(HARROD) - After wins the past two weeks, Coach Kyle Cutnaw spoke about starting games faster. Fortunately in those contests, the Pirates were able to rebound for the victories in the second half. Friday at Allen East, the story ended differently. The Mustangs burst out to a 21-0 first half lead and eventually handed the Pirates their first loss of the season by a 41-24 score. To quickly describe the scores and big plays would not do this game justice. Friday night’s contest was very physical and hard hitting, even more than usual. One Pirate and two Mustangs were not able to finish the contest which featured a combined 79 running plays and several leveling hits.
After a scoreless first quarter, Allen East scored on three straight possessions in the second stanza, capitalizing on the superb ball carrying of running backs Caleb Smelcer and Logan Schick combined with quarterback Spencer Miller. For the first score, Schick bulled in from a yard out to make it 7-0. The drive lasted twelve plays, covered 83 yards and started after a Pirate fumble. The second touchdown came when Miller connected with Smelcer for the next score on a 15 yard pass on fourth and goal. For the third touchdown, Miller scampered 61 yards on a read option and the Pirates were in a deep, early hole. Mustang coach Mike Abbey said, “Miller made some really athletic plays tonight and gives us a third threat out of the backfield at any time.”
The Pirates were able to get a touch of momentum just before halftime. Blake Sampson sacked Miller and forced a fumble which Zach Little pounced on at the Allen East 30 yard line with just 31 seconds left. Three plays later, Carrick Lancaster boomed a 38 yard field goal through to make it 21-3 at halftime. BHS picked right back up in the second half, starting with a 49 yard run by Dakota Bricker on the first play of the third quarter. Three plays later, Mitchell Ault threw a laser to Sam Crisp who kept a foot inbounds along the right edge of the endzone for a touchdown. Trailing 20-10 and moving the ball well, things looked better for Bluffton. However, the Mustangs showed they were able to make halftime adjustments as well. The hosts drove 65 yards in seven plays, moving the ball through the air for the first time. After not attempting a first half pass, Miller completed three throws for 45 yards on the drive, including the final 17 yards to Luke Perkins, wide open on the right side. This score pushed the lead back out to 28-10 in favor of AE.
Coming into the game, Bluffton had turned the ball over just twice in four contests. Friday, the Pirates turned three times. The second fumble set up Allen East at the Bluffton 26 yard line and the Mustangs put the game away with another score by Miller, this time a 31 yard run. Cutnaw said, “We hadn’t turned the ball over much this year. Turnovers put us in some tough spots and we had trouble getting off the field on third and fourth down defensively tonight.” Trailing 34-10, the Pirates gave their fans a few plays to cheer about. The Pirates drove 74 yards in seven plays, capped off by a nine yard scamper by Dakota Bricker for the score. Along the way, Brady Basinger caught a 20 yard pass from Ault and Crisp hauled in a 23 yard toss. Early in the fourth quarter, Bluffton found the end zone for the final time. Kaleb Jefferson had a bruising 13 yard run on the drive and made a nifty grab on a rollout to the right for the touchdown pass from Ault. Trailing 34-24, Bluffton attempted an onside kick but the Mustangs recovered. Mustang running back Kyle Nickles bolted 54 yards up the left sideline on the next play for the final score of the game.
Reviewing the game statistics, Allen East won the yardage battle, 432-336. The Mustangs rushed for 344 yards compared with 188 for Bluffton. Dakota Bricker led the way with 117 yards on 17 carries for Bluffton. Caleb Smelcer went for 192 yards on 22 carries for Allen East. Miller was precise in his passing, completing 6 of 7 for 88 yards and two scores. Mitchell Ault was 15 of 29 for 148 and two scores as well, returning after missing last week’s game. Jefferson (5.5) and Brady Basinger (5.0) led the way for Bluffton defensively; both had a tackle for loss. Zach Little recovered two fumbles, one offensive and one defensive.
Up next for Bluffton is the Homecoming Contest with Delphos Jefferson. The Jeffcats are 4-1 and drubbed Paulding 41-0 in their most recent game.
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