SULLIVAN TWP. — The only people to stop the Black River football team Friday wore black and white stripes.
At least that’s the way it seemed in the Pirates’ 44-0 non-league, season-opening win over Collins Western Reserve.
While the referees did an otherwise stellar job, an inadvertent whistle in the first half wiped out an 80-yard touchdown run by Travis Sexton because an official thought someone on the ground had the ball.
That’s just how strong the running attack was for Black River, as it was the only drive the Pirates didn’t score on when the first-team offense was in, minus an interception 33 seconds before halftime.
But that’s what teams will get with Sexton (13 carries, 177 yards, TD), Jacob Campbell (17, 121, 2) and Riley Gibbs (14, 130, 2) returning to the Pirates backfield.
“That’s our offense,” Sexton said. “We run the ball. We devastate defenses. It’s what we do.”
What they did against the Roughriders was control the ball, churn up yards and put things out of reach by halftime.
With Tommy Smithberger under center for Black River in his first varsity start, the sophomore didn’t need to drive the bus as much as he needed to steer it. Black River finished with 447 yards on 53 carries for an eye-popping 8.3 yards per touch.
It’s just more of the same for a three-headed backfield that absolutely dominated opponents last season en route advancing to the second round of the Division V playoffs.
“You’ve seen the talent,” Pirates coach Al Young said. “They are just good running backs. They’re very talented. They’re big kids. They’re strong kids. They work hard and they have a nice offensive line to complement them.”
Black River’s fourth straight win over Western Reserve and fifth in the last sixth meetings came with some devastating defense as well.
If linebacker Campbell and strong safety Justin Zacharyasz weren’t laying the wood wit bone-crunching hits, the defensive line was controlling the trenches. The Roughriders finished with 87 yards, with 76 of that coming in the first half.
If not for the efforts of Western Reserve running back Gavin Braden (62 yards rushing, 3 yards receiving), those numbers could have been much worse.
“I’ve been waiting for the defense to start breaking through a little bit,” Young said. “We still have a lot of room to get better on that side of the ball.
“We have a long way to go, but that’s a good start right there. That’s a much-improved Western Reserve team over what they were last year. (Head coach Mike Stoll) has done a good job with those kids. I was a little shocked by how we played tonight. I thought it would be a tight game, but the kids got after it. They blew it open and took it to them.”
Almost lost in the mix was the tremendous pressure Black River put on Roughriders quarterback Matt Perkins. Defensive end Jeff Owen and outside linebacker Spencer Constable registered two sacks apiece, with Shacoy Steele picking up one.
“The defensive line set the tone up front,” Owen said. “They didn’t run on us. They couldn’t pass on us. We got to the quarterback. There was nothing they could do.”
Contact Brad Bournival at email@example.com.
Black River 44,
Western Reserve 0
WESTERN RESERVE 0 0 0 0 — 0
BLACK RIVER 6 16 15 7 — 44
B — Jacob Campbell 4 run (kick failed), 5:49.
B — Travis Sexton 44 run (Campbell run), 7:23.
B — Riley Gibbs 25 run (Campbell run), 5:12.
B — Campbell 2 run (Sexton run), 10:33.
B — Campbell 1 run (Spencer Constable kick), 3:28.
B — Gibbs 4 run (Constable kick), 9:39.