Rocky River Football

Rocky River (1-0) 35 vs Fairview 6: Pirates defense stifles Warriors

The Morning Journal
By Anthony Moujaes,, @MJournalSports on Twitter

Rocky River’s offense garnered attention in double-digit wins in recent years against rival Fairview.

For at least the first half on Aug. 25, the Pirates had to lean on their defense, while the offense got on track before the pulling away for a 35-6 victory against the Warriors at Rocky River Stadium in the season opener.

Senior running back Dameon Crawford ran for 135 yards and scored three touchdowns, and first-year starting quarterback Michael Finnegan threw three touchdowns for the Pirates, seeking to reclaim the Great Lakes Conference trophy they shared in 2015 and a return to the playoffs after a 6-4 record last fall.

“It was nice to see. You have the experience in the backfield, and we’re inexperienced at quarterback and we have some young receivers on the outside, so we got some nice experience tonight,” Rocky River coach Josh Wells said.

“We were flying around and making plays, and they played well,” he said.

The Pirates were occasionally victim to what Wells called “growing pains” on the night, committing the game’s only turnover and seven penalties.

“We’re going to go through some stuff and they knew that,” he said of his team. “Some stuff on defense, our blitz angles were a little poor and we’ve got to fix that, but it’s a good start to the season.”

Crawford broke open a tight 14-6 game in the third quarter with two scoring runs, bursting through the middle for a 42-yard touchdown and later finding pay dirt from 2 yards out. The Pirates never looked back on the way to a fourth straight win against Fairview.

“We missed as lot of tackles, on him (Crawford) specifically. He’s a good runner, but we have to be better tacklers, and when you’re tackling a kid like that who has varsity experience and you don’t, it’s tough,” Fairview coach Dave Latkovic said.

The only score for Fairview, 4-6 a year ago, came in the second quarter on Jack Provenza’s run from 3 yards away after he broke free in front of the Warrior sideline for an 82-yard jaunt a play earlier. Provenza had a team-high 91 yards on six carries, while quarterback Tommy McNamara completed 2 of 7 attempts for 27 yards, both to Ryan Grealis.

“We had a lot of guys going both ways, and we got worn down a little bit,” Latkovic said. “Their staff has been together longer than we have. This is our first year, and we’re teaching our guys to play tenacious and our kids have got a ways to learn. So we had to put some young guys in there and I think they panicked, some sophomores and some kids that hadn’t played varsity football, and I think the inexperience is what hurt us.

“I’m proud of my kids and I think if we keep getting better every week, we’ll have a nice season.”

Rocky River’s first possession of the game was a 10-play scoring drive, capped by Popovich’s 5-yard scoring catch on a run fake from Finnegan. Crawford provided their only other score of the first half, taking a short screen pass from Finnegan and dodging defenders for a 17-yard score with 5:53 left in the second quarter for a 14-6 lead.

After halftime, Wells said his squad settled down. “[We] didn’t want to lose. We knew it was always a dogfight and they always come to play and they’re a physical team,” Wells said. “Coach Latkovic’s got them going.”

The Pirates allowed just 171 yards of offense to Fairview and five first downs, while racking up 425 yards — 193 on the ground, and 232 through the air. Finnegan, who was 17 of 26 passing, added a late touchdown pass to Ryan O’Donnell with seconds left in the game — something Latkovic took issue with.

“Even at the end when we had backups in, they’re throwing the ball all over the place, which I think is classless and I think everyone here would agree with,” Latkovic said.

The teams opened the 2016 season against one another, with Rocky River rolling to a 53-13 victory. The recent history of the series has gone the Pirates’ way as well — they’ve outscored the Warriors 182-31.

Rocky River takes on Buckeye in the second of three straight home games to open the year. Fairview faces Wickliffe in its home-opener Friday.

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