Pirates Explosive but Fall to Van Buren
By Sam Brauen Friday, September 1, 2017 09:19:45 PM
(BLUFFTON) - After a Week One demolishing of Cory-Rawson, another Blanchard Valley Conference foe visited Harmon Stadium. The Pirate running lanes that were wide open a week ago were a much tougher path this week. Van Buren limited Bluffton’s rushing attack for the most part Friday night on their way to a 35-18 victory.
Big plays were the name of the game in the first half. Bluffton senior Gavin Conrad returned the opening kickoff 92 yards for a touchdown. The play is the second longest Pirate kickoff return, only behind Owen Ziessler’s 96 yard effort way back in 1958. The score put Bluffton ahead 6-0 just 15 seconds into the game. Both teams were mired in a series of punts until Pirate defensive back Dakota Bricker intercepted a Van Buren pass. The Pirates advanced to the Black Knight goal line. A running play appeared to be over when the ball popped loose. The ball was not whistled down and Van Buren’s Khail Fasone raced 97 yards for a touchdown. A tipped pass was caught for a two point conversion and an 8-6 Black Knight lead. “We were moving the ball well, right down to the goal line. The ball was scooped and returned and it was a real momentum killer,” Coach Jeff Richards said. “We have no control over that and kept fighting.”
Kaleb Jefferson broke off runs of 39, 26 and 19 yards in the first half but the Pirates had tough sledding otherwise. Meanwhile, Van Buren found some traction for their ground game. Following a Pirate fumble at midfield, Van Buren moved downfield and scored on a one yard touchdown run by Jacob Leal with 6:08 left in the half. Leal finished another Knight drive with just 45 seconds left to put the visitors ahead 21-6 at the break.
Van Buren methodically owned the third quarter driving the field using running plays alternating carriers between Jacob Leal and Khail Fasone. Leal dove in from a yard out on fourth and goal to make the score 28-6 late in the third quarter. Richards added, “We couldn’t get off the field on defense. They ran 64 plays to our 33 and we were getting worn down a bit.”
Down big in the fourth quarter, Bluffton didn’t cave in and quit. Brice Rayle came through the line with a sack of Van Buren quarterback Landon Forsyth and forced a Van Buren punt. James Badial-Luna sprinted off the left side of the line, blocked the punt and returned it ten yards for a Pirate touchdown. The two point conversion was stopped short leaving the score 28-12 with 9:24 left. “I was pleased with our special teams tonight. Gavin (Conrad) got us off to a hot start and James (Badial-Luna) had the amazing punt block and recovery for a score. Both plays were spectacular,” Richards said.
The Pirates came up with a stop and got the ball back with six minutes to go at midfield however, BHS put the ball on the ground again and Van Buren recovered. Fasone bowled into the end zone with 1:30 left to make the score 35-12 with 90 seconds left. One last bit of of excitement remained as Brice Rayle lofted a 60 yard touchdown pass to Kaleb Jefferson on a wheel route of the backfield on the final play of the game. Richards wrapped up saying, “We dug a whole and couldn’t get off the field. The good news is, our goals are still there for the taking and the Northwest Conference looks wide open at this point. We learn and move forward to Ayersville in Week 3. We’ll be working this week and see who steps up.”
Van Buren outgained Bluffton 332-188 including a 297-107 advantage in rushing yards. Kaleb Jefferson picked up 106 yards on 15 carries for a 7.1 average. Brice Rayle completed 3 of 4 passes for 73 yards and the 60 yard score to Jefferson. Rayle also averaged 37.3 yards per punt including a 62 yarder in the second half. Kaden Reneker recorded 7 tackles, Jefferson and Hunter Busch 6 each and Joel Piercefield 4.
Ayersville stands at 2-0 after a last second 27-20 victory over Ottawa Hills on Friday. Kickoff in Defiance County is scheduled for 7:00 Friday evening.