(BLUFFTON) - Two football teams looking for an identity squared off Friday evening at Harmon Field. Bluffton had soundly defeated Cory-Rawson to open the season but fell flat at Van Buren last week. Fort Loramie came to town with two close losses to perennial power Minster and defending state champion Fort Recovery. After a scoreless first half, the Bluffton playmakers took over and powered the Pirates to a 14-0 victory. Bluffton improved to 2-1 on the season, Fort Loramie fell to 0-3.
After a scoreless and largely lifeless first half, the Pirate offense moved the ball effectively on all three second half possessions. On the first drive, BHS found lightning in a bottle from running back Kaleb Jefferson. Bluffton head coach Jeff Richards was forced to make a tough call facing fourth and one from their own 39 yard line. Instead of plunging for the first down, Jefferson ran a wheel route out of the backfield and quarterback Jason Bracy threw a dart up the right sideline. Jefferson outran his defender and won the ball in the air. Able to keep his feet, the speedy junior raced to the end zone untouched to give the Pirates their first lead. Kyle Koontz’ extra point had Bluffton leading 7-0 with 10:18 left in the third quarter.
The second drive of the half took 15 plays going from the Bluffton 30 yard line to the Fort Loramie 10. Koontz’ 27 yard field goal try sailed wide right but the Pirates had stumbled upon a successful formula to pick up first downs. Richards said, “The execution by our offensive line was much better this week. We felt Fort Loramie’s defensive line was more imposing than any we had faced this year. We have a few options out of the backfield. We have a bruiser in Jefferson and then some lateral guys in Falk and Bricker and we are trying to best use our guys.” When the Redskins began to crowd the box, Bracy would find a speedy receiver in space. The senior quarterback completed 9 of 13 passes for 153 yards on the night. “Jason did a great job finding open guys and scrambling when he needed to. I was happy with our balance,” Richards commented. On the drive, Bracy was 3/3 for 48 yards finding Dustin Falk and Dakota Bricker for first downs.
After a Dustin Falk interception, Bluffton scored a second touchdown to the put the game out of reach with just two minutes left. After a smattering of Falk and Jefferson carries, Bracy threw to Brady Basinger on a crossing route for a first down at the Redskin 16 yard line. Dakota Bricker got the Pirates to the doorstep, taking a direct snap and carrying the ball twelve yards to the one yard line. Jefferson plowed in for the final score of the evening. “Running the ball, we wanted to spread them out and keep wearing them down. With our running offense, we’ve been preaching to our kids that it will take some time to wear out our opponent throughout a game. Tonight, in the fourth quarter as we were able to really pick up yards down the stretch. It’s great when the running backs are asking to run the ball late in games.”
Defensively, the Pirates kept the Redskins in check from the opening kickoff to final cannon blast. Fort Loramie was able to gain just 131 total yards and entered the Bluffton 20 yard line on one drive. Jordan Wehrly, Cole Wilson and Jefferson all registered sacks and Justin Haggard and Gavin Conrad added tackles for losses. Fort Loramie’s offense was ran out of the wishbone primarily and featured overloads, inside handoffs and deception. The Redskins picked up 81 yards on 36 rushing attempts, a 2.3 average per carry. Dustin Falk had a big night with 9.5 tackles and an interception. Jefferson added 7 tackles, Basinger 5 and Owen Bischoff & Hunter Busch 3.5 each.
Bluffton will take to the road Friday, traveling to Paulding for the first Northwest Conference matchup of the season. The Panthers are 1-2 and coming off a 38-20 victory over Antwerp.