LaGRANGE — The Keystone senior class walked off the home field for the final time as champions.
The Wildcats defeated Black River 28-6 Friday in a Patriot Athletic Conference Stars Division game to create a three-way tie atop the division. Keystone, Black River and Buckeye finished with 6-1 league records.
For a Keystone program that hasn’t won an outright conference title since 1971, sharing the championship won’t be a problem.
“I took the team into the gym on Monday and asked them to look up at the championship banners for all the sports hanging on the wall and asked them to tell me which ones were co-championships, and they had no idea,” Wildcats coach Rob Clarico said. “Now there is going to be a ‘’13’ hanging up on the wall for football and we are really satisfied about it.”
It was not a shocker Keystone (7-3) was able to knock off the Pirates (7-3), who are headed to the playoffs in Division V, Region 15 against an opponent that will be named Sunday. It was how the Wildcats did it that raised eyebrows.
Black River’s Andrew Vaughn, who entered as the top running back in The Chronicle-Telegram coverage area, averaging more than 230 yards and three touchdowns a game, was held to 87 yards on 19 carries and a touchdown.
“We squeezed everything, we loaded the box a lot and we had a lot of spies on Vaughn because we knew coming in what a great back he was,” Wildcats junior safety/tight end C.J. Conrad said. “Tonight’s win can be traced back to all of the hard work we put in during the offseason.
That’s what brought us together as a team and that helped us last week when we faced some adversity (an overtime loss to Buckeye).”
Senior quarterback Tyler Gullett was the star of the game for Keystone. He carried the ball 19 times for 169 yards and two touchdowns, threw for a 174 yards and intercepted a pass on defense. His 62-yard touchdown pass to Conrad gave the Wildcats a 21-6 lead midway through the fourth quarter.
“We felt like the game was going in our favor all night,” Gullett said. “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.”
Tyler Polen capped Keystone’s opening drive with a 5-yard touchdown run. It was the only score of the first half.
The Wildcats held Black River to a punt, two turnovers on downs and an interception on its first four drives.
“We’ll have to watch film and figure out why we didn’t play very well tonight,” Black River coach Al Young said. “No excuses, credit to them. They came to play, we didn’t. Every time we started to do something we just shot ourselves in the foot.”
BUCKING THE TREND: The win was Keystone’s first against Black River since 2007. The Pirates hold a 7-2 advantage in PAC games between the teams.
Contact Todd Shapiro at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.