WHEELERSBURG — The Wheelersburg Pirates, in the end, knew they would have a tough task against some quality cats from the state of Kentucky.
And while it originally was scheduled to be against Ashland’s Tomcats, it ended up being against Pikeville’s Panthers.
But no matter whom, or even how far the two Kentucky clubs had to drive for Friday night’s non-league football game, the Pirates won’t defeat anybody by committing the turnovers they did.
That’s because Wheelersburg was guilty of four giveaways following its only score a mere two-and-a-half minutes in —as the Pirates fell to Pikeville by a count of 20-7 inside Ed Miller Stadium.
The loss left the Pirates at 2-2, and in both defeats, Wheelersburg doomed its chances with four turnovers.
The other loss occurred at Ironton in the season opener, when the Pirates had four second-quarter miscues —and the Fighting Tigers turned those into 27 points.
Wheelersburg was originally scheduled to host Ashland, but because of its coronavirus situation and the Ashland Independent School District decision to temporarily shut down, that contest was canceled.
The Pirates picked up Pikeville on Wednesday afternoon —and the Panthers made the two-and-a-half hour trip to Wheelersburg worth it over the final 41 minutes and 20 seconds.
While Pikeville protected the football and didn’t even fumble once, the Pirates fumbled four times and lost three —and Wheelersburg sophomore quarterback Bryson Stamper threw an interception.
The Panthers, pretty much after Ethan Glover scored on a 14-yard run for Wheelersburg and Braxton Sammons made the extra point, had their way the remainder of the game.
That was a five-play, 29-yard Pirate drive that only took two minutes and 17 seconds — and after Landon Hutchinson intercepted Isaac McNamee for the Panthers’ only turnover on the game’s opening play.
The remainder of the Pirate possessions — from there — resulted in book-ending turnovers on downs, a second-quarter interception, three third-quarter punts and most importantly three second-half lost fumbles.
The Panthers piled up 285 total yards to the Pirates’ 169, including a 104-45 and two touchdowns advantage through the air.
Pikeville doubled up the Pirates in first downs (18-9), ran 13 more plays from scrimmage (56-43), and attempted and completed six more passes than did Wheelersburg.
Stamper completed 5-of-12 for the Pirates, but McNamee bounced back after that opening-play interception —completing two touchdown tosses to Zac Lockhart, part of 11-of-18.
His first TD to Lockhart, a 16-yarder late in the second quarter, made it 14-7 Pikeville with Jacob Rogers’ second extra-point kick.
His second scoring strike to Lockhart, a 22-yard hookup with only a minute-and-a-half remaining, put the game away.
Lockhart had six receptions for 69 yards, as Blake Birchfield handled the Panthers’ primary ground attack.
Birchfield, who tied the game with a five-yard run only four minutes and nine seconds after Wheelersburg went ahead 7-0, boasted a hefty 30 carries for 158 rushing yards.
He also caught three passes for 20.
The Pirates return to the road for the first time on Friday night since their season opener, and play at fellow 2-2 Jackson.
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Jackson’s Alumni Stadium.
* * *
Pikeville 7 7 0 6 —20
Wheelersburg 7 0 0 0—7
W — Ethan Glover, 14-yard run (Braxton Sammons kick), 9:29, 1st (7-0 W)
P — Blake Birchfield, 5-yard run (Jacob Rogers kick), 5:20, 1st (7-7 tie)
P — Zac Lockhart, 16-yard pass from Isaac McNamee (Jacob Rogers kick), 1:52, 2nd (14-7 P)
P— Zac Lockhart, 22-yard pass from Isaac McNamee (pass failed), 1:26, 4th (20-7 P)
First downs 18 9
Scrimmage plays 56 43
Rushes-yards 38-181 31-124
Passing yards 104 45
Total yards 285 169
Cmp-Att-Int. 11-18-1 5-12-1
Fumbles-lost 0-0 4-3
Penalties-yards 6-47 4-28
Punts-Ave 3-30.3 2-42
RUSHING —Pikeville: Blake Birchfield 30-158 TD, Brenden Anthony 5-25, Isaac McNamee 1-3, Zac Lockhart 1-(-2), Team 1-(-3); Wheelersburg: Carson Williams 10-26, Eli Swords 7-32, Eli Jones 6-32, Casey Doerr 3-10, Ethan Glover 2-17 TD, Eric Lattimore 1-24, Jake Darling 1-1, Team 1-(-18)
PASSING — Pikeville: Isaac McNamee 11-18-1-104 2TD; Wheelersburg: Bryson Stamper 5-12-1-45
RECEIVING— Pikeville: Zac Lockhart 6-69 2TD, Blake Birchfield 3-20, Grant Scott 1-9, Brenden Anthony 1-6; Wheelersburg: Josh Clark 2-20, Eric Lattimore 2-19, Eli Swords 1-6
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