WHEELERSBURG — Simply put, in a matter of 15 minutes on Friday night, the Wheelersburg Pirates had completed bedeviled visiting Russell.
As a result, and in the bigger picture, the Pirates have righted their ship in a matter of two weeks.
That’s because Wheelersburg broke completely free from a scoreless first-quarter tie, amassing the opening 28 points over the entire second quarter and early third —en route to routing the non-league Red Devils 35-16 inside an amped-up Ed Miller Stadium.
That’s right, as the Pirates put together a lockdown defensive performance for the game’s overwhelming majority —while withstanding a pair of Red Devil long-distance pass plays during their second-half comeback bid.
And while a fumbled punt return try allowed for a Russell third-frame field goal, and the two touchdown strikes by Bradley Rose in the fourth quarter cut the Pirates’ lead to 28-16, Wheelersburg was never truly in imminent danger —as the Pirates put the interstate affair away in the final two minutes and 23 seconds.
That’s when Wheelersburg workhorse running back Carson Williams, who had a hat trick of touchdowns including a pair of 4-yard runs, went 19 yards right up the middle for the game’s final score —as kicker extraordinaire Braxton Sammons secured his fifth of five successful extra-point attempts.
On the first play of the quick three-play and one-minute and 26-second drive, Williams ripped off his largest gainer — a 32-yard up-the-gut jaunt which went right to Russell’s 20-yard line.
And even before that, Josh Clark —who missed the Pirates’ 26-3 win over Chillicothe the week before with a concussion —stepped up and calmly recovered an onside kick attempt by the Red Devils following their second touchdown.
Truth be told, while every team tries to win in all three phases of every game, the Pirates indeed did that on Friday night.
Both clubs are now 2-1, but Wheelersburg’s turnover-plagued second quarter against Ironton appears even further in its rear-view mirror.
Wheelersburg veteran head coach Rob Woodward discussed his Pirates’ noticeable growth from that season opener.
“Week one was extremely traumatic in terms of four turnovers at very crucial times, and not capitalizing and finishing on opportunities. But since then, we’re continuing to see growth that needs to happen with our team. Our guys have really responded, and are just counting on everybody for recognizing what needs done in their given role and given tasks,” said Woodward. “It’s just these guys getting more experience, and checking that box and understanding what is asked of them.”
The Pirates’ performance against Russell was highlighted with their defensive effort, especially in the opening almost 28 minutes.
The Red Devils punted on their first six possessions, part of seven punts altogether — with five of those first six and six of the seven total being three-and-outs.
Russell registered just one first-half first down, part of only six for the entire game —as the Pirates stymied the Red Devils to only 29 total yards through those first 27 minutes.
Prior to the fumbled Pirate punt return, Wheelersburg was all over the Russell rushers for 11 carries and 22 yards, as the quarterback Rose — before his 59-yard scoring hookup with Doug Oborne on the opening fourth-period play and later his 71-yarder to Carson Patrick with 3:50 remaining —was kept in check to only seven yards on hitting half of 10.
Rose finished 8-of-19 with 156 yards, but 130 of those occurred on two snaps —as Russell’s rushing yardage was a mere 78 yards on 26 tries.
“I thought our defense swarmed to the football and played extremely well. I thought we tackled really well, we came off the ball really well, and we really got after it in those one-on-one position battles,” said Woodward. “Our guys up front are smaller, and they are going to get hit and moved sometimes, but they are quick and just stay after it and find the ball. Then our linebackers do a great job of reading and communicating with them and filling in the gaps, playing good gap-assignment football and swarming to the football. We had guys flying all around in there and really creating havoc.”
That defensive effort set up the Pirates’ offensive outburst, which featured Williams rushing for 120 yards on 13 carries and his hat trick of touchdowns — as Ethan Glover gained 89 yards on a dozen attempts, with eight carries for 68 yards in the opening half.
Eli Swords chipped in 47 yards on 10 totes, as Bryson Stamper completed two-thirds (12) of his 18 pass attempts for 152 yards —including a pair of scores to Eric Lattimore, who made nice moves after the catch to gain yardage, evade tacklers, and ultimately find paydirt.
Stamper also completed four passes for 42 yards to Clark, as he and Lattimore (76 yards) landed four receptions apiece —several on underneath and inside screens.
The sophomore Stamper also overcame an early interception in his third career varsity start, as his quick slant to a wide open Lattimore covered 18 yards on the opening play of the second stanza —and got the Pirates on the board with a six-play, four first-down, 55-yard, two-minute and 22-second scoring march.
The Pirates found the end zone again at the four-and-a-half minute mark, when Wheelersburg —with outstanding field position at the Red Devils’ 32 —went seven plays in 3:25, with Williams walking in from four yards out.
Their next score needed only three plays and 60 seconds, as Swords started it with his longest pickup of 23 to the Pirate 37 —before Stamper found Lattimore in the flats for what ended up being a 62-yard pitch-and-catch to the house with only a minute and 40 seconds to go.
