ROCKY RIVER, Ohio (Nov. 3, 2023) -- A tremendous gridiron season in Rocky River came to a close Friday night, as the Pirates were ousted from the DIII Region 10 playoff bracket
by a strong Mansfield Senior team 55-21.
Unfortunate circumstances had the Pirates playing a road game not on the road: Friday was a Mansfield home game played at Rocky River Stadium -- sans spectators -- due to security concerns stemming from violence and ongoing threats surrounding the Region 10 quarterfinal.
After seeing the No. 4-seed Tygers rack up over-500 yards of offense in a running-clock affair, the fifth-seeded Pirates walked off the field as strangers in a not-so-strange land. They were feeling the sting of a loss, and that sensation being strange because these Buccaneers had not lost a game since the days when all the trees had leaves, all the leaves were green, and all of us were living out the last days of summer.
Prior to Friday night at Rocky River Stadium, the Sons of Blackbeard had sailed clear of any obstacles. Sometimes the sailing was smooth for a juggernaut of an offense that would finish as one of the highest-scoring units in Pirate history with 38 points per game. Sometimes the sailing was across rough seas, with the Pirates battling Rockets (Bay on Oct. 13) or Fliers (Clyde on Oct. 27) to stay afloat. They had sailed clear of any obstacles since running aground in a hard-fought 59-28 battle at Sandusky Perkins Sept. 1.
On Friday, that Pirate cruise was beached again, this time by a Mansfield squad that went into the game with 33 sacks and 14 interceptions. The Tygers brought that defense to bear against Rocky River and would hound and harass quarterback Julian Patti all night. MSHS defenders forced one fumble, ended another River drive with an interception and nearly picked off a couple other passes. They registered one sack but filed perhaps 10 times that number in quarterback pressures. An under-duress Patti would get his yards thanks to a couple chunk plays, but he finished with an uncharacteristic 13-of-26 line.
The Tygers (10-2) benefited from a couple short-field situations, but they also rattled off long drives as well on a night that saw them reach paydirt on each of their first eight possessions. Mansfield went 5-of-7 on third downs and piled up 21 first downs for the game. Led by Zyion Brown and his 124 yards on 15 carries, three Tyger backs eclipsed the 100-yard rushing mark. Overall, the home-away-from-home team amassed 360 yards on the ground.
Quarterback Duke Reese had 121 of those rushing yards while running in two scores. The senior signal caller directed an aerial assault that went 12-of-13 for 157 yards. Reese threw three touchdowns passes as part of Mansfield's 517-yard night.
The Tygers led the Pirates 20-7 by the end of the opening quarter and 41-14 at the half. They put the game into running-clock mode by the middle of the third quarter.
The second half was a two-for-one exchange of touchdowns with the Tygers holding the value end of that trade.
The final score of the game was registered by Rocky River (10-2). It was a 70-yard TD dash by senior running back Nick DiSalvo. And that was not even River's longest scoring play of the night. The Pirates' other two touchdowns came on an 80-yard pass play at 9:19 of the first quarter and a 70-yard pass play at 10:00 of the second. Both were Julian Patti-to-Ryan Ricketti connections. In the River record book, those twin 200-footers go down as the last two scoring connections for a dynamic duo that produced so many of them this fall.
Likewise, DiSalvo's run was the metaphorical last swing for a Raider Eleven that on its final night of action went down swinging. It was a well-blocked, hard-charging play on a night when the River side had been time-and-time-again beaten up in the trenches.
There were a combined 90 plays from scrimmage Friday night. For this Pirate team, and particularly for 17 senior players -- the Greybeard Buccaneers -- may the spirit and fight of that play be something they remember well, with heads held high. That and one more thing.May they reflect on leaving their empty home field on this November night -- one without band or fans -- surrounded by a sense of shared accomplishment and strife. A sense of brotherhood for a swashbuckling Brethren of the North Coast that had just played one remarkable season.CANNON FIRE ...
FROM THE BUCS SCORE:
Rocky River logged 100 rushing yards and 230 passing yards to total 330 yards Friday. ... Kicker Tony Liva went 3-for-3 on extra points and finished the season with 44 extra points, the second-most for a single season in program history (Mack Massad 48 in 2021). ... Linebacker Ben Bogre logged his fourth double-digit-tackle game this fall with 10 stops against Mansfield. He finished the season as River's top tackler with 84 takedowns. ... Cam Bulkowski, Jeff Maslar, and Josh Mommers were the Pirates' other top tacklers Friday. They each registered six stops.TREMENDOUS TRIO:
With his 230 passing yards and two TDs, Julian Patti finished the season 203-for-313 (64.5%) for 3,356 yards, with 44 TDs and just eight interceptions. Officially, that's an NFL passer rating of 129.4. Unofficially, those numbers are rated as swashbuckling.
Patti eclipsed the previous single-season yardage record (Matt Lowry--2,511 yards, 2014) by more-than 800 yards. ... Patti's top target, Ryan Ricketti, scored his 18th and 19th TDs Friday. He filed six catches for 181 yards to finish the season with 80 receptions and 1,266 receiving yards. Both are new school records. ... DiSalvo's late-game touchdown marked his 25th of the season. His 150 points this season rank as the second-most in Pirate history (Tommy Bebie-- 158 points in 2021). He logged 117 yards to finish the season with 1,507 yards, which ties the senior speedster with Jon Gipson, who rushed for that same total in 2007. Only three seasons in River history have seen more yards. DiSalvo, who had nine 100-yard games this season, came up just 66 feet short of becoming just the eighth Pirate rusher to ever accumulate 2,000 career yards (he finished with 1,978 yards).
MAKING THEIR POINT(S):
The 2023 Pirates averaged 38 PPG, which stands as the second-most in River history. Only the 2014 squad (40.2 PPG) averaged more points.
by Skip Snow