Buckeye's Patrick Caniglia breaks up a pass intended for Black River's Riley Gibbs in the second quarter Friday night at Black River High School. JUDD SMERGLIA / GAZETTE
SULLIVAN TWP. — Picture-perfect fall weather, a standing-room-only crowd and playoff-quality physicality made for an electric atmosphere as the archival Buckeye and Black River football teams hooked up for the 29th and most-anticipated time.
The Bucks simply were a little bigger, stronger, faster and smarter Friday night, scoring four unanswered touchdowns in the heart of the game and leaving Art Stevenson Field with a 28-12 victory that extended their Patriot Athletic Conference Stars Division winning streak to 20.
While the banter between the schools throughout the week reinforced decades-old animosity, respect was the only worthy word in the postgame after an old-school dogfight.
“I’m just exhilarated because that was probably the hardest game I’ve ever played in my whole life,” Buckeye right guard/inside linebacker Turner Mitchell said. “We just went out there, we put the pedal to the metal and we just rocked. We went 100 percent on each and every play and gave our everything.
“(The Pirates) were really good opponents. They came at you. They didn’t back down even when they were down. I pull my hat off to them, for sure.”
The feeling was mutual.
“It was great, it was great,” said Black River inside linebacker Alex Vormelker, who had four tackles for loss and two other stops at the line of scrimmage. “I love grind-it-out, head-knocking football games. Always will. That’s what you live to play for.”
With both teams known for ball-control offenses and hard-hitting defenses, most understood whichever team made the least amount mistakes was going to win, and momentum flipped for good with 1:22 remaining in the first half and Buckeye (7-0, 2-0) holding a precarious 7-6 lead.
Black River (6-1, 1-1) lined up for the 13th play of a drive that had reached the Bucks 14-yard line. A sweep left was called for wingback Riley Gibbs (12 carries, 45 yards), and as the senior attempted to cut right, Mitchell stripped the ball and recovered on the 17.
The play was a two-score swing, as Buckeye ran out the clock before needing just two plays — a 22-yard sweep by Dominic Monaco (13 carries, 59 yards, TD) and a 36-yard swing pass to Justin Canedy — and 53 seconds to go up 14-6 early in the third period.
A three-and-out by Black River followed, and a 21-yard score by quarterback Adam Fauver (16 carries, 64 yards, 2 TDs; 5-for-7, 94 yards, TD) pushed the ante to 21-6.
Considering Black River’s longest gain on 24 second-half plays was 12 yards, a comeback was unlikely.
“I saw the play a bunch of times. It was just an outside sweep,” Mitchell said of his fumble recovery. “I ran forward and straight through the hole. (Gibbs) tried juking me and I just slapped my arms down. The ball came out and I just dove on it and tried to hold on. I was so pumped.”
Buckeye lineman Dom Kriz then delivered the dagger, picking off a fullback screen designed for Jacob Campbell (28 carries, 136 yards, TD) and rumbling 10 yards to the Black River 20. Fauver scored six plays later with 11:55 to play and the game was effectively over.
The Pirates’ final score came when Riley Bartolic hit Travis Sexton (11 carries, 58 yards) in the flat for 12 yards on fourth-and-goal with 5:25 remaining. Black River recovered the ensuing kick, but the ball failed to travel the necessary 10 yards.
“Second half, we realized if we did what our coaches told us to do, we’d stop them like that,” Kriz said. “Once we came out with that mentality, we shut them down.
“(My blocker) let me off the hook earlier than usual, and I knew a screen kind of thing was coming. I dropped back a little bit and (Bartolic) threw. It was right there.”
The first half was a slugfest, as Campbell and Monaco traded short TDs — the latter was set up by a Jonathon Neel punt return to the Black River 18 — with a blocked extra point the difference.
Buckeye began the night using an extra linebacker, and the Pirates promptly picked apart the 3-5 alignment with a 13-play, 60-yard scoring drive that burned the first 6:02.
The Bucks re-inserted rotating strong safeties Collin Graham and Evan Tesar five plays in and did a significantly better job of containing outside, as Gibbs and Sexton combined for just 16 carries for 59 yards the rest of the night. Buckeye still had issues stopping the bruising Campbell, who had arguably the best game of his career, but never allowed the Pirates to hit a big play.
Offensively, Buckeye was efficient save for a 55-yard TD by Canedy that was negated due to holding. Only two of its 37 rushing attempts went for more than 13 yards, but Fauver threw for first downs on third-and-11, third-and-14, second-and-19 and fourth-and-4, with two of them coming on the third-quarter drive that put Buckeye up 21-6.
A date with undefeated, state-ranked Firelands (7-0, 2-0) at Edwin Steingass Field is on deck for the Bucks.
“Honestly, this was something we were working for all week,” Kriz said. “We know they’re a very good football team. They run a difficult offense to stop. It feels great that we came out here and were able to get the win.”
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Buckeye 28, Black River 12
BUCKEYE 0 7 14 7 — 28
BLACK RIVER 6 0 0 6 — 12
BR — Jacob Campbell 3 run (kick blocked), 5:58.
Bu — Dominic Monaco 5 run (Clay Gunkelman kick), 11:54.
Bu — Justin Canedy 36 pass from Adam Fauver (Gunkelman kick), 11:17.
Bu — Fauver 21 run (Gunkelman kick), 4:56.
Bu — Fauver 4 run (Gunkelman kick), 11:55.
BR — Travis Sexton 12 pass from Riley Bartolic (run failed), 5:25.