Black River's Jake Campbell breaks through the tackle of Keystone's David McCullough in the first quarter Friday night at Keystone. JUDD SMERGLIA / GAZETTE
LAGRANGE — The mega-showdown with hated archrival Buckeye could wait. The Black River football team had unfinished business to take care of first, and linebacker Alex Vormelker, safety Garrett Hord and the rest of the defense weren’t going to let anything get in the way.
Allowing zero first downs in the first half and forcing three turnovers in the second Friday, the Pirates quickly turned a one-touchdown Patriot Athletic Conference Stars Division game into a laugher en route to a 48-14 victory over Keystone.
The Wildcats (2-4, 0-1) had won the previous four meetings and trailed 20-14 midway through the third quarter until the Pirates (6-0, 1-0) scored 28 unanswered points in a mere 8:15.
“Oh, my god, it’s great,” Vormelker said. “I’ve been here for three years and haven’t beaten them. It’s been a goal every year, so coming out here and getting it done is great. I love it.
“We sat in the film room all week, you know? We studied film hard. We knew what they were going to run before they even called the play. We were ready.”
Outside of 51 garbage-time yards and 62 on Keystone running back Dylan Naylor’s touchdown early in the third quarter, Black River had all the answers. The Wildcats had 9 yards on 16 plays in the first half, including six for negative yardage, and were only down 20-7 thanks to a 61-yard Justin Able punt return.
Pirates defense coordinator Kyle Clark dared the Wildcats to throw deep with man coverage across the board, often placing Hord in the slot and leaving the middle of the field wide open. Quarterback Bobby Weber had no time, rushing seven times for 9 yards and going 2-for-9 for 21 yards and an interception.
Momentum flipped after Black River quarterback Riley Bartolic found Riley Gibbs for a 12-yard pop-pass TD on fourth-and-goal to make the score 26-14. The 5-foot-7 Hord soon rocked 6-1 tight end Dalton Weber to force a fumble recovered by former Keystone student Spencer Constable with five minutes left in the third quarter.
Things got ugly in a hurry.
Fullback Jacob Campbell (29 carries, 187 yards, 5 TDs) scored 2:19 later, and Weber was picked off by Vormelker on the next play from scrimmage. Campbell rumbled into the end zone twice more, giving him 62 points in the last two games, and linebacker Trevor Scott intercepted backup QB Jacob Shackleford on the final play of the game for good measure.
“We have a great coaching staff that put us in a great game plan,” Hord said. “We executed, basically. Our boys up front (linemen Mitchell Young, Jeff Owen and Cole Haswell) are getting it done, and against the pass, unlike last year, we’re doing good.”
Black River’s offense got off to a horrid start, going three-and-out, giving up the punt return to Able — it was the Pirates’ first punt attempt in four weeks— and losing starting wingback Travis Sexton to a mild injury.
The Pirates regrouped, pounding Campbell and making the fullback trap look like the greatest play in the history of football to set up Gibbs (18 carries, 115 yards, TD) outside.
Keystone made Black River linemen Eric Cordonnier, Young, Scott, Haswell and Joey Duche work, but the hogmollies delivered the goods. The Pirates had only one rushing attempt of more than 19 yards — Campbell bulldozed multiple defenders on a fourth-quarter 35-yarder — but had 30 of at least 5 and 13 of at least 10.
Campbell, who also kicked off eight times, returned three kickoffs and even lined up for two extra point kicks, didn’t think much of it. To him, that’s just the way Black River football is played.
The Pirates know they’ll need a similar effort next week against the undefeated Bucks.
“That’s how we practice. We go one after another after another,” Campbell said. “It was 90 degrees this week, but it didn’t matter. We were still out there chuggin’ along.”
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Black River 48, Keystone 14
BLACK RIVER 14 6 14 14 — 48
KEYSTONE 7 0 7 0 — 14
K — Justin Able 61 punt return (Zac Marsh kick), 10:45.
B — Jacob Campbell 1 run (kick failed), 7:41.
B — Riley Gibbs 14 run (Justin Zacharyasz run), 4:38.
B — Campbell 3 run (run failed), 11:01.
K — Dylan Naylor 62 run (Marsh kick), 10:05.
B — Gilbbs 12 pass from Riley Bartolic (run failed), 6:05.
B — Campbell 2 run (Gibbs run), 2:59.
B — Campbell 15 run (Campbell run), 11:13.
B — Campbell 1 run (pass failed), 9:53.