Early Lead Melts Away, Pirates Fall on Road


Logan Rhodes on a big gain (by Marv Foster)

Logan Rhodes on a big gain (by Marv Foster)

(PAULDING) - Bluffton built a 10-0 first quarter lead but the Paulding Panthers fought back for a 28-17 victory Friday night. 

Any fears of a lull after the long bus trip to Paulding were eased as Bluffton jumped to a quick 10-0 lead after just three minutes of play. Linebacker Tucker Neff intercepted a Panther pass and returned it inside the Paulding ten yard line.  The Pirates settled for a Kyle Koontz field goal and a 3-0 lead.  Neff then recovered Koontz' onside kickoff and the Pirates setting up good field position at the Panther 41 yard line.  Logan Rhodes ripped off runs of 15, 5,6,and 13 yards and Bluffton had first down and goal at the Panther three yard line.  Deandre Nassar, playing through a knee injury sustained two weeks ago, plunged in for a touchdown and the scoreboard read 10-0 Pirates with 5:53 left in the first quarter.  

Paulding is primarily a rushing team but began to throw early in this game.  Quarterback Payton Beckman completed two passes on the ensuing drive both to wide receiver Hunter Kesler covering 15 yards and a 45 yarder for the Panthers' first touchdown. The two teammates connected again in the second quarter for a 69 yard score to give Paulding a 14-10 lead.  The Pirate offense continued to stutter and Paulding fielded a punt at their own 42 yard line wit 4:41 left in the half. Chad Veit and Mason Ault sacked Beckman on back to back plays forcing a punt.  The Pirates had the ball on their own 20 yard line with 1:24 left and wanted to make some noise before halftime.  Quarterback Nate Schaadt's slant pass was intercepted nad returned to the Bluffton two yard line.  Paulding immediately scored extending the lead to 21-10.  The final play of the half was a bright spot for BHS with Nassar gaining 43 yards to the Paulding 19 yard line as time expired.  The play needed to spark the Pirates for the second half. 

The Pirates got another spark from Brandt Manns in the second half. Bluffton punted on their initial possession and Paulding proceeded to absolutely march 69 yards on 9 running plays.  On third down and goal from the three yard line, Paulding fumbled and Manns pounced on the fumble giving Bluffton life again. The Pirates responded with their best drive of the game, covering 80 yards in 12 plays culminating in a two yard touchdown run by Nassar.  On the drive, Nassar carried the ball 8 times while Schaadt connected with Rhodes on two passes totaling 29 yards.  The touchdown cut the Paulding lead to 21-17 at the 11:50 mark of the fourth quarter.  Bluffton tried another onside kick but Paulding recovered the ball with great field position at the Pirate 48 yard line.  8 runs and 1 pass play later, Paulding scored to restore their 11 point lead.  Bluffton would not get any closer as they turned the ball over twice more down the stretch.  In all, Bluffton had five turnovers with two fumbles and three interceptions.  Paulding gave the ball away three times.

Bluffton outgained Paulding 279-271 on the night. Bluffton gained 250 yards rushing, led by 129 yards from Nassar and 59 from Rhodes.  Paulding completed just five passes on the night but they were big gainers, totaling 160 yards. The Pirates gained 18 first downs compared to 14 for the Panthers. Tyson Shutler made 7 tackles and intercepted a pass on defense. Tucker Neff had 6 tackles and an interception as well. Veit, Ault, Brett Basinger, Manns and Shutler each had a tackle for loss in the game.

Bluffton now has four home games in the second half of the season after taking to the road four of the first five Friday nights.  Next up is the Homecoming game with Allen East at Harmon Field Friday night, 7:00 kickoff.  The Mustangs are 2-3 and coming off a 50-6 victory over Delphos Jefferson.  Allen East's other victory was in Week against winless Bath.  

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