Barnesville's youthful Shamrocks are making strides.
And in doing so, the Green will keep the Milk Bucket for another year.
Barnesville rode the big play en route to a 21-7 victory over western Belmont County rival Union Local, Friday night on the beautiful new grass of Shamrock Stadium.
BARNESVILLE’S Colton Pritchard lunges ahead for extra yards as a Union Local defender attempts to bring him down during Friday’s game. Additional images may be found at cu.timesleaderonline.com
"This group came in with no expectations this year," Barnesville head coach Matt Johnson said. "We only have four seniors, but I can't say enough about this group of kids. One thing we know for sure is they won't quit.
"They are always going to play hard and leave it all on the field," Johnson added. "They've sucked it up and worked hard to improve."
The win improved Barnesville to 2-1 on the young season. The 'Rocks will host Buckeye Trail next Friday night.
Union Local, meanwhile, fell to 0-3 on the season. It was the 22nd straight loss for the Jets.
"The effort was there, we just had some killer penalties and Barnesville hit a couple of big plays and key times and that was the difference," UL mentor Mark Cisar explained. "The big plays were the difference in the game."
After the teams traded possessions, Barnesville got a nice punt return by Colton Pritchard to the UL 29-yard line. Two procedure penalties had the Shamrocks facing a fourth-and-19, but Kyle Yaquinta found Pritchard in the right corner for a pretty 27-yard scoring play. David Brown's point after made it 7-0.
"Our DB was there, but the throw was perfect," Cisar said. "That was one of the big plays I was talking about, we get them in fourth-and-long and they make a play for the touchdown."
A Dylan Burkhart sack and forced fumble was covered by junior Brandon Collins, setting up the Shamrocks near midfield. A 21-yard pass from Yaquinta to Burkhart and a 21-yard run from Brandon Burkhart set up Pritchard's four-yard burst. Brown booted the PAT extending Barnesville's lead to 14-0 with 2:02 left in the first half.
Union Local got the ball to open the second half and it became the Eric Dunfee show.
Union Local put together a 14-play drive and Dunfee, inserted at QB, had a hand in all of them. Thirteen Dunfee runs and a 20-yard completion to Kaleb McDiffitt set up Dunfee's 7-yard TD. The junior also booted the point after, slicing the deficit to 14-7 with 4:57 left in the third.
"We were very pleased with how we opened the second half," Cisar said. "We decided to put Dunfee in at quarterback and run the ball."
A quick interception by Spencer Ware set up Union Local at its 44-yard line.
However, the Jets had a costly holding penalty and bad snap killing the drive.
"We talked about it all week," Cisar said. "We told the kids we can't have penalties. Those are drive killers. We have a big screen deep into Barnesville territory and get a holding penalty. You just can't do that."
Barnesville assumed possession at its 19 and proceeded to put the game on ice.
The big play on the drive was a gutsy play call on a pass from Yaquinta to Brandon Burkhart for 43 yards down to the UL eight-yard line. Pritchard scored his third TD on the next play and Brown's PAT made it 21-7 with 1:51 left in the game.
"If the receiver, in the flat, wasn't open, Kyle was supposed to run it, but kids are kids and Kyle took a chance and it paid off for us with a big play," Johnson said. "Coach (Nick) Saffield had a nice play call there and we executed it."
Barnesville's defense was led by Brown (sack), Dylan Burkhart (sack) and Jacob Anderson (interception).
Pritchard finished with 134 yards on 17 carries behind the Shamrocks' offensive line of Brown, Collins, Joey Fuller, Mitchell Wells and Zach Houston.
Union Local got sacks from Griffey Girty, Tater Blake and Mason Friede.
The Jets will return to action next Friday night in Morristown where Edison visits.