Pilots Remain Unbeaten, Beat Buckeye Trail
Buckeye Trail head coach Donnie Kerns said earlier this week the key to beating River on Friday night would be controlling quarterback Lukas Isaly.
So, when the Pilots went to the junior on their first 12 plays over three drives – one that resulted in a score – Kerns had to be feeling a bit uneasy.
”He’s a pretty good player,” Kerns said following River’s 22-7 triumph inside the Baker Activities Complex. ”I think Mother Nature may have slowed him down a bit, it slowed us down, too. But, he’s the real deal.”
Mike Flannery, the Pilots’ veteran head coach, said he stuck with Isaly for two reasons – one, because he’s pretty good, and, two, because the weather dictated it.
”I trust my quarterback,” he said. ”I trust my (offensive) line and I trust my other backs blocking for him. He made plays.
”That way, you’re not having more than one player handle the ball. Your quarterback is handling it under these conditions.
”I don’t know how many times he carried the ball? He probably carried it 35 times.”
Exactly, for 150 yards and all three River scores. He also converted a 2-point conversion and knocked down a pass defensively.
It all added up to keeping the Pilots unbeaten and helping the program clinch its eighth playoff appearance and second straight. Flannery was happy with how his team did it – fight through adversity once again.
”We seem to get our share of it and these guys continue to be resilient about that,” he said, noting three defensive starters who were questionable ”sucked it up” and played.
”Every time we come out here it’s a hard-fought game. Every time we play Buckeye Trail it’s a hard-fought game.
”Donnie is doing great things. He had his kids ready to play.”
But on this night, River was just a step above. And the conditions favored the Pilots.
The steady rain that enveloped the Ohio Valley left the playing field sloppy, especially between the hashes. River was able to move the chains consistently, the Warriors couldn’t.
”I just dream of a day where we can line up offensively and just wear people down and get three yards every time,” Kerns said. ”The good programs do that. Ridgewood did that to us. Fort Frye did that to us. River did it.
”Offensively, we have to be able to make plays. Dropped passes are killers. And we have to be able to sustain blocks.”
Buoyed by Isaly’s performance, the Pilots (9-0) finished with 319 totals yards, compared to Trail’s 180.
”Again, the conditions helped us,” Flannery said. ”Our whole gameplan was to protect the ball and the clock. And, our defense stepped up.”
Isaly’s 15-yard jaunt late in the first quarter put the Pilots on the board. He came with a 1-yard plunge on the Pilots’ next series to help increase River’s bulge to 14-0.
The score stayed that way until late in the third.,
After securing the ball at the River 36, Trail’s Austin Snodgrass ran for seven yards. Then, Troy Pontius dropped back and found Carter Streiff on the left side. Streiff caught the ball and then maintained his footing just long enough to cross the goal line and help trim the Warriors’ deficit to 14-7.
But River answered.
Starting at its own 45, the Pilots marched seven plays in a little less than three minutes to score the decider – a 2-yard run by Isaly. The key play on the drive was a 26-pass down the middle from Isaly to Drew Dietz. Isaly was just 4 of 6 passing on the night, but they accounted for 138 yards.
”Dietz made one heck of a play on that,” Flannery said. ”We thought at halftime the play would be there, and Lukas went with it. He trusted him and Drew came down with it.”
Buckeye Trail dropped to 5-4 with the loss and also likely watched it’s Division VII postseason hopes go, too. River, meanwhile, will look to cap its unbeaten regular season at Flannery Field next Friday vs. winless Frontier.
”Every team wants to go 10-0,” Flannery said. ”But, still, anything can happen. We’re looking at Frontier. We’re not looking at who we play in the playoffs.
”We’re in the playoffs. That’s a good thing. Who we play? We don’t care.”