River defense blanks Barnesville in 27-0 victory
HANIBAL— River High's defensive-minded Pilots took a big step toward two goals Friday on Senior Night at Martin Flannery Field in Hannibal.
An OVAC 2-A title appears close to reality and the hosts solidified their position for a high D7 playoff seed with a convincing 27-0 triumph over D6 Region 23 contender Barnesville.
"We answered a big test," said veteran mentor Mike Flannery, whose D unit stood out in "a group effort" while the offense found paydirt on highlight-reel plays. "The focus was there all week in the film sessions and it showed."
"There's a lot of tools in the toolkit," mentioned the River boss. "I thought we took a lot of what (Barnesville) likes to do away and it was a very unselfish effort by everyone."
The win, 20th in 33 career meetings with the Shamrocks, keeps the 4-1 record Pilots on top in the OVAC and sets up another major hurdle Friday when rival Shadyside visits.
"Credit goes to (River)," noted BHS mentor Blake Allen, his squad now 3-2 and host to ancient rival Union Local, Friday. "(River) was more physical and once we fell behind our run game wasn't able to sustain any drives."
"I thought a game of this magnitude we'd respond like we did the past two weeks after the loss to Beaver Local."
The Pilots broke the ice on their third possession when elusive senior Michael Johnson broke free for a 58-yard touchdown run. Zac Hocutt's place kick was perfect for a 7-0 lead at 2:55.
A huge stop on 4th-and-1 set up the hosts' second TD from midfield. After a procedure infraction, Avery Creamer caught a Brody Lollathin aerial on the left side, split two defenders and darted 55 yards crossfield for a spectacular 55 score.
Hocutt's PAT boot at 8:51 of the second quarter made it 14-0.
A diving interception by Barnesville senior A.J. Detling at his 38 stopped the next Pilot series, but the 'Rocks turned it over on downs at the hosts' 41.
Nate Bowers' QB sack on the ensuing series helped force a punt to set up a third River TD before halftime.
After Carter Dennis ran for eight, Jake Rose caught two passes to move it to the 14. A 'Rocks' infraction moved it to the seven-yard line, where Lollathin drilled Johnson for the TD. It was Johnson's 7th career touchdown versus Barnesville.
The PAT snap was bobbled but the margin was 20-0 with :06 remaining.
Lollathin's 29-yard scamper to the two set up a final TD by Creamer with 7:42 remaining.
Barnesville, beset with penalties and trouble passing, threatened late in the third at the hosts' 13, and later in the fourth quarter when a 4th down play was fumbled at the Pilot four.
Lollathin closed out the game with an interception at his 42.
Rose was outstanding in the punting game , while Chase Lawrence, Ty Long, Dennis, Nate Bowers and Austin Creamer shined on 'D'.
NEXT — Barnesville will host Union Local on Friday at 7 p.m.