Barnesville pulls away from River
BARNESVILLE — When a head coach challenges his team at halftime, there are two things that can happen. That team can either rise to the occasion or they just don’t. You can put Barnesville in the riser category.
Trailing visiting River 21-20 after a back-and-forth first half, Barnesville head coach issued a challenge to his team. The Shamrocks (4-1) responded on both sides of the ball for a much-needed, 40-21, triumph at Shamrock Stadium.
“That was just a total team effort,” Barnesville head coach Blake Allen said. “It all starts with the young guys on the scout team in practice. River gives you so much to prepare for and those guys giving us great looks all week in practice to get us ready. Then we went out and executed.”
After allowing the Pilots (2-3) to convert on seven of 10 third-down attempts in the first 24 minutes, the Barnesville defense held the visitors to 0-for-4 in the second half and 0-for-3 on fourth. Meanwhile, the offense started clicking on the ground.
“It was a track meet there for a while in the first half, but we made some adjustments on defense at halftime. We shored it up and we also really challenged our offense,” Allen said. “We had to get a run game going. I felt like we did that. We challenged our line. We feel we’ve got a pretty good offensive line. They were outstanding tonight, especially in the second half.”
Owyn Wise was the big beneficiary. The senior tailback ran for 98 of his career-high 143 yards after the intermission. His six-yard scoring run in the third quarter put the hosts up 33-21.
“Hats off to our defense for making the adjustments, as well,” Allen continued. “River is a good football team. Their offense is tough to stop and to get a shutout against that team in the second half is outstanding.”
The Pilots could only navigate 59 yards of offense in the second half after racking up 240 in the first half.
“Wow. That’s because we didn’t have the ball,” River head coach Mike Flannery said when told of his team’s lack of offense in the second half. “We can’t let a team have an 8-minute touchdown drive. We need the ball to score. Our tackling was terrible.”
“You have to have the ball,” Flannery said of the big difference between the first half and the second half. “I think the turning point came when we were only down by 7 and there was a sideline judgment (call) that said our kid was out of bounds. Even the chain (gang) people said he was in. That’s what I’m upset about … he was in.
“That’s not sour grapes and I don’t want to come across like that, but a certain something can change games around … momentum. It’s called Uncle Mo,” Flannery continued. “I’m just disappointed that call was made.”
“I think they figured out some things,” Flannery said. “But we missed a lot of assignments that people just don’t know. We had a couple of mental breakdowns, but I’ve got players I wouldn’t trade for anybody in the Ohio Valley. We’ll be ok. We’re still very young.”
Leading by 12 points after three quarters, Barnesville turned to its ground-and-pound attack. The Shamrocks used just over eight minutes of the clock in marching 81 yards on 14 plays. Spencer Bliss capped the drive with a 2-yard run that also gave him a rare TD triple. He earlier had an 82-yard kickoff return and caught a 58-yard scoring pass.
“Spencer is our playmaker and he got the momentum right back for us in the first quarter with his kickoff return,” Allen recalled. Bliss finished with seven receptions for 170 yards. He had a pair of rushes for 19 and even threw a 24-yard pass.
The Shamrocks catalyst was quarterback C.J. Hannahs. The junior completed just nine passes but they went for 249 yards and two scores. He also connected with Chase Conner on a 66-yard pitch-and-catch in which Conner eluded a tackler at midfield and outran another to paydirt.
“C.J. played a great game and our playmakers were all over the field making plays. Spencer is an athlete and he did a little bit of everything for us tonight.”
Connor Jones had a 9-yard scoring run in the third quarter. Gavin Carpenter booted four PATs.
Austin Creamer had three TD runs for the Pilots of 4, 9 and 4 yards. Kabel Isaly was 16-26 for 143 yards. River Thompson caught nine aerials for 68 stripes. Brody Lollathin had four for 58.