SULLIVAN TWP. – John Guilford’s muscle and Dakota Kuntz’s hustle kept Black River’s football team full of bustle.
With neither offense sustaining anything of substance on the slushy Stevenson Field turf Friday, the Pirates’ defense came up with four turnovers and a pair of fourth-down stops in the red zone to upend archival Buckeye 14-0 in Patriot Athletic Conference Stars Division play.
“First off, it’s a (Medina) county rival game, so things are going to be tough,” 22nd-year Black River coach Al Young said. “They came to play. It was tough sledding out there.”
No one knew that better than the Bucks (1-5, 0-3), who had their chances to pull off a mega-upset but were turned away each time by the stingy Pirates (6-0, 3-0).
With just over eight minutes remaining and Black River up 14-0, Buckeye quarterback Bill Doerge (0-of-15 passing, INT.) left with cramps. Backup Alex Green then found Nick Prest on a go route down the sideline for a 64-yard gain.
As Prest was attempting to find paydirt, Kuntz made a great hustle play to strip the ball at the Pirates 20-yard line. Fellow defensive back Seth Terry pounced on the ball, and the Pirates’ offense ran out most of the clock on the ensuing possession to all but seal the deal.
“They’re a tough bunch,” Young said. “I don’t care who it is, any time you shut someone out, you’re doing well.”
That wouldn’t have been accomplished without first-team Division IV All-Ohioan Guilford, as the defensive end came up with a pair of first-half fumble recoveries and finished strong with two fourth-down stuffs.
The first came on fourth-and-5 from the Black River 15. Kyle Haines attempted to take a reverse handoff and bobbled the ball, but Guilford was there to stop him regardless as Black River held tall.
The second came at the 50 on fourth-and-3. Doerge dropped back to pass until Guilford beat his man off the edge and knocked the ball loose for teammate Terry Sas to recover.
Donatilus DeMarco added an icing-on-the-cake interception in the waning moments to cap a night in which Black River allowed just 112 yards on 57 plays when the long pass wasn’t factored.
“The weather was a big factor, of course, and we really couldn’t get it going on offense,” Guilford said. “But our defense really stepped it up. We just kept pushing and made sure they didn’t score.
“It’s Buckeye, our rivals. I always go harder. I just wanted (the ball).”
So, too, did running backs Andrew Vaughn (17 carries, 127 yards) and Austin Phillips (15, 98). The former kicked off the scoring with a 55-yard trap play late in the first quarter, setting the stage for Vaughn’s signature: The long-range TD.
The sophomore took a power sweep handoff on his own 14 and appeared to be stopped in a big pile in the middle of the field. He hurdled a pair of pancaked Buckeye defenders who were on their hands and knees, then outraced the defense on his way to pushing his season point total to 102.
“I went to the middle and saw my line took out a bunch of guys that were just laying there, so I jumped the first one and jumped the second one,” said Vaughn, who also scored on a two-point conversion. “I didn’t know I was even through. I saw open field and I was like, ‘Oh, crap, I just better start running.”‘
That was all the offense the Pirates needed. Black River, which entered the game averaging 45.2 points and 442.6 yards, put up just 2.41 yards per play outside of its two TD scampers despite 51 yards on just eight carries from wingback Jake Sexton.
On the other side, Buckeye salvaged plenty of pride despite losing its first fumbles in seven games and failing to score for the third time this season.
Junior running back Rick Monroe played a strong two-way game with 52 hard-earned rushing yards and a pair of sacks, while backup Dan Inman had a pair of nice tackle-breaking sprints for first downs.
“That’s really all that we ask every single week: Did you play hard, and are we getting better week to week?”‘ Bucks coach Billy Burke said. “No, we don’t score an offensive touchdown again and we don’t come out on the winning end, but we’re playing hard and we’re giving ourselves opportunities. We got beat by a pretty good football team.”
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or firstname.lastname@example.org.