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River Pilots Way Into Playoffs

October 31, 2018

The River Pilots reached the Ohio Division VII playoffs for the fourth straight time while making their 2018 season record to 5-5 with a 18-7 drubbing of Frontier on Oct. 26, on a rainy Martin Flannery Field.

The Pilots took the opening kick and would go three and out before turning the ball over on downs.

The Cougars threatened and were down near the 10-yard line before going backwards with the help of a seven-yard quarterback sack by Hunter Dennis. Michael Johnson then picked off a pass in the end zone. Johnson would run the interception back to midfield, but a holding call brought the ball back to their own 22-yard line.

From there, the Pilots would get too far and punted. The Pilots held the Cougars to a three and out but would need to travel 90 yards if they wanted to reach the end zone as the punt rolled dead at the 10-yard line.

Johnson started a 16-play 90-yard drive by hauling in a pair of Stone Thompson shuttle passes for about 20 yards. Hunter Dennis, seeing plenty of action with his brother Carter out with an illness, rushed nine times and ended the drive with a one-yard touchdown carry, while dragging four or five Cougar defenders on his back to give the hosts a 6-0 lead 9:08 left in the second period.

After the ensuing kick, the Cougars fumbled on a fourth and one, and the Pilots would get the ball back once more.

Again, Johnson hauled in a Thompson shuttle pass, and once again, Dennis went to work - carrying the ball nine of the next 10 plays before Johnson tapped off the 12-play drive with a touchdown scamper to give the hosts a 12-0 lead with only 1:53 left in the first half.

Frontier would start their final drive of the first half at mid-field. After a nine-yard pitch and catch, and a incomplete pass, the Cougars went to their bag of tricks and got a first down on a reverse for a new set of downs. After a 15-yard pitch and catch, and a six yard keeper, they would connect on another pitch and catch for a first down and were on their way to the promised land.

However, Alex Refener sacked the Cougar quarterback, and Chase Lawrence would end the Frontier quest with an interception to end the first half.

Frontier started the second half with a couple first downs on three very nice runs by Eli Fickiesen and Joel Lewis, but the Pilots lost one of their best linemen in Heath Rosen with an injury.

Frontier added two more big runs by the same duo before the Pilots' Refener recovered a Frontier fumble near the end zone line to halt the Frontier Cougars' second consecutive golden opportunities to score.

The Pilots went back three inches due to a penalty, but the River work horse put on his hard hat and went to work once more. Dennis rushed three straight times to pick up a first down to give the Pilots a little breathing room before Johnson was tackled straight on for no gain. But, once again, Dennis went right to work and picked up 14 yards on three more carries before the Cougars forced a River punt with three minutes and change left in the third.

Frontier couldn't get anything going, and River took over at their own 29-yard line. River went on a nine-play drive only to punt the ball. However, the Colton Lawrence punt rolled dead at the six-yard line.

After an incomplete pass, the Cougars fumbled the ball at the three-yard line, and Dennis ran it in to push the lead to 18-0 with 10:40 left in fourth period.

Frontier took over at their own 34-yard line and went to work on a 12-play 66-yard drive that had a little bit of everything. More nice runs by Fickiesen and Lewis, a couple nice completions by JD Schmidt and a double-reverse, a fumble, incomplete passes, a holding call - all topped of with a 12-yard touchdown run by Lewis and a PAT kick by Briar West to close the gap to 18-7.

The Cougar ensuing on-side kick didn't go the way they wanted and River took over at mid-field. Seven straight runs by Dennis got them down the the 30-yard line, but they turned the ball over on downs.

Dennis paced the Pilots on both sides of the ball; he rushed for 166 yards on 38 carries and scored two touchdowns, while causing a couple fumbles and making countless tackles, both solo and assisting. He also had a sack as well as sharing one, while causing havoc in the Cougar back field on about every passing play.

In addition, Johnson tacked on 23 yards and a scored on eight attempts while hauling in five passes for 26 yards. Cooper VanCamp caught two passes for 22 yards, and Avery Creamer caught one pass.

The win gave the Pilots a date with No. 1 seed Lucas in the Division VII, Region 27 sectional opener.



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