The Black River Pirates (9-1) put an emphatic stamp on the end of the regular season Friday with a 53-0 over the Wellington Dukes (0-10).
Riley Gibbs’ 192 rushing yards along with 136 from fellow senior Travis Sexton were only part of the 496 their team racked up in total.
The win secures Black River a three seed in Division V Region 17 and a home playoff game this week against Gilmour Academy.
“It’s been a long journey for us and it feels awesome,” said Gibbs, who also scored two first quarter touchdowns. “I think this is the first time ever this school has had three 1,000-yard rushers in the same season. Our line and our defense will be key to taking another step in the playoffs this year. If our secondary is on-point, I feel like we can beat anyone.”
The third runner Gibbs was referring to was fullback Jacob Campbell, who chipped in 65 yards and two scores of his own on the ground.
“Now it’s time to get everyone healthy and watch a lot of film,” Campbell said. “We all want to watch more film than we did last year and just be more prepared in general.”
A six-yard touchdown run by Sexton opened scoring followed by Gibbs’ pair to spell a 19-0 lead after a quarter.
Rainy conditions caused a multitude of fumbles, including six by Black River. Two botched snaps by Wellington in the second quarter helped the Pirates score the rest of their points by halftime: Campbell’s touchdown runs, two more courtesy of quarterback Riley Bartolic, and one from sophomore Caleb Simonson just before halftime.
Bartolic attempted just one pass in the entire game.
Wellington quarterbacks Ben Higgins and Jayden Skinner combined for 174 yards passing with seniors Mason Wright (72 yards) and Nathaniel Shelton (63) drawing the majority of targets.
A difficult season did not stop Dukes players from forming lasting bonds, as many stayed on the field well after the clocked ticked zero to say how much they’ll miss playing together.
“I wish I could play 10 more games, even if it was another 0-10 season,” said senior Drew Mason, a disruptive force in the Wellington front seven throughout the year. “We came together as a team, loved each other, and helped each other. I couldn’t ask for a better group of seniors, juniors, sophomores, and freshmen. There were some quitters but we all had the guts to see it through.”
Senior running back Justin Skinner shared similar thoughts as he embraced teammates and family members.
“We’ve been through a lot during my four years in high school,” he said. “Between coaching changes, switching everything around, and losing people I was close too, it all goes by so fast. It went by faster than I ever thought it would. I’d give up my life just to play one more down.”
First-year head coach Roy Moore said he was happy with the continued effort week to week.
“These guys came out here and fought but things just didn’t turn out how we wanted them to this year,” he said. “I’m proud to have stood out here with them and we’ll miss our guys who aren’t coming back. For those who are, we’ll be ready to work and find ways to improve.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.