River Blasts Frontier, Rolls Into Postseason
River coach Mike Flannery referred to the old adage that “big-time players make big-time plays,” after his team secured a fifth straight victory against rival Frontier, 39-8, on Friday night, to cap a 9-1 regular season and earn a Ohio Division VI, Region 21 playoff berth.
Sophomore Lukas Isaly exploded for 200 rushing yards and two touchdowns while also pulling in three catches for 89 more yards and another score as the Pilots erupted for 33 second-half points.
“We wanted to work on some different things because we knew our possible playoff opponent would be scouting,” Flannery said. “(Frontier) was daring us to throw the ball in the first half and with only a 6-0 lead, I challenged our kids for a better second half.”
The Pilots’ OHSAA postseason trip will be the fifth under Flannery, the last coming in 2012, but the opponent won’t be determined until Newark Catholic’s game is complete tonight. River could face either Grandview Heights or Paint Valley.
Frontier, which finished 3-7, was aggressive from the get-go, recovering an onside kick at the 50, but went four-and-out.
River sophomore Drew Dietz took a shovel pass 16 yards to the Cougars 41 and three plays later, senior quarterback Joey Flannery found Isaly for 16 more to the 24-yard line.
The Pilots dented the scoreboard at 7:09 when Dietz hauled a slant from Flannery near the 10 and dragged three defenders with him into the end zone. The PAT failed, but it was 6-0.
Pilots junior Cody Saksa blocked a punt at the outset of the second quarter to give his team excellent field position at the 38, but a three-and-out led to a punt.
On River’s next series, Toby Minder picked off a Flannery pass at the 7-yard line to thwart another scoring opportunity.
An apparent touchdown was erased after Tyce Felton scooped up a fumble at the Cougars 2, but the officials ruled it was an incomplete pass.
Flannery’s crew turned to the legs of Isaly for an opening-march touchdown in the second half, as the All-Ohio candidate toted nine times in a 10-play drive, capped by a 7-yard touchdown at 5:47 for a 12-0 lead.
River’s line performed admirably in the second half, opening some holes for Isaly and some timely pass protection for the younger Flannery.
Juniors Broc Miracle, Mason Ladyga, Collin Huffman, and Trey Isaly, as well as sophomores Luke Matusik and Luc Baker, controlled the trenches.
Frontier’s Damon Matheny took the ensuing kick 57 yards to the Pilots 25, but after reaching the 18 a fumble after a pass completion was covered by Braden Whetsell.
Two plays later Isaly was off to the races in a highlight-reel gallop as he spun away from two defenders at the Cougars 20 to finish an improbable TD run at 2:04. The PAT failed, but it was 18-0.
River opened the fourth-quarter scoring at 10:19 when Flannery caught Isaly in stride at the Frontier 28 with a perfect spiral to complete a 60-yard connection. A missed PAT left it 24-0.
Whetsell added another defensive gem moments later with an interception at his 39, which led to a 52-yard touchdown dash by junior speedster Dakota Smith. Sophomore Grant Williams’ PAT made it 31-0.
Frontier, with seven underclassmen starters, returned a 55-yard TD march capped by Matheny’s 10-yard keeper at 3:59 to slice it to 31-8.