Big plays get Pirates past Fairview in grid opener
By Jim Horvath
It wasn’t pretty.
But a win is a win.
Rocky River, with nine new starters, battled through penalties and self-inflicted wounds the entire night in its 2011 home opener against Fairview. But big plays on both sides of the ball eventually made the difference in a 21-7 win Friday night.
“It was sloppy,” admitted Pirates head coach Rick Adams after his post game talk at midfield.
“We had a lot of penalties that should not have had,” Adams said. “Especially when we’re going hurry-up and we’re jumping offsides. We just can’t do that. But, we came out in the second half and the line made some good blocks for us offensively.
“That allowed Austin Kelly to make a great run and put it in the end zone, and that really gave us some breathing room,” he added.
The Pirates had taken a 14-7 lead in the first quarter on touchdown runs of 47 and 80 yards by senior running back Andreas Tjotjos. Sandwiched in between was a 53-yard kickoff return by the Warriors’ Anthony Santos which resulted in a 28-yard scoring run by John Doherty.
But as the second quarter began, the big plays were fewer and farther between. It wasn’t until 7:20 remained in the game that somebody could find the end zone. and that somebody was Kelly.
The junior signal caller, making his first varsity start, had taken the Pirates from their own 43-yard line to the Fairview 29. He had two runs of his own on the drive, gaining seven yards for a first down and 11 more fore a first down at the Warrior 32.
Tjotjos carried next for three yards, taking it down to the 29-yard line. On the next play, Kelly called his own number again, sprinting out to his left and following his blockers down the home sidelines for six.
Junior place kicker Harunaj Xhuljo, who had nailed his first two conversion kicks, made it three-for-three on the night to make it 21-7, River.
Meanwhile the defense, which had given up considerable yardage in the first half, began to clamp down on the Warrior running attack.
Junior linebacker Michael Dickey had already recovered a fumble late in the third quarter, stopping a Fairview drive at the Pirate 29. He stepped up again after Kelly’s touchdown, getting in on a sack of Warrior quarterback David Lansu and recovering the resulting fumble with 4:45 left in the game.
Late in the first half, an interception by junior David Gadelsayed stopped a Warrior drive deep in River territory with 39 seconds remaining.
“Our defense stood up when they had to,” Adams said. “They made some big plays for us, because on offense we were sputtering. The fumble recovery and the interception before the half were big turnovers that we really needed to keep things where they were.
“Dickey really has a nose for the ball. We’ve just got to get these guys off the field a little more. That’s one of the things that bothered me in the first half. We’d force a third and long, then give up the first down. But our defensive coaches made some adjustments at halftime and we did a much better job of preventing that,” he said.
Tjotjos ran the ball 15 times for 166 yards and two touchdowns. he had 145 of those yards in the first quarter. Kelly was just three of 10 passing for 31 yards and an interception, but ran the ball 15 times for 90 yards and a touchdown.
Those numbers helped offset 10 River penalties on the night.
“Offensively, Austin stepped up in his first varsity start and Andreas ran hard. Other than the one pick, I thought Austin managed the game well and put us in situations where we could keep the ball moving.
“He scrambled for yards, but he didn’t force things. Hopefully as he gets a few more games under his belt, we’ll be able to open it up a little more for him,” he added.
Rocky River, 1-0, will take on Trinity on the road next Saturday night.