‘Burg pounds Heath, 41-0

Behind another ridiculous performance from Tanner Holden and the entire Wheelersburg defensive unit, the Pirates were able to score 27 first-half points and hold Heath to exactly 100 total yards of offense in what proved to be yet another blowout victory for the Pirates — this one of the 41-0 variety — to record the first shutout for the program in 2017.

From the outset, Wheelersburg, again, left little doubt as to the outcome of the affair as Holden and star signal-caller Trent Salyers connected on two long touchdown passes — scores of 50 and 63 yards, respectively — to put the Pirates in front by a 14-0 tally with 2:55 still remaining in the first quarter of play.

However, the two weren’t done. Just 20 seconds into the second frame, Salyers found Holden again — this time, from 34 yards away — as Wheelersburg took a 21-0 lead en route to putting the contest away quite early. Dominic Reyes added a one-yard dive to put the Pirates up 27-0 at the halftime break.

Salyers, however, also wanted to show the Heath faithful his wheels. So he did just that by plowing ahead for a 14-yard rushing touchdown that started the running clock with 3:01 to play in the third frame. Josh Henderson showed his standout abilities in the final frame by rushing for a six-yard score with 7:20 to play as the Pirates advanced to 3-0 on the year with the victory — a margin that could’ve been even worse had Wheelersburg not been flagged 10 times for 95 yards in the contest.

For the game, Wheelersburg amassed an outstanding total of 477 yards of total offense to roll past the Bulldogs. Salyers, on his own, collected 378 of those yards by completing 13 of his 20 passes for 322 yards and three touchdowns while rushing for 56 yards and another score on seven carries.

Of his 322 passing yards, 227 of those markers went to Holden, who accumulated the total on just nine catches en route to claiming all three of Salyers’ passing touchdowns and a monstrous 28.4 yards per catch. Holden also added a 56-yard interception return for good measure.

Defensively, 24 players made a total of 52 tackles for the Pirates, with Xander Carmichael, Evan Dahm, and Avery Donini collecting four tackles apiece for Wheelersburg. Carmichael even completed his only pass of the game for 17 yards on the offensive side of the football. Dahm, along with Makya Matthews, joined Holden in claiming an interception apiece for Wheelersburg.

Through his first three games of the 2017 season, Salyers has already accumulated 732 passing yards on just 61 passing attempts. The junior quarterback has completed 37 of those attempts, with eight of those 37 going for scores. Holden has caught 17 of those passes for 433 receiving yards en route to a stout 25.5 yards-per-reception average and seven touchdown receptions. Cole Lowery has 13 additional receptions for 198 yards and a score — which puts Lowery an impressive mark of 15.2 yards per catch in 2017.

From a running standpoint, Salyers (119 yards on 23 carries) and Reyes (136 yards on 30 carries) have each ran for at least 4.5 yards per carry or more through the first three weeks while combining for six touchdown runs. Carmichael, Dyer, Henderson, Lowery, Matthews, Mack Dyer, Evan Horsley, Mason Johnson, and Aaron Sowards have all ran for at least five yards per carry on limited touches.

Defensively, Matthews leads the team with two interceptions, while Donini and Dahm each have 14 tackles apiece to head the Wheelersburg defense. Carmichael (13), Alex George (13), Matthews (11), Bryson Keeney (11), Nic Parsley (11), and Horsley (10) are among the Pirates who are in double-digit tackle territory. In all, 36 Wheelersburg players have made at least one stop during the 2017 campaign.

With Ironton, Fairland, and Heath behind them, the Pirates will look to tame a tough test as Wheelersburg will face Division IV Columbus Bishop Watterson on Friday. A road trip to Division III Jackson — who is also 3-0 in 2017 — is on the following Friday.

By Kevin Colley

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