Woodward praised his Pirates’ up-front play, as well as that of Stamper.
Wheelersburg racked up 272 rushing yards on 41 tries, ran one snap shy of 60, and amounted 21 first downs.
“Carson Williams definitely had a great rushing night, hitting those holes and really running hard, but we really relied and leaned on our offensive line, and our tight end Hunter Thomas and his job with blocking. We ran a lot of our linemen one-way tonight. They were out there with fresh legs and did the things they needed to do to create holes for Carson and Ethan (Glover) and Eli (Swords),” said Woodward. “And Bryson Stamper did a tremendous job when he was called on for those pass plays. He settled in, got the ball to his receivers, and those guys made plays after the catch.”
The Pirate special teams then took ownership of the fourth score, as Woodward riverboat gambled — and made the call for an onsides kick to open the second half.
“It’s (onside kick) something our coaches are always talking about, and they are pushing me to call that from the get-go,” he said, with a slight laugh. “When they get enough into my ear and we’re able to do something like that…our defense was playing really well and it was a chance for us to try and capitalize. We took advantage of that and our guys executed it perfectly in that situation. We’ve been known for taking chances over the years and try to gain an edge within that. That’s what we did.”
With Sammons perfect on extra-point kicks, and with his kickoffs consistently inside the 5-yard line and his four punts averaging 48 yards per attempt including boomers and rollers of 56 and 55 yards, he executed the onsider to near-perfection — with Wheelersburg recovering at the Red Devil 43.
This drive then went another seven plays in two minutes and 50 seconds, as Williams waltzed in from four yards out again —as Sammons’ fourth extra point made it 28-0 with 21 minutes and 10 seconds remaining.
At that point, while Wheelersburg truly had Russell on the ropes, it wasn’t until another onside kick —which Clark recovered and Williams turned into two carries for 51 yards and the final score with 2:23 to play —that the Pirates threw the knockout punch.
And with that, the Orange and Black has righted its ship over the last two weeks.
This week, though, as of Monday afternoon, the Jolly Roger MIGHT be sitting idle —as one of Russell’s rivals in Kentucky, Ashland, is out of school and its sports programs shut down due to its coronavirus situation.
Thus, the Pirates’ non-league home game against Ashland is already canceled, and Wheelersburg was still searching for an opponent for this week.
“Ashland is unable to play and has officially canceled,” said Woodward, late Friday. “It remains up in the air as of right now. There are some possibilities, but no one has confirmed anything. This year, it’s odd in terms of that happening, but it’s happening often, so we’ll see what happens.”
* * *
Russell 0 0 3 13 —16
Wheelersburg 0 21 7 7 — 35
W — Eric Lattimore, 18-yard pass from Bryson Stamper (Braxton Sammons kick), 11:54, 2nd (7-0 W)
W — Carson Williams, 4-yard run (Braxton Sammons kick), 4:36, 2nd (14-0 W)
W — Eric Lattimore, 62-yard pass from Bryson Stamper (Braxton Sammons kick), 1:40, 2nd (21-0 W)
W— Carson Williams, 4-yard run (Braxton Sammons kick), 9:10, 3rd (28-0 W)
R — Nathan Totten, 33-yard field goal, 5:41, 3rd (28-3 W)
R — Doug Oborne, 59-yard pass from Bradley Rose (Nathan Totten kick), 11:49, 4th (28-10 W)
R — Carson Patrick, 71-yard pass from Bradley Rose (pass failed), 3:50, 4th (28-16 W)
W — Carson Williams, 19-yard run (Braxton Sammons kick), 2:23, 4th (35-16 W)
First downs 6 21
Scrimmage plays 45 59
Rushes-yards 26-78 41-272
Passing yards 156 152
Total yards 234 424
Cmp-Att-Int. 8-19-0 12-18-1
Fumbles-lost 0 0 2-1
Penalties-yards 8-69 7-74
Punts-Ave 7-29.3 4-48.25
RUSHING —Russell: Andre Richardson-Crews 13-53, Brayden Hartman 5-13, Colby Rock 4-16, Bradley Rose 3-0, Doug Oborne 1-(-4); Wheelersburg: Carson Williams 13-120 3TD, Ethan Glover 12-89, Eli Swords 10-47, Jake Darling 3-8, Eric Lattimore 2-5, Team 1-3
PASSING — Russell: Bradley Rose 8-19-0-156 2TD; Wheelersburg: Bryson Stamper 12-18-1-152 2TD
RECEIVING— Russell: Carson Patrick 2-73 TD, Doug Oborne 2-60 TD, Brayden Hartman 2-4, Mason Lykins 1-19, Andre Richardson-Crews 1-0; Wheelersburg: Eric Lattimore 4-76 2TD, Josh Clark 4-42, Hunter Thomas 2-18, Casey Doerr 1-21, Carson Williams 1-(-5)
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @paulboggssports © 2021 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved