Big Plays, Exciting Finish for Finale
By Sam Brauen Saturday, October 28, 2017 12:40:32 AM
(COLUMBUS GROVE) - Explosive offensive plays, turnovers and goal line stands created a wild finish to the 2017 football season as Bluffton outlasted Columbus Grove 28-27 on the Bulldogs home field. BHS finished the year with four wins against six losses while Columbus Grove managed just two wins on the campaign.
On paper, the Week 10 matchup looked rather pedestrian. The two teams entered the contest with a combined record of 5-13, each with wins over Paulding and Allen East in conference play. The game turned out to be a thriller coming down to the final seconds. The weather affected the game as nonstop rain made the 40 degree temperature feel even cooler. The conditions made passing the ball difficult. In fact, the Pirates didn’t bother to attempt a throw on the evening.
The Pirates built a 12-7 halftime lead on two Dakota Bricker touchdown runs. After classmate Brice Rayle pinned the Bulldogs inside their own fifteen yard line with a 51 yard punt, the Bricker capped off an eight play drive with a three yard score to make the score 6-0 Bluffton. Late in the half, lineman Jason Althaus recovered a CG fumble to give BHS terrific field position. Three plays later, the running play broke down when no running back came for the handoff. Bricker kept the ball and found space up the left side and sped 43 yards into the end zone.
The final Bluffton possession of the half started at their own seven yard line after a Columbus Grove punt. Unable to gain any yardage, Bluffton lined up to kick however Grove brought heavy pressure and blocked the punt giving Grove possession at the Bluffton eight yard line. With just two minutes remaining in the half, the Pirate defense walled off the end zone. The defense stuffed the Grove offense on three straight running plays and defended an incomplete pass and the Pirate lead was safe.
More BHS seniors stepped up in the third quarter pushing the Pirate lead out to three scores. When Bulldog quarterback Blake Reynolds mishandled a snap, Pirate lineman Gavin Conrad muscled Reynolds aside, scooped up the loose ball and raced 45 yards for a touchdown. A two point conversion run by Bricker made the score 20-7. CG advanced inside the Pirate ten yard line but once again, the Pirate defense stiffened and denied a score. Bluffton took possession on their own six yard line. Kaleb Jefferson took the hand off on a counter play and flew up the left sideline for a 94 yard touchdown. Joel Piercefield scored the two point conversion on a reverse and Bluffton led 28-7 with 8:59 left in the game. The contest seemed to be in hand for the Pirates but Grove was not ready to wave the white flag just yet.
The Bulldogs scored on a 60 yard pass play on the next play to cut the lead to 28-14. The Pirates punted on the following possession and Grove went 62 yards four plays to score again. Of note, 30 of those yards were from two BHS penalties. The Bulldog touchdown from two yards out cut the lead to 28-21 with 5:24 left. Grove surprised Bluffton by kicking and recovering an onside kick. Now carrying all the momentum, the Bulldogs again were able to move downfield. Reynolds completed a 32 yard pass as well as a 19 yard pass to get to the Pirate six yard line. Columbus Grove punched in the score to cut the lead to 28-27. The extra point was not successful and Bluffton kept the lead. Coach Jeff Richards said, “It looked like maybe Brice (Rayle) got a hand on it or maybe the kicker just floated it. Regardless, a huge play and I’m glad they missed it.”
With 2:38 left, Jefferson fell on another Columbus Grove onside kick attempt. The Pirates needed to gain at least one first down to run out the clock. Dakota Bricker picked up one first down and Deandre Nassar followed it up with a 26 yard rumble that put the game out of reach.
The Pirates put two rushers over 100 yards in Kaleb Jefferson (109 yards) and Deandre Nassar (101). Dakota Bricker added 47. Again, the Pirates did not attempt a pass in the game. Garrett Nemire gashed the Pirates for 138 yards as the Bulldogs outgained BHS 359-260. Defensively, Jefferson and Piercefield had 4 tackles. Baylor Garmatter and Tucker Neff added 3 and Hunter Busch 2.
The game was the final one for seniors Brice Rayle, Gavin Conrad, James Badial-Luna, Dakota Bricker, Joel Piercefield, Kaden Renecker, Kaleb Jefferson, Justin Haggard and Hunter Busch.