(BLUFFTON) - The Bluffton High football season came to an end Friday night as endless sheets of rain and snow swept across Harmon Field. The nasty conditions matched some bitter play on the field. Columbus Grove defeated Bluffton 21-6 to end the Pirate season with a 3-7 record, including 1-6 in conference play. Grove moved on to Week 11, when they will host Pandora-Gilboa in playoff action.
The weather conditions limited both squads as passing the ball was nearly impossible. This favored the run-heavy Bulldogs and their brusing running back, Joey Warnecke. The back finished the night with 239 yards on 25 carries and three touchdowns. The Pirates held Warnecke in check through the first quarter. However, Warnecke burst up the middle for 30 yards on the first play of the second quarter in a sign of things to come. Later in the quarter, Warnecke found daylight up the right sideline, waited for a blocker to help him, and finished a 75 yard touchdown run for the game’s only score of the first half.
The Pirates had their chances, with three drives starting inside the Columbus Grove 40 yard line. However, each of the drives stalled on downs with the Pirates advancing to the Bulldog ten yard line just once. A fourth down pass into the end zone to Levi Kistler was batted down by a Bulldog defender. The duo of senior Clay Wilson and freshman Kaleb Jefferson carried most of the load in the first half, as the Pirates only attempted four passes, completing two.
Columbus Grove received the second half kickoff, owners of a 7-0 lead. The Bulldogs tweaked their game plan at halftime and went to Warnecke repeatedly. The senior ripped off runs of 23, 8 and 2 yards before barrelling 28 yards for his second score. The Pirates also adjusted the offensive game plan to try throwing the ball more. Mitchell Ault completed four of six passes in the second half but as the wind howled and the rain turned to snow, he could not go downfield as Pirate fans have grown accustomed to. Columbus Grove began blitzing frequently and recorded four third quarter sacks on Ault. The last one sent the junior to the sidelines for the remainder of the game with an ankle injury.
Columbus Grove punched in their final score on the first play of the fourth quarter to take a 21-0 lead. The teams traded possessions throughout the quarter with senior Robbie Stratton playing quarterback for Bluffton. Stratton ended the game with 59 yards on 11 carries and was BHS’ leading rusher. Seniors Wilson, Dylan Alt and Devin Luginbuhl got in on the act as well carrying the ball. The Pirates mounted one last drive, moving downfield exclusively on the ground with Stratton making men miss and Wilson and Luginbuhl moving the pile. As the clock neared expiration, Stratton handed off to Wilson at the ten yard line. The senior sprinted right, near the sideline, then turned upfield stiff arming a Bulldog defender. Wilson shed the tackler and leapt into the end zone for a touchdown on the final carry of his career. This made the final score 21-6 as time had expired.
Eleven seniors played their final game for Bluffton Friday night: Devin Luginbuhl, Dylan Alt, Robbie Stratton, Levi Kistler, Austin Bricker, Clay Wilson, Chris Justus, Ross Zimmerman, Brady Parkins, Andrew Spallinger, and Brandon Hemry.