PDT Sports Contributor
In sports, rivalry games tend to get heated just for the sake of one team holding bragging rights over the other for an entire year.
However, rivalry games tend to get even more heated with playoff implications on the line in addition to bragging rights.
The Wheelersburg Pirates were able to focus on the task at hand as the Pirates took down the West Senators, 44-23, in an intense affair that ultimately ended the Senators’ playoff hopes.
Rob Woodward said that big plays and great defense helped set the tone early en route to another victory for the Pirates.
“We hit the big plays there early,” Woodward said. “I thought our defense played tremendous, they recognized where they needed to be (in alignment). Offensively, we had some miscues in the red zone, but overall, I thought they did a good job.”
Dylan Miller showed again why the Wheelersburg receiving corps has been a force to be reckoned with all season long. His 157 yards and two touchdowns on just seven catches led the unit on the evening.
“(Miller) made great catches. Eddie put some great balls (to receivers) under some pressure and the line did a nice job of giving him time,” Woodward said.
A valiant effort by West to make the playoffs came up short after the Senators won four out of their final six games, but Merrill Triplett was proud of his team and said that there was nothing that this team should hang their heads about.
“I feel really good about (the effort),” Triplett said. “These kids worked hard all year, and when you work hard like that, you take it out on the field. These kids, I can’t say no more for them. They’re great kids who don’t quit, and from a coaching standpoint, I couldn’t be more proud. That’s the only thing that you ask out of your kids, to never quit.”
Austin Bricker was one of those hard-working players. The 6’0”, 195-pound senior was able to eclipse the 1,000 yard mark as he used a 12-carry, 66-yard effort to get to 1,012 yards on the year.
“(Bricker) deserves it,” Triplett said. “He had around 1,000 (yards) last year for us as well. It was good for us.”
The Pirates got the ball to start the game and would only need five plays to go 64 yards, as Eddie Miller III blasted through the middle of the Senator defense and scored on a 19-yard tote to put Wheelersburg up 7-0 with 10:42 still to play in the first quarter.
Wheelersburg would then proceed to eat 3:19 off of the first quarter clock, as an 11-play, 52-yard drive was capped by Conner Stone’s 1-yard plunge into the end zone to put the Pirates up by a score of 14-0.
The Pirates would come out in the second quarter and add to their scoring on their first possession of the second quarter, as Eddie Miller found Tyler Claxon in the bottom right corner of the end zone
The touchdown capped off a 13-play, 77-yard drive that took nearly five minutes off of the second quarter clock and put Wheelersburg up 21-0.
Daylor Lewis would get in on the scoring as he put an 18-yard goal straight through the uprights to put the Pirates up 24-0 at halftime.
The Senators would get on the board to kick off the second half as Dylan Koons would break through a seam in the defense and did the rest on a 64-yard scamper that cut the Pirates’ lead to 24-7.
However, Wheelersburg would strike back with a score of their own as Eddie Miller found Dylan Miller for a 41-yard strike on the ensuing possession to put the Pirate lead back up to 24 again.
Wheelersburg’s powerful passing attack would continue to find holes in West’s secondary as Eddie Miller found Dylan Miller once again on the following Pirate possession for a 12-yard strike.
The Senators, however, would not give in. Austin Bricker would get the call on the first offensive play of the fourth quarter for West and would score on a 30-yard run. Koons would add the ensuing two-point conversion to cut the lead to 38-15.
The Pirates, however, put the proverbial nail in the coffin when Micah McAlister scored on a 29-yard touchdown run to increase the Wheelersburg lead to 44-15.
The Howell twins would get involved in the action late for West, as Jon Howell scored from six yards out with 3:10 remaining in the game. Jimmy Howell would add the ensuing two-point conversion to cap off the scoring.
With the win, Wheelersburg clinched a home game and the #2 seed in Division V, Region 17, according to JoeEitel.com. The Pirates will take on Williamsport Westfall next Friday at Ed Miller Stadium. Woodward said that he is looking for execution in all phases of the game to advance to the next round.
The loss dropped the Senators to an even .500 record on the season. West finished less than a point out of the final playoff spot in Division V, Region 17.
West 0 0 7 16 - 23
Wheelersburg 14 10 14 6 - 44
W – Miller III 19 run (Lewis kick) 10:42
W – Stone 1 run (Lewis kick) 1:27
W – Claxon 3 pass from Miller III (Lewis kick) 7:00
W – Lewis 18 field goal 1:39
PW – Koons 64 run (Dials kick) 11:40
W – Miller 41 pass from Miller III (Lewis kick) 9:21
W – Miller 12 pass from Miller III (Lewis kick) 3:07
PW – Bricker 30 run (Koons run) 8:06
W – McAllister 29 run (kick failed) 5:12
PW – Jo. Howell 4 run (Ji. Howell run) 3:10
Rushing: Wheelersburg– Miller III 7-69, McAlister 7-67, Howard 4-25, Ellis 2-13, Parsley 3-11, Claxon 2-11, Burk 3-6, Darnell 1-0, May 7-(-21); West – Koons 5-82, Bricker 12-66, Hurd 6-21, Jo. Howell 3-11, Ji. Howell 1-5, Irwin 5-(-13).
Passing: Wheelersburg – Miller III 12-22-0 185; West – Irwin 2-2-0 5, Bricker 0-1-1 0.
Receiving: Wheelersburg – Miller 7-157, May 2-15, Claxon 3-13; West – Koons 2-5.