(BLUFFTON) - The two top passers in the Northwest Conference put on a display Friday night. Pirate quarterback Mitchell Ault threw for 399 yards and Ada’s Seth Conley threw for 370 as Ada came back from a 35-14 second half deficit to hold off Bluffton 42-41 in a thrilling ball game. After surrendering the lead, Bluffton was able to score with just 22 seconds left, but Ada blocked the extra point to win the ball game. For Bluffton, wideout Austin Bricker set a school record with 15 receptions for 184 yards.
The 83 combined points is a marvel considering the game was scoreless with six minutes remaining in the first half. The teams traded sets of touchdowns over the last 5:44 of the second quarter to get the scoring started. Ault threaded two scoring passes to Robbie Stratton, one for 25 yards on a slant and the next a 28 yard lob to the back corner of the end zone for Bluffton’s two scores. Dating back to the week prior, it was the sixth consecutive Pirate touchdown scored on a pass from Ault to Stratton. On the night, Stratton caught 10 balls for 121 yards and the two scores. Ada answered both drives with scores but still, Bluffton’s offense was clicking. An Ault pass was picked off at the goal line as time expired on the first 24 minutes of play.
The Pirate offense exploded in the second half creating a huge lead. Ault opened the second half with a rushing touchdown of three yards to make it 21-14. The Pirate defense forced a turnover on downs and Bluffton scored in just three plays. Ault stayed on his feet with a defender dragging him down and threw to a wide open Sam Crisp who raced 48 yards to make it 28-14. The Pirate ‘D’ turned in another three and out and the offense went back to work from their own 40. This drive stayed mainly on the ground with Ault picking up runs of 13, 22, and 16 yards, the last one ending in the end zone. Clay Wilson added a 12 yard scamper on the drive as well. The scoreboard read 35-14 with 55 seconds left in the third quarter.
The Ada offense suddenly came to life and punched in their first score since the second quarter with 11:55 left in the fourth to make it 35-21. Bluffton punted after three plays and Ada scored on a seven play drive, completeing passes of 13, 5,10 and 25 yards including the scoring toss over the middle to Grant McBride to make the score 35-28 with 9:47 left on the clock. The Pirate offense was able to move the chains but a fumble near midfield was recovered by the Bulldogs and AHS tied the game six plays later on a five yard. The Ada defense again stepped up, forcing a Pirate punt which traveled just eight yards to the Ada 46.
With the score tied late in the game, Bluffton’s defense stepped up and forced an Ada punt. Conley, who doubles as the punter, boomed a punt deep into Pirate territory and it was mishandled. The Bulldogs recovered the loose ball and took the lead on the very next play. Conley threw a throwback screen to Blake Ansley out of the backfield and he walked into the end zone from 13 yards out to give Ada a 42-35 lead with 3:05 left. The Pirates were down, but not out.
Robbie Stratton juked his way to a terrific return up the right sideline on the ensuing kickoff, setting up the Pirate possession at their own 47 yard line. A holding call immediately backed up the Pirates and soon BHS faced a fourth down and 21 from their own 36 yard line. Ault loaded up and heaved the ball down the left sideline to Stratton who somehow out jumped three Bulldogs and came down with a 38 yard catch, immediately in front of the Pirate Superfans who erupted with joy. Ault completed passes twice to Bricker and once to Stratton setting up a third and goal at the two with 26 seconds left. Ault found Bricker on an out route to make the score 42-41 with 22 seconds left. Ada called timeout and the teams came back out to line up for the extra point. The Bulldogs were able to get through on the edges and blocked the extra point of Dylan Alt to preserve the win. Ada recovered the onside kick and took a knee to win the game.
Statistically, it was another career day for Mitch Ault. The junior quarterback completed 32 of 52 passes for 399 yards and four touchdowns. Bricker’s record setting night included catches of slants, screens, go routes..you name it. The senior was everywhere on offense with 15 catches for 184 yards. Ault was also the leading BHS rusher with 51 yards on 12 carries and two scores.
Defensively, the defensive backs were busy as Ada threw the ball 60 times. Dustin Falk (6), Robbie Stratton (5.5), Dylan Alt (5.5), Clay Wilson (5) and Austin Bricker (4) led the Pirate tackling effort. Levi Kistler picked off a Bulldog pass along the sideline in the first quarter.
Bluffton falls to 1-4 on the season, including 0-3 in the Northwest Conference. Ada improves to 2-3 and 1-2 in conference play. The Pirates travel to Allen East next week in NWC action. The Mustangs also lost a heartbreaker, falling 37-36 to Crestview after leading most of the game.