WHEELERSBURG — To come out on top in any contest, a team has to be prepared no matter who the opponent is.
And the Wheelersburg Pirates certainly prepared like a state championship contender on Friday evening in its contest against Columbus Bishop Ready, as Wheelersburg held Bishop Ready to just 111 yards of total offense — including just 50 before Bishop Ready’s very last drive that ran out the game clock — in a 34-0 victory over the Silver Knights at Ed Miller Stadium to kick off what the entire Pirate faithful hopes is a long and fruitful playoff run.
From the outset, Wheelersburg got the scoring started quick as the Pirates came out strong with two touchdowns to begin the game, as Trent Salyers showcased his passing abilities early and often during the contest. Salyers, who eclipsed the school record for passing yards in a season in the win (now has 2,872 yards), threw a 16-yard touchdown pass to Bryson Keeney with 7:21 to play in the opening quarter of action, then found Tanner Holden for the latter’s 18th touchdown catch of the season — a 42-yarder — to put the Pirates up by a 14-0 tally with 4:09 to play in the first quarter. Salyers equalized Eddie Miller III’s passing touchdowns in a season with that mark.
In the second quarter, the Wheelersburg defense — which did another outstanding job by holding Bishop Ready to just 10 yards passing and 101 rushing yards on 29 carries (only 3.7 per rush) — kept the Silver Knights from even obtaining so much as positive yardage behind the play of Nic Parsley (nine tackles, seven solo, sack) and Avery Donini (eight tackles, five solo) as ‘Burg maintained its 14-0 advantage to the halftime break.
The Pirates’ overall depth, along with its solid rushing attack that was led by Salyers (67 yards, 11 carries) and Ashton Clevenger (58 yards, 11 carries), allowed Wheelersburg to control the tempo and put together another balanced offensive attack in the second half as Xander Carmichael and Cole Lowery each punched in one-yard rushing touchdowns in the third frame to increase the lead to 27-0. Carmichael then added a 22-yard pick-six to begin the fourth quarter of action to close out the scoring as the reserves were brought in with the running clock in effect.
In addition to his 67 yards rushing, Salyers threw for 237 yards by completing 18 of his 26 passes. Holden (five catches, 92 yards, touchdown), Lowery (eight catches, 84 yards), Carmichael (two catches, 37 yards) and Keeney (two catches, 21 yards) were the main beneficiaries in the passing game.
Defensively, 24 different players made tackles for Wheelersburg in the contest, who moved to 11-0 in 2017. The Pirates will play Columbus Academy at a site and time to be determined.