Story by John Blake
Photos by Ryan Kaczmarski
This wasn't the offense Rocky River head coach Rick Adams was accustomed to seeing.
Hosting Westlake, the Pirates trailed, 9-7, in the second quarter. That made it only 21 points scored in the previous five quarters for Rocky River, a team which had averaged 42 points per game in the first five weeks of the season.
However, Adams never hit the panic button and knew his Pirates would break out of it sooner or later. Well, in the second quarter against the Demons, they did.
Rocky River exploded for 21 in the second quarter and cruised to a 48-16 nonconference win over the visiting Demons Friday night at Rocky River Stadium.
"We have better athletes and we just made some mistakes down here," said Adams, whose team improved to 5-2 overall on the season heading into its big October 17 matchup against Avon.
"We knew we were going to get it going," Adams said. "What we saw on film was we thought we could take advantage of certain formations. That's what we tried to do."
Wide receiver Patrick Connors, who led all pass catchers with 129 yards on four receptions, hauled in two of his three touchdown grabs on the night in the final two minutes of the half as the Pirates strolled into the locker room up, 28-9.
"They've got some good players than can make plays," said Westlake head coach Mark Campo. "They have lot of playmakers with speed. so it's a pretty potent offense."
But the Demons' game plan had the Pirates on their heels in the early going. Keeping the ball on the ground and the Rocky River offense off the field, they were the clear leaders in time of possession and number of plays.
Campo was forced to adjust his offense a bit due to some injuries, but the change had its benefits in the opening quarter. Tariq Beach, playing the Wildcat roll behind center, took a snap and ran 85 yards to tie the game at 7-7.
The Demon defense held its own and even recorded a safety a few possessions later to take a two-point lead with 9:11 left in the half.
All was working according to plan. For the time being.
Rocky River quickly got into gear and scored three touchdowns in the final 6:33 before halftime.
"We've got some injuries in some key spots, so we put players in what we thought was the best chance to win," Campo said.
"It was working for awhile, but you run that kind of offense, you can't shoot yourself in the foot. You can't make up penalty yards or negative plays," he said.
Rocky River's dynamic quarterback, Matt Lowry, showed his versatility on a sensational 65-yard run down the sidelines to the end zone to give the Pirates a 14-9 lead.
Connors capped off the half with 50 and 55-yard touchdown grabs from Lowry, who completed 10-of-16 passes for 206 yards and six touchdowns on the night. He also added eight rushes for 100 yards.
"Our line did a great job protecting Matt," said Adams. "A couple of the scrambles he had I thought were on him, not the line. When you have a quarterback who can run like that, I'm not gonna question him a lot.
"He's a hell of a weapon, and I'm glad I have him," he said.
Connors' second touchdown came on the first play from scrimmage after Westlake turned the ball over on downs near midfield. Having just scored a few minutes earlier, the Pirates had 47 seconds to work with.
They only needed eight. Connors got past the defender over the middle and Lowry hit him in stride.
"On that one, we had a hitch called on that last touchdown before the half and he checked to Patrick Connors right down the seam," said Adams. "That was Matt making that adjustment and we worked on that during the week."
Evan Nugent also got into the act, catching two passes for 33 yards, both going for touchdowns. The second came on an 11-yarder with 8:26 to play in the third to put the Pirates comfortably ahead, 41-9.
Not to be outdone by Lowry and his receivers, running back Travis Smith had nine carries for 144 yards, including a 44-yard scoring run just two plays into the second half.
Adams said his offense is tough to beat when it is in rhythm and clicking on all cylinders.
"We kind of sputtered the last couple weeks on offense. We were trying to get a little too cute," said Adams. "It was good to just get back to the basics and do what we do."
Beach, one of the Demons' lone weapons on the night, was darting through the Pirates' defense in the first quarter. Rocky River didn't have an answer for the Wildcat runs by Westlake, but it settled down in the final three quarters.
"Our assistant coaches, Eric Tuokkola and Mark Hogya, did a great job making adjustments in the second quarter and second half to stop them," Adams said. "I think after the first quarter, we really did a good job of shutting down their outside run.
"We were just playing more aggressive, Adams said. "You can only teach so much, at some point kids have to step up. They've done a great job the last couple weeks stepping up and making plays. Today it was one big play that we gave up.
"We made a couple of adjustments with personnel, but really the kids are just playing hard and making plays," he added.
Rocky River and Avon (6-1), both riding two-game win streaks, will clash next Friday. The Eagles are coming off a 56-21 win over North Ridgeville.
Westlake, now 3-4, will host 6-1 Berea-Midpark on Friday.
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Click on the camera below to view Ryan's photos from this game: