Balanced Pilots roll past Cadets

NEW MARTINSVILLE – River head coach Mike Flannery certainly wasn’t kidding, in the pre-season, when he talked about how versatile his offense could be, how stingy his defense could be or about how many playmakers he could get involved.

All of the above were on display at the Pilots’ home-away-from-home for the 2012 season, Alumni Field where River ran up 21 first-quarter points and never looked back en route to a convincing 38-13 victory against PVC foe Fort Frye Friday night.

“It was a pretty good opener,” Flannery smiled. “While it’s pretty nice to start this way, it’s going to be about how we finish. We felt pretty confident coming into the game and we did what we wanted to do.”

The Pilots showed a little bit of everything, including the big-play abilities of senior wide receiver Kam Brown, who caught six balls for 166 yards, including touchdowns of 58 and 27 yards from quarterback Cody Caldwell.

Early in the game, the Pilots worked exclusively on the ground thanks to the two-headed monster of Jordan Sapp and Nick Asturi, who combined for 213 yards on 24 carries and scored three times.

“With Jordan and Nick both back there, we’re able to do some things we’ve never done here before to get those guys the ball,” Flannery said. “We feel we can be balanced offensively and that’s what we’re hoping to do each week.”

Asturi got the first score of the season for the Pilots on a 1-yard plunge. Sophomore place kicker Colton Wright proved that he can be another weapon in the Pilots’ arsenal. He was true on all five PAT kicks and also connected on a 32-yard field goal to cap the Pilots’ first possession of the second half.

After Asturi pounced on a Cadets’ fumble on their next offensive snap, Sapp raced 33 yards untouched for another touchdown.

Sapp got his second touchdown of the game with 2:21 to play in the first quarter when he scampered 27 yards.

“We wanted to play fast,” Flannery said. “That was our plan coming in to play fast in the first quarter. When everything goes just the way you worked on it all week, you can’t ask for anything more.”

River blew the game wide open after talented senior lineman Evan Eggleston pounced on another Cadets’ fumble.

Flannery decided to turn to the air attack. Caldwell, who threw for 203 yards on 9-of-20 accuracy, capped a 4-play drive when he found Brown for his first score.

“We want to mix it up and we didn’t want to wait until late in the game to start throwing,” Flannery said. “We felt we needed to work on things.”

After Wright’s field goal, the Cadets got on the board when junior Chandler Lang found senior Max Alsbach on a 3-yard pass to the right flat for the score. Alsbach was good on the PAT.

“I think we were excited to play, but when (River) came out and made a few big plays, I thought it surprised us,” said Cadets’ head coach Eric Huck. “It kind of got us on our heels a little bit. Early we couldn’t get anything going offensively. When they’re making big plays, we need our offense to step up and that wasn’t the case tonight.”

River squashed any hopes of a Fort Frye rally when Caldwell and Brown hooked up for the second time.

Brown then picked off a Fort Frye pass and Flannery immediately sent his reserves into the contest.

“We got out of the game injury free,” Flannery said.

The Pilots’ defense didn’t allow Fort Frye its initial first down until the latter stages of the first half. The Cadets were limited to 223 yards of total offense, but much of that came as window dressing.

“I thought our defense played well,” Flannery said.

The Pilots will make their first formal road trip of the season next Friday when they trek to Tuscarawas County to meet Newcomerstown, which has defeated the Pilots each of the past two seasons.

“We certainly can’t take them lightly,” Flannery said. “They’ve gotten us two years in a row and last year, we were inside their 10-yard line four times and didn’t capitalize. We have to learn to finish and hopefully, we’ll finish (the game) next Friday.”