BEAVER FALLS — All Beaver River kept saying following its 14-6 victory over Thousand Islands on Saturday was “one more game.” That’s what it will take for the Beavers to get to the Carrier Dome to play for the Section 3 Class D championship.
They begun that quest on Saturday afternoon when they hosted the No. 7 Vikings (2-6) in the quarterfinal round. The Beaver River offense, which had dominated lately, featured a different look without quarterback Sam Bush on the field. Bush injured his left shoulder in the second quarter of the Beavers’ game the previous weekend against Dolgeville. It is unclear whether the junior will be able to return next weekend for Beaver River’s semifinal game versus No. 3 Waterville (6-2).
Sophomore Jonah Mullin took Bush’s place and was responsible for both of the Beavers’ touchdowns: an 88-yard touchdown pass to Dalton Finster, then a two-yard pass to Cameron Murphy, both of which came in the second quarter.
No. 2 Beaver River (6-2) also leaned heavily on its defense. After giving up a 59-yard touchdown reception to Dylan Aznoe in the first quarter, the Beavers shut down Thousand Islands offense. Beaver River coach Matt Lyndaker called it the best game his defense has played all year.
“Just the physicality, it hasn’t been there, it’s been more like react to what (the opponent is) doing instead of just doing what you’ve been taught,” Lyndaker said. “It was good to see.”
Bush didn’t practice for the entire week leading up to game, so the message was clear throughout practice: the defense needed to take over.
“All week we talked about how guys needed to step up, you can’t sit around and feel sorry for yourself. Rise up,” Lyndaker said. “They did, between the run game and the pass game, it was awesome.”
Beaver River’s defensive line played a big role in stopping both the Vikings’ passing and running attack. The last time these two teams met in week five, Vikings’ running back Emmet Baker carried the ball 40 times and rushed for 235 yards and three touchdowns. On Saturday the Beavers held Baker to 76 yards on 26 carries.
“I just had to step up, all season our run defense wasn’t the best, but I knew today that we needed it after Sam went out,” defensive lineman Chase Cardinal said.
Thousand Islands’ quarterback Connor MacKay, along with offensive lineman/full back Colby Stewart, tried to boost the Vikings’ run game but never found consistent success.
The Beaver River defensive line handled MacKay, too. He finished 4-for-12 with 98 passing yards (59 came on a touchdown pass to Aznoe) and three interceptions. On at least two of the picks, MacKay was drilled as he threw.
The Beavers recorded four total interceptions in the game and Cameron Murphy picked up two of them, including the one that ended the Vikings’ final drive.
“We just wanted to shut down the pass, we didn’t think they could throw the ball and we proved it there,” Murphy said. “Those picks, I have to give the credit to Dalton (Finster) and Noah (Zehr), they just tipped that ball in the air and I was just there for it. It couldn’t have happened without them.”
Zach VanBrocklin totaled 133 yards on 21 carries and scored three touchdowns as Canton outlasted Massena in a Section 10 Class A semifinal in Canton.
The Golden Bears improved to 3-5 and will face top-seeded Watertown High School (4-3) for the sectional title on Friday at Watertown High School.
VanBrocklin scored on runs of eight, five and 12 yards and Adam Calton threw a 28-yard scoring pass to Adam Blauvelt as time expired in the first half for Canton.
The Golden Bears outscored Massena 20-8 during the second quarter after trailing 7-0.
Canton’s go-ahead touchdown to close the half came after a long kickoff return by VanBrocklin to the Massena 36 and gave the Bears a 20-15 lead after the two-point conversion. The touchdown also came three plays after Massena senior Zack Goolden, returning to play after a leg injury in week two of the season, scored from five yards out with 23 seconds left in the half. Goolden then scored on a two-point conversion after a botched PAT kick attempt to put Massena ahead 15-12.
Massena opened the second half with the ball and needed only five plays to cover 44 yards and retake the lead at 21-20 on a 20-yard touchdown run by junior Nathan Eastwood with 9:38 remaining in the third quarter.
The two teams then traded fumbles before Canton’s VanBrocklin bolted from 12 yards out to score with 4:02 left in the third quarter.
Sophomore quarterback Dominic Monacelli led the rushing attack for the Red Raiders (1-7), going for 94 yards on 12 carries, including a two-yard burst up the middle that opened the scoring with 4:49 left in the first quarter.