 4 run (pass failed), 10:30.
K — C.J. Conrad 62 pass from Gullett, (Giesel kick), 8:49.
K — Gullett 42 run (Giesel kick), 6:12.