(VAN BUREN) - To succeed on the gridiron, a team must take care of the football and have a solid defense Bluffton High painted themselves in a corner Friday night with no way out. The Pirates turned the ball over three times and struggled to stop the Black Knight offensive attack. The result was a 26-3 victory for Van Buren which evened both teams’ record at 1-1.
In particular, two of the turnovers were back to back and split the game wide open. Van Buren led 7-3 late in the second quarter but Bluffton held possession at their own 40 yard line. VB defensive end Justin Parker batted a Jason Bracy pass into the air and then proceeded to catch the ball giving the Knights possession. Three plays later, Knight quarterback Riley Adolph threw a swing pass to Jacob Leal who juked and jived his way 35 yards to the endzone. A muffed kick left the score 13-7 Van Buren. Gavin Conrad, who had returned the previous kickoff 80 yards deep into Van Buren territory, coughed up the ball which Van Buren recovered with less than a minute left in the half. Adolph threw a dart to wideout Brady Deitrick covering 14 yards for a 20-3 lead. Coach Jeff Richards said, “That last minute of the half really took the wind out of our sails. Up to those rapid turnovers and scores, we were there in a back and forth struggle. Our kids were trying to make plays. We’ll learn and move forward.”
While the turnovers were daunting for BHS, the Pirate offense was stymied by the Black Knight defense from the opening whistle. Bluffton managed just 86 yards of offense for the game including 25 in the first half. “Offensively, a couple of things didn’t get going that we expected to. I was happy with our passing game, the offensive line protected well. But hats off to Van Buren for their defensive effort tonight. Our run game just could not get going,” Richards said. Quarterback Jason Bracy completed 11 of 22 passes for 51 yards. The Pirate rushing attack of Dustin Falk and Kaleb Jefferson that was so potent in Week 1 was able to pick up just 35 yards on 24 carries.
The lone Pirate points of the evening came from the foot of freshman kicker Kyle Koontz. The Pirate defense had forced a Knight punt and Bluffton set up shop at the Van Buren 46. The offense advanced to the Knight four yard line and had first and goal. The drive stalled there and Koontz pushed through his first career field goal attempt.
Van Buren outgained Bluffton 415-86 on the evening in total yardage and held a 19-6 advantage in first downs. Overall the Pirates had a ‘bend but don’t break’ mindset as they forced five punts. However, the defense was forced into some tough situations as all three Pirate turnovers were inside the 50, giving Van Buren a short field. The Pirate ‘D’ forced two turnovers of their own as Brice Rayle picked off an Adolph throw. Late in the game, Dustin Falk stripped the ball and Colin Phillips pounced on it. Phillips also had a sack in the game. Kaleb Jefferson led the team in tackles with 6.5 tackles followed by Dakota Bricker (5.5), Brady Basinger (4.5) and Gavin Conrad (4), including two tackles for loss. Deandre Nassar and Cole Wilson also had tackles for losses.
The Pirates will host their first game of the season Friday night against Fort Loramie. The Redskins are 0-2 after dropping a 32-0 contest to Fort Recovery Friday evening. Game time is set for 7:00. Before the game, the Pirates will host Parent’s Night. Additionally, the 1996 football squad will be honored before kickoff.