Big plays were the name of the game on Homecoming Night for the Bay Rockets.
The Rockets got impact plays from juniors Jack Blake and Ryan Voiers and senior Evan Campbell that led to a 24-14 win over Vermilion in their West Shore Conference opener. With the win, Bay moved to 2-3 overall at the season’s halfway mark.
Down 14-7, Voiers returned a kickoff 71 yards in the second quarter that eventually led to a 31-yard field goal by Jack Creech. On the first play after the ensuing kickoff, Campbell blew up a Vermilion pitch play and caused a fumble, with Blake recovering.
Five plays later, junior Andy Barbour scored from five yards out and Creech made the conversion kick. Just like that, it was 17-14, a Bay lead that held through the rest of the half and throughout the third quarter.
“I think the kickoff return really helped us tonight,” said Rockets head coach Ryan Gorius.
“Special teams play is big for us, and we weren’t happy with the way some of our kickoffs had been run,” Gorius said. “We consider that an offensive play, so we made some adjustments and the kids did a great job with their assignments on Ryan’s return.
“You get plays like that, and the momentum changes. We’re down 14-7, but we get the big return and we’re knocking at the door on their 11 yard line. We had to settle for the field goal, but then we come right back and force the fumble to get the ball back inside their 25. That was huge for us going into halftime,” he added.
In the fourth quarter, Campbell hauled in a 36-yard touchdown pass from freshman quarterback Chris Brajdic. Creech added the kick, and Bay had increased its lead to 24-14 with just under six minutes left in the game.
Barbour had two touchdowns on the night, the first coming on a six-yard run that gave the Rockets an early 7-0 lead. the Sailors, however, returned the kickoff 94 yard moments later to tie the score at 7-7.
Vermilion took the lead, 14-7 on a five-yard touchdown run before the big plays turned things around for the Rockets.
For the game, Voiers had 16 carries for 77 yards, while Campbell rushed for 33 yards and Barbour 30. On the night, the Rockets gained 173 yards on 43 carries.
“I think our offense found an identity tonight,” Gorius said. “I was really pleased with our running game, and we didn’t turn the ball over once.
“This team’s been fighting the entire season. We’ve played a tough non-conference schedule that has prepared us for different things we’ll see the rest of the way. Tonight started our second season, and there’s a lot of football left,” he said.
The Rockets continue WSC play next Friday night when they travel out to Grafton to take on Midview. The Middies moved to 4-1 overall and 2-0 in the league with their 34-14 in at Rocky River.
Pirates run into Middie buzz saw
The running of Jacob Bennett and the passing of Cody Callaway proved too much for Rocky River to handle Friday night. The visiting Middies blew open a close game in the second half and left town with a 34-14 win in a key WSC game.
“We were concerned about their passing game,” said River head coach Rick Adams. “He was tough, but their running game killed us. We had two turnovers that led to points for them, so that didn’t help either.
“Still, we were in the game at halftime and had the ball to start the second half. We felt pretty good about where we were at,” Adams said. “But we didn’t execute some of the adjustments we made at halftime, and they took advantage.”
Callaway threw for over 270 yards, while Bennett ran the ball 20 times for 133 yards. Still, the Pirate defense held its ground to keep the game within reach in the first half, and sophomore quarterback Alex Theiling found Matt Kadlec for a touchdown to make it 14-7 at the half.
Theiling threw a second touchdown pass, this one a 13-yarder to Austin Kelly in the third quarter. Midview, however, countered with a pair of touchdown runs from Bennett and a touchdown pass from Callaway to get the win.
Rocky River fell to 3-2 overall and 1-1 in the WSC. The Pirates will host state-ranked Avon next Friday night. The Eagles are coming off a 27-16 win over Elyria Catholic to move to 5-0 on the season.