Fiery defenses and efficient offenses, without question, will win a lot of contests no matter what the sport may be.
For the Wheelersburg Pirates and the West Senators, this fact is certainly the case for both squads, and not surprisingly, the pair — who are both 6-0 — are thought of very highly by the Associated Press voters around the state in the Division V realm as Wheelersburg garnered a season-high nine first-place votes en route to 221 total tallies and a second-place showing in the polls while West collected 166 points on its own accord to move to fourth in the overall order.
In the Pirates’ case, Wheelersburg, who collected a dominating 44-0 victory over Oak Hill on Friday evening at Ed Miller Stadium, kept Caleb Johnson from completing a pass in six attempts and held the Oaks to 118 total yards of offense — all coming on a massive 46 rushing attempts — as Wheelersburg developed a 34-0 lead just 17 minutes into the affair en route to a 44-0 victory.
For the contest, Trent Salyers proved to be outstanding as the junior signal-caller completed 11 of his 12 passes for 166 yards and three touchdowns. Salyers also scampered into the end zone from 21 yards out to allow the Pirates to build a sizeable deficit.
As far as the season is concerned, Salyers, who has 1,513 passing yards and 16 touchdowns to four interceptions through the air in 2017, leads the team with 1,775 yards of total offense. Tanner Holden, who has been on the receiving end of 778 of Salyers’ 1,513 passing yards and has collected 13 touchdowns in his own right, leads the receiving core, while Cole Lowery (28 receptions, 333 yards, TD) has been more than reliable in his own right.
In addition to Wheelersburg’s excellent through the air, the Pirates’ running game has also been excellent. Salyers, Lowery, Makya Matthews, Evan Horsley, Ashton Clevenger, Hunter Ruby, and Xander Carmichael have all exceeded 5.5 yards per carry on multiple attempts, while Dominic Reyes has been a workhorse for Wheelersburg by collecting 259 yards on 54 carries as the Pirates have collected a total of 1,038 yards and 17 touchdowns on 186 carries en route to a 5.6-yard-per-carry average.
Defensively, Carmichael (35 tackles) and Evan Dahm (34 stops) have led the way for the Wheelersburg defense at the starting linebacker positions, with Avery Donini’s 26 tackles, Alex George’s and Nic Parsley’s 24-tackle efforts, and the 23-tackle outputs of Horsley and Bryson Keeney rounding out a strong overall defense that has held opponents to just 2.2 yards per carry and allowed only 6.7 points per contest over the course of the season. A massive total of 45 players have made at least one tackle on the year for Wheelersburg, with 10 of those hands adding one sack apiece to lead a dominant Pirates unit in 2017.
From a special teams standpoint, Jalen Miller has proven himself with his dependable leg as the junior has made five of his six field goal attempts — including a long of 43 yards — en route to obtaining a 83 percent mark. Miller has also collected nine touchbacks on the year. Wheelersburg’s kickoff and punt return coverage has also proven to be outstanding as opponents have averaged just 14.2 yards on kick returns and, astonishingly, haven’t obtained a single positive yard on 12 punt returns in 2017.
As for West, the Senators won in much the same manner as the Pirates did, as West allowed just four first downs — including only one after the first two defensive series of its contest against Minford — in an impressive 50-6 victory over the Falcons.
Offensively, Dylan Bradford needed only 14 passes to obtain 203 yards and four touchdowns through the air, with the junior completing all four of his touchdown passes — a 70-yarder to Josh Berry, a 1-yarder to Sid Shifflet, a 39-yarder to Cody Staggs and a 30-yarder to Garrett Hurd — in the first half. Hurd also added 113 yards on 13 carries and another score on the ground to aid the explosive offensive output.
A 44-yard field goal from Drew Cassidy and a 32-yard pick-six by Staggs on the defensive end, in addition to Bradford’s exploits, allowed the Senators to seal the deal early on in the affair, while Isaiah Norman, Cole Staggs, and Jakeb Guilkey added eight tackles apiece to allow West to close the deal.
With the victory, West has now outscored its opponents by a total margin of 188-71. The Senators have scored 31 points per affair while holding their opponents to under 12 points per contest.
For the season, Bradford has thrown for 669 yards and seven touchdowns while completing 46 of his 73 passes through the air. The junior signal-caller has also run for 146 yards and five additional scores on the ground en route to collecting 915 yards of total offense and a dozen touchdowns in 2017.
In addition to Bradford’s exploits, Hurd has added 664 yards rushing and six touchdowns on 114 carries to lead the Senators on the ground while Berry has obtained 582 all-purpose yards en route to providing West with excellent balance offensively. Cassidy has capped off the well-balanced offensive unit by collecting five made field goals in six attempts — including a long of 44 yards.
Defensively, Guilkey has led the way for West with his 56 tackles, eight tackles for loss, and three sacks, while Berry has added 49 tackles, three interceptions, and two sacks for the Senators. Blaine Weaver’s 47 tackles, eight tackles for loss, and four sacks, along with 43 stops from Gabe Skaggs, 40 more from Cole Staggs, 39 from Ryan Spriggs, and 38 apiece from Norman and Cassidy, head a well-balanced defensive group. Cody Staggs has a team-high five picks on the year through six games. Cassidy, meanwhile, has helped his own cause with 12 touchbacks and a 36.8-yard punt average in 2017.
DIVISION V AP FOOTBALL POLL
1. Pemberville Eastwood (15) 6-0 232
2. Wheelersburg (9) 6-0 213
3. Canfield S. Range (2) 6-0 201
4. Portsmouth West 6-0 166
5. Marion Pleasant (1) 6-0 145
6. Orwell Grand Valley 6-0 108
7. Sullivan Black River 6-0 102
8. Anna 5-1 98
9. Jamestown Greeneview 6-0 83
10. Archbold (1) 5-1 37
Others receiving 12 or more points: Liberty Center 26. Milan Edison 21. Belmont Union Local 20. Gahanna Columbus Academy 19. Tontogany Otsego 18. Bethel-Tate 17.
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @ColleyKevin7