Black River’s Riley Bartolic (7) tackles Northwestern quarterback J.J. Cline (14) for a loss in the first half.
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CHESTER TWP. — The Black River football team led by 16 points in the first quarter, by 17 in the third and trailed for just 47.1 seconds.
Unfortunately for the fatigued Pirates, it was the final 47.1 seconds, as they snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in falling 28-24 to a resolute Northwestern team Friday in non-league action.
“I can’t play the fourth quarter with all my starters on the bench with cramps,” angry Black River coach Al Young said after his team fell to 1-1. “I’m ticked. It’s a game we should have had. It’s a game we should have won. You’re going to see a different team next week (vs. Ontario).”
The Pirates looked great in jumping to 16-0 and 24-7 leads against the Huskies (1-1), but things started to unravel late in the third period and culminated in a hard-to-swallow loss when Northwestern quarterback J.J. Cline hit Jack Topovski in the left corner of the end zone for an 8-yard touchdown with 47.1 seconds remaining.
Topovski eluded pressure all night in finishing 25-for-37 for 238 yards and two touchdowns, while Topovski caught 10 passes for 74 yards and Manny Siders grabbed seven for 74 yards.
“We didn’t tackle,” Young said. “It’s absolutely pathetic. We ran by that quarterback 50 times tonight and barely touched his jersey.”
Up 24-7 following 10- and 1-yard TD runs by Alex Vormelker (15 carries, 45 yards) — the latter was set up by a blocked punt by J.T. Armstrong — and a 10-yarder by Caleb Simonson (10 for 82, 4 catches for 74), Black River seemed to be in total control when nose tackle Mitchell Young stuffed Max Carlson for a 2-yard loss on fourth-and-1 from the Pirates 19-yard line with 2:08 left in the third period.
However, Pirates quarterback Riley Bartolic (4-for-8, 74 yards, INT) and wingback Spencer Constable (10 carries, 40 yards) botched a handoff on the third play from scrimmage, giving Northwestern the ball at the Pirates 35.
Two plays later, Cline eluded pressure and found Carlson wide open for a 24-yard catch-and-run TD with 44.8 seconds left in the third.
It was all downhill for the Pirates after that, though they dodged one bullet when Daniel Dietrich missed his second 32-yard field goal of the night after a Northwestern kickoff from the Black River 45 hit an up man and was recovered by the Huskies.
The Pirates marched from their own 20 to the Northwestern 39, but Vormelker was stuffed for a 1-yard loss on fourth-and-1 from the Northestern 39 with 6:47 remaining in the game.
“It’s ridiculous,” Al Young said. “It’s stuff we should control. Our offensive line goes one way (other than Mitchell Young). You’re telling me we shouldn’t dominate on the offensive line?”
Cline completed passes for first downs on fourth-and-7 from the Black River 46 and fourth-and-10 from the 39 before backup running back Hal Huber scored from 21 yards out on a draw play, cutting Northwestern’s deficit to 24-21 with 4:45 left.
The Pirates recovered an onside kick and got one first down in advancing to the Huskies 40, but were forced to send in the punt team on fourth-and-12 from the 42, only to have Constable’s kick blocked.
Northwestern took over at the Black River 44 and scored in nine plays to send the Pirates home heartbroken.
“We had a punt blocked, we had an interception (on the Pirates’ last offensive play), we had fumbles (5, with 2 lost),” Al Young said. “They’re killers.
“Then everybody starts getting tired. We’re not in very good shape. We’re not very disciplined. Ain’t no way we should be sitting on the bench with cramps. That’s my fault. We should be in better shape. And I’ve got to find 11 kids who will play defense.”
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or email@example.com. Follow him @RickNoland on Twitter.
Northwestern 28, Black River 24
BLACK RIVER 16 0 8 0 — 24
NORTHWESTERN 7 0 7 14 — 28
B — Alex Vormelker 10 run (Caleb Simonson run), 6:55.
B — Vormelker 1 run (Vormelker 4un), 4:29.
N — Max Carlson 2 run (Daniel Dietrich kick), 1:28.
B — Simonson 10 run (Simonson run), 6:11.
N — Carlson 24 pass from J.J. Cline (Dietrich kick), 44.8.
N — Hal Huber 21 run (Dietrich kick), 4:45.
N — Jack Topovski 8 pass from Cline (Dietrich kick), 47.1.