Pirates roll over Rams in NWCC contest


By Tom Stephens



DeGRAFF — After letting a game literally slip away in a Week 6 loss to Sidney Lehman, Riverside rebounded Oct. 9 with a 45-8 pounding of Upper Scioto Valley in a Northwest Central Conference game in DeGraff.

The Pirates, now 6-1 on the year, created a bottleneck at the top of NWCC standings with the win over the Rams. USV came to DeGraff as the only team in the conference without a league loss, but since the Pirates dropped an “L” on the Rams Oct. 9, there is now a four-way tie for first place as Riverside, USV, Lehman, and Ft. Loramie all sport identical 3-1 league records. Perry is just one game out of first with a 2-2 record. With just three short weeks left in the season, Riverside’s win over USV and Ft. Loramie’s late resurgence (the ‘Skins opened the season 0-4) have blown the race for the NWCC title wide open.

Not that this is any concern of Riverside head coach Tim McGill.

“We don’t look at it that way, we really don’t,” McGill said after watching his Pirates hold the Rams to under 300 total yards and 23 points less than they have been averaging per game this season. “We don’t look to do anything except get better on a week-to-week basis.”

League standings, coaches’ polls, and computer rankings do not come up as subjects of conversations at Riverside practices, at McGill’s insistence. He said that it’s counterproductive to the message he’s been sending all year long. Standings, rankings, etc. are what McGill calls ‘the big stuff’, that is, things over which neither he nor his team have control. Riverside’s focus, McGill has said repeatedly this season, is attention to detail, something which his coaches and players can have and exert control.

“Most of the mistakes we made (in the Lehman loss) were corrected in the first hour at the next practice,” McGill said. “That was it. It was taken care of, then we went right back to what we always do. We go to work on the ‘little’ things, the ‘little’ things that good football teams do to win ballgames. You can see that it paid off for us (against USV).”

McGill was especially pleased with junior quarterback Trey Helmlinger’s performance against the Rams. Having never played quarterback before this year, Helmlinger is getting OJT for what is arguably the most demanding position in any sport. There have been bumps along the way, to be sure, but McGill pointed to the USV game as a measure of Helmlinger’s growth.

“Trey did a great job at running the offense and playing with confidence,” McGill said of Helmlinger’s game against the Rams. “He’s learning how to run the show and is doing a pretty good job at it.” McGill said. “Hey, he’s the quarterback on a team that’s six and one. He must be doing something right.”

Helmlinger has not been called to throw the ball often this season, but has shown that he can hit a target when needed. Twice this year Helmlinger has tossed what would have been scoring passes to Shane Crawford, but the first taken away when the defender mugged Crawford in the end zone for a TD-saving pass interference call, while the second occurred during the USV game when a picture-perfect rainbow from Helmlinger-to-Crawford was negated by a holding penalty. Helmlinger got payback, however, as the two passes he did complete against the Rams both went to Hank Harshbarger for touchdowns.

Connor Cotterman did his usual yeoman’s job running the ball for the Pirates against the Ram defense, racking up 205 yards and a touchdown on 32 carries, while Peyton Scherer rushed for 59 yards and a TD and Joey Kaeck added a third rushing score.

Jon Norris and Blake Sacks continue to menace the rest of the NWCC with their outstanding and hard-nosed defensive play. Both broke double-digits in tackles against USV, and each had a sack. Norris also pulled off a defensive hat trick with an interception and both a fumble caused and recovered.

Turnovers, which proved to be the Pirates’ undoing against the Cavaliers in Week 6, were not a factor for the hosts against the Rams. Riverside was forced into five punts, but otherwise kept the ball to themselves.

The win moves Riverside up one spot to #4 in the Division 7, Region 26 OHSAA computer rankings.

Riverside’s next road block to the NWCC hardware and a playoff berth will be a road game at Lima Perry on Oct 16. The Commodores will be coming into the game after pitching a 30-0 shutout against Waynesfield-Goshen Oct 9.

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By Tom Stephens