Turnovers Costly for Pirates in Loss


Brice Rayle (by M. Foster)

Brice Rayle (by M. Foster)

Click here for photos by Marvin Foster

Click here for photos by Troy Breidenbach

(AYERSVILLE) - Leading into Bluffton’s third matchup of the season, head coach Jeff Richards said that he was looking forward to playing Ayersville because it would be a very good matchup and probably a close game.  Richards turned out to be correct as the two teams met in Defiance County on a classic fall Friday night.  In close games, each play matters and each possession matters.  Unfortunately, the Pirates put four fumbles on the ground and Ayersville pounced on each one of them.  The host Pilots scored on two of those turnovers and won the game 26-21.  

The Pirates had their hands full from the opening kickoff dealing with Ayersville quarterback Sam McGuire.  The 6’2” sophomore carried the ball 36 times and had a knack for making defenders miss.  On the game’s first drive, McGuire had nine totes including the touchdown run.  He completed two passes on the drive and also kicked the extra point for an Ayersville 7-0 lead.  Bluffton was able to capitalize on an Ayersville miscue to tie up the score late in the first quarter. Ayersville lined up to punt and the ball sailed through the punter’s hands.  Kaleb Jefferson dropped the punter at the Pilot three yard line setting up Bluffton just outside the end zone.  Jefferson plowed in for the score on the next play.  Kyle Koontz made the point after try to tie the score at 7-7.

Relying on McGuire, the Pilots went on another agonizingly long drive.  Over the span of twelve plays, AHS moved the ball from their own twelve yard line to the Bluffton 38 but were again forced to punt.  Just two plays later, Bluffton fumbled again and Ayersville pounced on the pigskin at the Pirate 25 yard line.  Five running plays later, McGuire scored from two yards out and a 14-7 Pilot lead.  The Pirates again put the ball on the ground on their next possession but the defense was able to hold up and force a Pilot punt.  

Taking possession with 1:56 left in the half at their own 23 yard line, the Pirate offense flexed its muscles for the first time.  Senior Brice Rayle, making his first start at quarterback, led the Pirate scoring drive.  Rayle escaped pressure and gained 17 yards on the first play from scrimmage. Brice completed all three of his passes on the drive for 45 yards to receivers Joel Piercefield, Dakota Bricker and Gavin Conrad.  Conrad picked up 33 yards on the play, catching a simple swing pass and then making three Pilot defenders grab air while he sped downfield.  Jefferson romped into the end zone from four yards out with 13 seconds left in the half to tie the game at 14-14. The Pirate offense had a few new wrinkles with Rayle under center, most notably a more adept passing game which got the ball into playmaker’s hands in space to go along side the triple option rushing attack. 

Seizing on the momentum from the late first half score, Bluffton received the second half kickoff bent on taking the lead.  Rayle completed a pass to Kaleb Jefferson out in space and the big back was freed up by a clearing block from Mason Ault.  Jefferson sped 39 yards down the right sideline to the Ayersville 21 yard line.  Three plays later, the Pirates faced fourth down and attempted a reverse but the pitch was not handled and the play lost yards giving the ball back to Ayersville.  The teams traded punts and three and outs but the Pilots were winning the field position battle as they pinned Bluffton deep in their own territory repeatedly.  AHS took possession at the 50 yard line with 49 seconds left in the third quarter.  McGuire used his arm this time and completed a 29 yard pass down the right sideline as the quarter ended.  Two plays later Pilot fullback Layne Froelich rumbled 10 yards for the go ahead score. Bluffton's Gavin Conrad blocked the extra point to keep the score 20-14.  

BHS mixed the run and pass as they attempted to answer with a score of their own.  Dakota Bricker had ten yard gains on back to back swing passes. However on a sweep play, the toss was dropped and Ayersville fell on it.  McGuire ran on five of the next seven plays before Pilot running back Nick Brown scored from 15 yards out to make the score 26-14 with just 2:21 left in the game.  The Pirates desperately tried to get back in the game.  Rayle completed three passes to Joel Piercefield on the next drive including a touchdown toss with 1:25 left.  On the scoring pass, Rayle had two players draped on his legs but muscled the ball into the end zone where Piercefield out dueled a Pilot defensive back for the reception.  Koontz’ PAT made the score 26-21.  AHS successfully covered up the ensuing onside kick and was able to run out the clock to end the game and avoid any late game Pirate heroics.  

Like last week, Coach Richards stated that the Pirate defense just could not get off the field.  “We were able to contain but then could not get that stop on third, and sometimes fourth, down.”  The numbers backed Coach Richards as the PIlots possessed the ball for 32 of the game’s 48 minutes.  The Pilots were 3 of 4 on fourth down conversions as well.  "The offense lost the ball a few times as well but our kids stayed in it the entire game.  We scored late and if that onside kick takes a favorable bounce, we had a chance to win this thing."  

Ayersville outgained Bluffton 258-219 in total yardage.  “They did a good job taking away our running game but we were able to move the ball through the air a bit tonight to offset that.”  The Pirates gained just 38 yards on 28 rushing attempts.  However, Rayle completed 13 of 18 attempts for 181 yards and one touchdown.  Joel Piercefield led the team in receptions with 5 for 70 yards.  Dakota Bricker grabbed 4 passes for 27 yards.  Bricker also led the team with six tackles.  Gavin Conrad, Hunter Busch and Deandre Nassar registered five tackles each.  Mason Ault sacked McGuire twice and had another tackle for loss in a fine all around game.  Kaleb Jefferson added a sack along with four tackles.  Kyle Koontz was 3/3 on extra points.  Jefferson was the team's leading rusher but was limited to just 38 yards on the ground.  The senior found the end zone for two scores.  

The Pirates will host Crestview Friday to open the Northwest Conference season for both squads.  The Knights are 3-0 and defeated Wayne Trace 39-13 in their most recent game. 


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