WESTLAKE, Ohio – It took five years for Rocky River and Westlake to get back together on the gridiron. For the Pirate offense, it took perhaps five years and 24 minutes.
A couple long Demon drives and a few near misses for the River offense resulted in the Pirates being held to one defensive score and just 76 yards of offense over quarters one and two in Thursday’s season opener. And when the newly minted Westwood Cup game went into halftime, the Brethren of the North Coast found themselves on the wrong side of a 7-6 score.
After halftime, the Pirates flipped the script. Or perhaps
more accurately, as Head Coach Josh Well put it, the Pirates better executed
the script as it was. And when four quarters were in the books and the Westwood
Cup was being awarded postgame, it was the Rocky River Pirates celebrating a tremendous
41-14 victory over the Westlake Demons.
“We had a few plays that were maybe just a block away from a big play in that first half,” said Wells. “In the second half, the execution was just better all around.”
And that execution started with the River running game.
After a first half that saw the Pirates tripled up in time
of possession (18:09 to 5:51) while rushing for just 13 yards, River bolted its
way into the third quarter behind the play of the offensive line and sophomore
running back Tommy Bebie.
After the Pirates were set up with excellent starting field
position on a 36-yard kickoff return by senior captain Owen Bebie, younger
brother Tommy toted the pigskin the rest of the way in quick order. A short
drive -- highlighted by the offensive line creating space and by a 16-yard
Tommy Bebie run -- was punctuated by a 5-yard Bebie TD run, and the Pirates
vaulted into a 13-7 lead.
The Westlake Demons (0-1) wouldn’t retake the lead the rest of the way. After Bebie’s 5-yard dash to paydirt, the River defense pitched a three-and-out, the first of four they would muster in the second half. Getting the ball back on their own 34-yard line, Rocky River (1-0) put together a 66-yard drive on just a few more plays. Tommy Bebie had a 46-yard touchdown run to cap off that drive – Bebie was sprung around the left side by the excellent blocking of juniors Joe Riedl and Wesley Yuen. Owen Bebie’s extra-point (he would go 5-for-5 for the game) was good, and Pirate lead stood at 20-7.
Tommy Bebie would score his third touchdown of the game at the 57-second-mark of the third. That TD came after the Demons’ Conner Gregory scored his second of the game, and when the whistle sounded the end of the third quarter, River led Westlake, 27-14.
Rocky River scored on another quick-strike drive early in
the fourth when senior wide receiver Cristain Dean hauled in a Braedon Spies
pass and darted 72 yards to the end zone. For the game, the Maroon & White
would score four offensive touchdowns; three of those came on drives lasting 1:21-or-less.
On that pass to Dean – and on many an attempt in the second half – Spies had all day to throw behind a fortress of Pirate linemen. That wasn’t the case in the first half when the sophomore signal caller – making his first start – was often under duress. For the game, Spies would go 9-of-21 for 162 yards.
“Our offensive linemen had their hands full all night,” said Josh Wells. “Eventually wearing them down was good to see. That allowed Braedon to get comfortable back there and make some plays.”
After the 72-yard TD connection between Spies and Dean, the Demons’ next play from scrimmage resulted in another Pirate score when defensive back Owen Bebie jumped a short route, intercepted the football and took it 17 yards to the house. The play marked River’s second defensive score of the night: senior defensive back James Byall had a 70-yard pick-6 in the first half.
The rest of the fourth was an 11-minute scoreless exchange
and a chance for Pirate and Demon back-ups to log some early-season playing
Over the second half, the Rocky River defense held Westlake
to 120 total yards. Ergi Sulce, Zack Wagner, James Byall, Cristain Dean, Tommy Bebie,
Owen Bebie and Charlie Hudson logged standout performances for the Pirate
“It was great to see seven and eight guys getting to the ball on every play,” noted Wells. “We put a lot of pressure on their quarterback all night. Our tackling was much improved over last year, and we limited their big plays.”
Rocky River and Westlake first met on the gridiron in 1917, but the west-side neighbors hadn’t played since 2014 (a 48-16 win for the Pirates). Westlake leads the all-time series, 34-32-2.
Those are the all-time digits. Thursday’s affair broke down thusly: the Pirates outgained the Demons, 328 yards to 292. River had 166 yards on the ground and 162 through the air. Westlake had 207 aerial yards and 85 rushing yards. Rocky River’s 166 rushing yards marked their most in a single game since Oct. 27, 2017 (205 vs. Elyria Catholic).
The Pirates scuffled on clutch downs going a combined
1-for-8 on third- and fourth-downs (the Demons went 7-for-17 in such situations).
Westlake was whistled for 13 penalties totaling 90 yards. River was tagged with
seven for 50.
Both teams had 15 first downs.
One team took home a trophy. It was well earned by a Pirate
crew giving no quarter.
by Skip Snow
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