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Costly Turnovers Cost River Pilots, 28-14 Loss

Micheal Johnson Scores Both Pilot TDs

By Bruce Crawford - Staff Writer | Sep 2, 2020

The Pilots Chase Lawrence and #22 Carter Dennis gives #24 Michael Dennis some running room.

The River Pilots came into Big Red Stadium Saturday afternoon ready to start the season off in the right direction, and it started off with a bang.

The Pilots took the opening kick, but just as quickly booted the ball back to their hosts at the Pilots 27-yard line. However, Bellaire gave it right back as the center hiked the ball over the head of Big Red sophomore quarterback Jake Heatherington and the Pilots junior Austin Creamer recovered the pig-skin at its own 13-yard line for the game first turnover.

The Pilots Chase Lawrence handed off to speedy senior tailback Michael Johnson who took it to the house to give the visitors a quick 7-0 advantage after the PAT boot from junior Zach Hocutt at the 9:55 mark.

After receiving the kick, Bellaire went on a nice drive that mustered 3-first-downs including one courtesy of a pass interference call, plus 2-nice long runs. The Big Reds however would have to surrender the ball once more with their second straight short punt from their own 27-yard line. But, the Big Red defense halted yet another three and out series, and would start their next drive at the 27-yard line after a River punt.

Bellaire would go 69-yards on 12-plays, that saw the Big Reds catch five big passes and move down to their 4-yard line to end the first period. The Big Reds would then go to Brandon Mamie for his first of three rushing TD’s to knot the game at 7-7 on the first play of the second period, withLukas Littell’s first of four PAT boots.

The Big Reds took advantage of a Pilot melt-down as a short kick was recovered by the home team at the Pilots 39-yard line. One play later Brayden Roth went untouched to give the hosts a 14-7 lead at the 11:04 mark of the second period.

After the ensuing kick, River went on an impressive drive starting at the 24-yard line. The Pilots 2-time first team All-Ohio senior Carter Dennis carried a swarm of Big Red defenders 5-yards, and 15-more on a face-mask penalty to close to mid-field. After a shot Pilot run, River sophomore quarterback Brody Longwell connected with senior Jake Rose for 36-yards, before he was brought down, after carrying a trio of would be tacklers for 10-yards for a first down.

However, the Big Red defense rose to the challenge and picked-off the talented sophomore to stop an impressive drive.

After a first down run, the Pilots defense knocked away 3-straight passes to halt the Big Red drive.

After yet another short punt, the Pilots would take over around mid-field. Following a shot pass to Johnson, Longwell gained 5-yards and Dennis bullied 6-yards for a first down. Dennis and Johnson combined for 9-yards on a pair of runs, but on a fourth down the Big Red defense stopped River inches short of a first down and took over at the 29-yard line with 5:59 left in the opening period.

The Pilots defense got the ball back for the Pilots on a three and out at the 17-yard line with 4:24 left in the opening half.

A false start negated a nice Dennis run, but a Longwell to Rose pitch and catch gained 27-yards. Bellaire would hold and force a punt with 2:44 remaining in the first half.

After an illegal touching call, the Pilots gave Bellaire 15-yards on a personal foul. Two 6-yard runs and an 11-yard pass put the hosts inside the Red-Zone with 49 ticks remaining, and they scored their third TD of the quarter with another Roth 3-yard TD scamper to forge in front 21-7 at the half.

The Pilots were 6-12 in the first half for 79-yards, while the tandem of Johnson and Dennis only garnered 23-yards rushing, while Rose hauled in 3-passes for 79-yards.

The Pilot defense came out on a mission and halted the Big Reds with a three and out and took over close to midfield to start their first drive in the second half. Their offense moved the ball all the way down to the 11-yard line before the Big Reds took over on downs.

The River defense stopped Bellaire on a second-straight three and out and took over once more at the 33-yard line. After going backwards on its drive, the Pilots were setting on the 30-yard line facing a third and 15-yards. Longwell reached back and connected with Johnson on a pretty 70-yard pass play to score and pull the Pilots to within 21-14 after the Hocutt PAT.

Bellaire would not go down with another three and out, and was off to the races, rushing with 2-straight first downs, before the Pilots Tyson Randall recorded a 17-yard sack to end the third period.

Bellaire punted to open the fourth and River took over at the 23-yard line. After a Dennis one yard run, Longwell connected with Rose on a 10-yard strike to move the chains. The Big Reds held Johnson on a failed passing route try, but after a Longwell 4-yard keeper, the Pilots made a false start, and loss 10 more yards on a sack, and would punt. However they got back to work and forced their third three and out in four attempts.

After two straight pass interference calls, the Bellaire defense forced a punt and took over at the 36-yard line with 6:26 left in regulation. The Pilot defense stood tough a on a third and long, and tipped a pass attempt, but it fell right into the hands of a Big Red player for a first down with 4:23 remaining giving the hosts a new set of downs.

The River defense would then force a punt, but the Pilots muffed the punt and Bellaire recovered the ball at the 7-yard line with 2:37 left in the game. Mamie took the hand-off and scored to give the hosts a 14-point lead.

River, tossed another interception, but got the ball right back when Ty Long recovered a fumble. However, three straight runs and an incomplete pass gave the ball back to Bellaire who took a knee to end the game.

The potent River rushing game only gained 70-yards, with Dennis gaining 50-yards, while Johnson netted 13-yards and a touchdown, and Creamer added 5-yards.

Longwell was 12-26 for 162-yards and a touchdown. Rose caught 5-passes for 75-yards, while Johnson netted 73-yards on two snags. Long and Kabell Isaly each caught 2-passes, while Chase Lawrence hauled in one pass.

River moved the chains 11 times, while Bellaire moved them 13 times. The Pilots had seven penalties for 55-lost yards, while the hosts lost 80-yards on nine infractions.

“We have to put this game behind us and focus on our next five games,” said River Head Coach Mike Flannery. “We had some big plays, but couldn’t sustain drives.

The Pilots will visit Steubenville Central Saturday, while the Big Reds take on Shadyside.