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River drops heartbreaker

November 22, 2017
BY RICK THORP - For the Wetzel Chronicle , Wetzel Chronicle

ZANESVILLE - Ed Honabarger wasn't going to overtime Friday night.

With Skyler Durbin behind center, he didn't have to.

After Durbin scored on a 12-yard run with 1:02 left to bring Danville to within one, 28-27, in its Ohio Division VII, Region 27 championship game against River, it didn't take the veteran head coach long to decide he didn't want to go any longer than he had to against the Pilots' potent offense.

So, he let his 6-5, 200-pound senior try to end it.

"We'd been able to run what we call the 'smash pass' with success pretty much all night," he said. "So, we said, let's get (Corbin) Hazen and Tyler Mickley over there.

"And Skyler, just being the heads-up player that he is, he just took it to the corner and tried to get it in."

Durbin snuck in just past the pylon after a pass didn't develop for the 2-point conversion giving the Blue Devils the lead. And when the Pilots' last-ditch attempt to move downfield in a minute failed, Danville claimed the crown, 29-28, in a classic at the Maysville Athletic Complex. It gets Cuyahoga Heights next week in the state semis after the Redskins edged Dalton, 42-41.

"I felt we were in a position to stop him," River head cach Mike Flannery said. "I knew they were gonna run him, but we just didn't make the play. We matched up man-to-man. We locked up, but what are you gonna do?"

The battle between Danville, the region's top seed, and River, its No. 6 seed, was a back-and-forth affair from the get-go with Durbin and the Pilots' Lukas Isaly taking center stage on the stat sheet.

Durbin finished with 333 yards passing and a score, while also running for two, including what turned out being the winner.

Isaly, meanwhile, exploded for 257 yards on the ground and accounted for all four River scores.

"We were trading punches with them," Flannery said. "We had opportunities to bury them a couple of times. We didn't. We didn't finish some things. But give them credit, they had a heckuva passing attack.

"They beat us, that's all."

Danville's spread offense, which featured five wide outs on almost every play, gave River fits all night. But after the Pilots grabbed a 28-21 lead on Isaly's 2-yard run with 4:58 left in the third quarter, the Pilots started to get a handle on it.

A long kickoff pinned the Blue Devils deep. And, four plays later, freshman Carter Dennis picked off Durbin (it was Dennis' fourth interception in two weeks) giving River the ball at the Danville 38.

The Pilots drove to Blue Devils' 8 before turning the ball over on downs with 2:20 left in the third.

River held again, keyed by a 14-yard sack by Kaine McLeod. And, following the Blue Devils' punt, had the ball inside Danville territory again.

But, like its previous drive, it stalled on fourth down, this time at the Danville 23.

Danville got the ball back with 6:07 left and looked doomed when it was faced with 3rd-and-12 at the River 41 with 3 minutes left. But Durbin hit Alex Holt for eight yards. Then, on 4th-and-four, he connected with Hazen for seven more and a first down at the River 26 with a little more than 2 minutes remaining.

Durbin scored three plays later.

River started its final possession at its own 24, but soon found itself at Danville's 41 thanks to a 35-yard grab by Drew Dietz. But that's as far as the Pilots (8-5) advanced before the clock struck zero.

"I'll remember their passion," Flannery said of his team. "A lot of people don't realize, the parents do and the players do, we replaced eight guys on offense and seven guys on defense. No one expected us to do this. The entire line was wiped out last. Luc Baker was the only guy back. That's what you're proud of as a coach. They played with passion. They played with grit. They played with effort. They focused just every day in practice.

"I'm just going to really miss these guys."

River struck first after taking advantage of an Isaly interception that gave it the ball at the Danville 40.

The Blue Devils struck back quickly, tying the game on six plays, the final one a 7-yard pass from Durbin to Hazen. He kept the drive alive, though, with back-to-back receptions of 32 and 25 yards.

River responded, and took a 14-7 lead, on a two-play march that included a 29-yard jaunt by Michael Johnson, who finished the night with seven carries for 58 yards.

Then, the Blue Devils knotted things again, thanks to a 69-play drive, culminated by a 1-yard TD run by Durbin.

River grabbed a 21-14 later in the second quarter. And, after forcing Danville to punt with 4:45 remaining, had an opportunity to increase its lead. The Pilots drove from its 14 inside the red zone, only to have the Blue Devils pick off an Isaly pass in the end zone.

The Pilots' resiliency, not only against Danville, but throughout the latter stages of the season, was a source of pride for Flannery, who was coaching a team in a regional final for the second time and first time in nine years.

He wished his seniors could've moved on, but was appreciative of what they did for the program, and for what his entire squad did this season.

"You dont get to have these guys back and that's the bad thing about high school football and high school coaching," he said, holding back emotion. "You lose these seniors that you become close to and you develop relationships and they move on.

"I'm proud of these guys."

 
 
 

 

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