BLANCHESTER — On the second night of the 2016 Cider Keg game Saturday, Clinton-Massie and Blanchester sent the game into hiatus with the series’ closest contest in nearly a decade.
In the end, the result was familiar. Clinton-Massie took the keg back to Lebanon Road. However, unlike the last eight matchups, it was not a Falcon blowout. Clinton-Massie held off Blanchester 33-29.
It was certainly a Blanchester team that looked totally different to CM Head Coach Dan McSurley.
“I’m not used to coaching against a Blanchester team like this,” McSurley said. “This is a whole different animal here. Anytime you run that type of offense and get 50 to 60 reps, you connect on three or four of them and you’re right there in the ballgame.”
After eight years of season-opening routs, McSurley’s squad had to fight to retain the Cider Keg.
“I told our guys, ‘nothing but respect for those guys,’ because they’re only going to make us better,” McSurley said. “We need to see a team like this. Usually you go into week two and you don’t know what you’ve got. Now we know what we need to work on. They gave us all we wanted, and coach should be proud of how their kids fought.”
For BHS Head Coach Brandon Sammons, it was a game that came down to a few missed opportunities.
“The kids played tough,” Sammons said. “We learned a few things about our guys. They fought back. We didn’t start that well with the day layover. We gave some things away. I think that’s pretty much what it came down to.”
Despite the defeat, Sammons believes his players now know that they can challenge good football teams.
“They’ve seen it now,” Sammons said. “They’ve seen that they can compete with it. If there’s any positive in that game, that’s the thing to take away. We told them, ‘you’ve got to learn from this, you’ve got to build on it, and next week you’ve got to make it a better product.’”
When play resumed Saturday night at the start of the third quarter, it appeared Blanchester had hit a big play.
Tristan Greene, on a scramble play, found a wide open Quenton Miller ahead of the defense. He caught it and took off. As he crossed midfield, he was hit from behind and fumbled. Luke Richardson recovered for the Falcons.
“That was a great hustle-type play,” Sammons said. “That’s what championship-type programs do. They do the little things right.”
Clinton-Massie capitalized with an 11-play, 62-yard drive that ended with a Brad Hunt 2-yard run. Clinton-Massie led 27-16 with 6:32 left in the third.
Blanchester would answer with a long drive of its own. Starting at its own 25, the Wildcats drove into Clinton-Massie territory to the 39. However, Greene would be picked off on a deflected pass by Cole O’Bryon.
On the next play, Devon O’Bryon would scamper 61 yards to give the Falcons a 33-16 lead with 43.4 left in the third.
“We came out of the gate really strong,” McSurley said. “We got up – that’s what we needed to do – and we just held on.
However, Blanchester wouldn’t go away. The Wildcats went on a 10-play drive from its own 20 to the Falcon 41. On fourth and seven from the CM 41, Greene’s pass was incomplete and Blanchester turned it over on downs with 7:37 left.
Two plays later, the Falcons would fumble the ball back to Blanchester. It took three plays for Blanchester to capitalize, when Greene found Dylan Miller for his third touchdown pass of the game. The 30-yard reception pulled Blanchester within 33-23 with 6:40 left.
Blanchester held the Falcon offense three-and-out, and would get the ball back at its own 28. Three Greene completions combined with a personal foul and pass interference penalty against the Falcons gave Blan first and goal at the 10.
The Wildcats would get no closer than the seven. Blan decided to go for it with 2:34 left on fourth and goal from the 7. The pass was incomplete.
A dropped Falcon punt snap would give Blanchester the ball back with 24.8 seconds left, but it took until time expired for Greene to find his way into the end zone to set the final score.
Greene had a monster night. He completed 19 of 35 passes for 342 yards, 3 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. Clinton-Massie’s rush defense held Blanchester to just seven yards on 27 carries.
“They had a hard time running, but that quarterback is a nifty kid,” McSurley said of Greene. “He gets out there, he’s got a good arm and he’s got some really nice talented kids to throw to.”
In total, Greene had a hand in all four Blanchester touchdowns.
“Tristan’s a warrior, and that kid will compete,” Sammons said. “Sometimes you look at him and are like, ‘you know what we’re running, right?’ We put a lot of stuff in. So his head is spinning but it’s starting to settle down.”
Meanwhile, the Falcons racked up 318 yards rushing on 48 carries. Devon O’Bryon had 175 yards rushing and two touchdowns, while Jaycob Wolf had 102 yards and two scores.
Clinton-Massie did turn the ball over four times, all on fumbles.
“The thing that’s disappointing is that we’re typically not used to giving up turnovers,” McSurley said. “These guys have been around the block long enough to know if you give up turnovers against a real good football team like Blanchester, you could easily lose.”
Close games have been far from the norm in this series. This is the closest game since Clinton-Massie beat Blanchester 10-7 in 2007. It’s only the third keg game since 1994 to be decided by one possession or less, joining 2007 and Blanchester’s 12-6 win in 1996.
“That’s the way it should end,” McSurley said. “When a series ends, for the next few years or whatever, it’s awesome for the two communities to go out with a keg game like this.”
The Falcons have beaten Blanchester by an average of 50.1 points per game over the last eight years. It was much different on this keg game weekend.
“I think they’re going to be a real tough team to beat in their league,” McSurley said of the Wildcats. “I know coach (Sammons) said he was favored to win the league. I think he’s dead on. It’s going to take a pretty good ballclub to beat these guys.”
@ Barbour Memorial Field, Blanchester
B – Dakota Penquite 32-yard FG 6:20
CM – Jaycob Wolf 3-yard run (Chris Demler kick) 41.5
B – Tristan Greene 82-yard pass to Nick Hopkins (Penquite kick) 11:44
CM – Wolf 2-yard run (Demler kick) 8:27
B – Greene 66-yard pass to Quenton Miller (kick failed) 7:09
CM – Devon O’Bryon 54-yard run (kick failed) 6:07
CM – Brad Hunt 2-yard run (Demler kick) 6:32
CM – Devon O’Bryon 61-yard run (kick failed) 43.4
B – Greene 30-yard pass to Dylan Miller (Penquite kick) 6:40
B – Greene 5-yard run (no conversion) 0.0
PLAYS: CM 51; B 61. FIRST DOWNS: CM 15; B 18. RUSHES-YARDS: CM 48-318; B 27-7. PASSING YARDS: CM 4; B 342. COMPLETIONS-ATTEMPTS-INTERCEPTIONS: CM 1-3-0; B 19-35-2. TOTAL YARDS: CM 322; B 359. PENALTIES-YARDS: CM 9-80; B 1-5. FUMBLES-LOST: CM 6-5; B 2-1.
Rushing (carries-yards): CM – Devon O’Bryon 10-175 2 TDs; Jaycob Wolf 25-102 2 TDs; Christian Poynter 3-18; Brad Hunt 9-22 TD. B – Tristan Greene 15-(-4) TD; Hunter Collier 8-8.
Passing (completions-attempts-interceptions): CM – D. O’Bryon 1-3-0 4 yards. B – Greene 19-35-2 342 yards 3 TDs.
Receiving (catches-yards): CM – Cole O’Bryon 1-5. B – Nick Hopkins 3-97 TD; Quenton Miller 6-129 TD; Jared Monhollen 1-6; Dylan Miller 5-96 TD; Hunter Collier 4-14.
Matt Sexton covers high school sports for the News Journal. Follow him on Twitter @byMattSexton.