ROCKY RIVER, Ohio – Every facet of a solid football team was on display as Rocky River defeated Tallmadge, 33-22, on a breezy, overcast autumn evening on Friday.
Offense? How about touchdowns on the first two plays from
scrimmage and then a strong 75-yard TD drive in the second quarter?
Defense? The first three Tallmadge drives were nixed by Pirate takeaways – all three on interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown. River’s tackling throughout was on the mark and with authority.
Special teams? Rocky River got a big 30-yard field goal late. And no less than three Pirate punts – one on a 56-yarder – were placed inside the Blue Devil 15-yard line.
Did Rocky River roll throughout, consistently doing whatever it wanted on both sides of the ball? Not exactly. River’s top exploits were front-loaded, at the beginning of the game, to be sure. But credit a staunch and persistent effort by the visiting Tallmadge Blue Devils, who made for a worthy foe in a hard-fought non-conference game at Rocky River Stadium.
The Pirates out-gained the Blue Devils, 246 yards to 187, in
the eventual 11-point victory. Of their 246 total yards for the game, River
carved out 165 yards over its first 10 plays and a mere 81 over their remaining
In the opening drive of the game, Tallmadge quarterback Drew Cross was under heavy pressure twice – first on a Tommy Bebie sack and then on an interception pulled off by Charlie Hudson. With the pick, the Rocky River offense set up shop at the Blue Devil 25-yard line. On River’s first play from scrimmage, quarterback Braedon Spies connected with Cristain Dean on a 25-yard touchdown. With a two-pointer converted, the Pirates had themselves an early 8-0 lead.
Dean would come away with another River pick on the ensuing Blue Devils’ possession. That set the Pirates up with a 1st-and-10 from their own 36. They wouldn’t need a second down. Dean sprinted his way past his cover man in the Blue Devil backfield and up the middle of the field, between the hash marks. He ran under a well-thrown ball by Spies, caught the pigskin, and toted it to the house for a 15-0 Pirate lead.
Two plays, 15 points. And Dean wasn’t finished impacting the first-quarter score.
On Tallmadge’s next drive, the senior intercepted a pass near midfield and threaded his way around several would-be tacklers en route to putting six more points (and additionally two via a 2-point conversion) on the Rocky River scoreboard. A 23-0 lead at the 3:25-mark of the first.
The Blue Devils (1-5) countered with fine 13-play drive, one
powered by the running of senior Jesse Kanatzar and capped off by a Kanatzar
1-yard TD run.
The Pirates (4-2) struck back with a lengthy touchdown drive of their own. Sophomore running back Tommy Bebie would fuel the 75-yard, mid-second-quarter River drive. Bebie ran in a 45-yarder – his fifth rushing score of the season – to reset the Pirate lead at 30-8. Older brother Owen Bebie had a key role in the drive as well. On a fourth-and-16 inside the River 30, Bebie sprinted right from his punt formation, saw enough real estate to work with and then bolted ahead to gain first-down yardage.
Rocky River logged its fourth interception of the game on the Blue Devils’ ensuing drive, but the Pirates fumbled the pick, giving Tallmadge excellent field position. And Tallmadge capitalized on another Kanatzar run to get back within two scores (30-14) at the 0:47-mark of the second quarter.
Tallmadge cut the Rocky River advantage in half after
recovering a second-half-opening onside kick and eventually scoring on a
19-yard TD pass from Kanatzar to Evan Teeling.
The Pirates were held in check on their next drive, but that’s when River came up with the first of several key special-teams plays. James Byall, who had booted a 56-yard punt to the Tallmadge 9-yard-line on his first effort, pinned the Blue Devils back at their 4 on a 44-yard punt.
The balance of the third quarter was a defensive exchange with both sides punting – and with Byall again putting the Tallmadge offense at a disadvantage with a booming punt. In that stretch, the River defense pitched a three-and-out and got quality plays turned in by Tommy Bebie, Carlos Quinones, Zack Wagner, Charlie Hudson and Byall. The two sides went into the fourth separated by eight points (30-22), with Rocky River in the lead but struggling to move the ball on offense.
After forcing a turnover on downs on the Blue Devils’ first drive of the fourth, Rocky River took the ball from the Tallmadge 33 to the 13 and then got another monster play from the special teams when the Evan Merk-to-Braedon Spies-to-the right foot of Owen Bebie connection produced a big three-pointer with 2:46 remaining. From snap-to-hold-to-kick and through a flight of 30 yards, the field goal kick was true and the Pirate lead was extended to 33-22.
The Blue Devils’ last possession amounted to a four-and-out. A Carlos Quinones sack expedited the final drive of consequence, allowing the Pirates to squeeze the final 90 seconds in victory formation.
For the game, Rocky River passed for 119 yards and ran for
127. Tallmadge collected 80 yards through the air and 107 on the ground.
The way the scores were posted speaks to an all-around effort by the Pirates, who next week travel to Parma for a Great Lakes Conference road game (Friday, 7 p.m. – Byers Field). The Sons of Blackbeard raised the sails and battled their way to offensive scores through the air and on the ground. From distance and on two-point conversions in the trenches. They scored on defense. Both the defense and offense were bolstered by the Pirate punting (and fake-punting game). And special teams chimed in with a key field goal in the fourth quarter.
A victory earned with all hands on deck and a crew giving no
Raise the Jolly Roger: this one belongs to the Pirates.
by Skip Snow
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