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Barnesville fends off Union Local for Milk Bucket

Photo/KRISTIN MAZGAJ UNION LOCAL quarterback Carter Blake is wrapped up by Barnesville’s Ethan Spangenburg during the first half of Friday’s game in Morristown.

MORRISTOWN — The milk has never tasted better in Barnesville.

Thanks to a late defensive stand and a timely first down, the Shamrocks were able to fend off Union Local, 26-21, Friday night at Jets Stadium to retain the ‘Milk Bucket’ Trophy and spoil Homecoming and Senior Night festivities in the process.

“I am so proud of these guys,” a relieved Barnesville head coach Blake Allen said as he handed the trophy off to a couple of his senior players. “Our guys came in here (to Morristown) ticked off because we wanted to prove that we have a good team. Credit to Union Local for fighting to the end, but our guys who have overcome a lot this year.”

The victory wraps up a highly impressive 8-1 season for the Shamrocks and officially clinches a berth in the Division VI, Region 23 tournament and also at least one home game one week from tonight.

“We’ll enjoy this (victory on Friday night) and we’ll start thinking about Week 11 (on Saturday), but I believe we’re really playing some good football right now,” Allen said. “We’ll see how the seeds shake out for us, but you can’t get to two (home games) without winning the first one.”

While on paper an 8-1 season would indicate to many that much of the season was a smooth ride. That wasn’t the case for these resilient Rocks. They saw their Week Two game against Meadowbrook canceled due to a COVID-19 outbreak within their team.

Just a couple of weeks ago, a pair of players were removed from the team due to a hazing incident, which has led to charges being filed by Belmont County authorities.

Still, however, the Shamrocks have responded.

“Anything that’s been thrown at these guys, they’ve handled it,” Allen said. “I keep them to drown out the noise and there are always distractions around you, but these kids have been able to stay focused. We’ve moved some guys around and had kids step up. Hats off to the senior class, which has been outstanding.”

Meanwhile, on the other side, disappointment was highly visible among the Union Local players and coaches, who got off to a promising 4-0 start at the mid-way point, but lost four of their final five. The Jets’ playoff hopes are in the hands of the OHSAA computer poll.

“Our kids played really hard, but we had too many missed opportunities, which has plagued us at times this season,” Union Local head coach Bernie Thompson said. “We’ll wait and see what Week 11 has in store for us if it’s meant to be, but regardless of that, I love this senior class and this team.”

The Jets actually had momentum and the ball with just over three minutes to play in the game, trailing 26-21.

Union Local junior Hayden McCrate, who had a huge game on the offensive side with 121 yards rushing and 84 more receiving, pounced on a Shamrocks’ fumble, which was their lone turnover of the game.

However, the Shamrocks’ defense didn’t even blink. The Jets proceeded to go backward until junior quarterback Carter Blake found senior Caleb McWhorter for a 20-yard gain, but was 3 yards short of the first down.

The Shamrocks — on a third and six play — got the ball into their best play maker’s hands. Senior Spencer Bliss, who had 142 yards of offense between rushing and passing, picked up seven yards for a first down, allowing them to run out the clock.

Until that point when they finally got the last defensive stand, the Shamrocks simply couldn’t shake the Jets.

They were up by two scores on three separate occasions, but each time the Jets had an answer.

“We’re going to learn a lot from this game, especially situationally, because we had chances to take control of the game,” Allen said. “Overall, we’re playing sound defense, but we’re giving up too many big plays.”

Late in the half, the Jets punched when Blake somersaulted into the end zone from 3 yards out. Arnell Puig Bach was true on the first of his three PATs.

However, the Shamrocks, taking the second half kickoff, pushed it back to a two-score game when Owyn Wise scored his second touchdown of the night. This one was from 2 yards out. Hannahs outraced the UL defense to the pylon for the 2-point conversion, making it 20-7.

McCrate was finally able to get unleashed in the ensuing drive, but the march ended with Chase Conner picking off a Blake pass. The Jets appeared to be set for a first and goal from the 4-yard line, but McCrate was flagged for hurdling a defender and it pushed the Jets back to the 19.

“We left a lot of points on the field,” Thompson said. “The hurdling call is one I don’t understand. It seems like a kid is being penalized for being athletic, but it is what it is. It’s a rule. We didn’t capitalize on our opportunities.”

He capped a nine-play drive, which was fueled by a 32-yard pass from Blake to Sawyer Moore, from 5 yards out.

However, the Shamrocks had one more answer. Conner Jones, who scored the first touchdown of the game, plowed in from a yard out. Two big pass plays on the drive saw Hannahs hook up with Chase Conner for 28 and Bliss for 16.

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