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Varsity Football · Cannon Fire — Week 8

This week’s news and notes from the Pirate Football program …

CANNON FIRE    presented by Generations Dental Care

LAST WEEK:  With an Anchor-Down performance on a third-quarter goal-line stand and a determined effort in the second half, Rocky River defeated Valley Forge, 31-14, on Friday night. Playing before a big crowd in River’s Homecoming Game, the Pirates came up with big plays on offense, defense and special teams as they scored 17 unanswered points against the Patriots. Leading, 17-14, midway through the third quarter, Rocky River (4-3, 3-1 Great Lakes Conference) pulled off a rock-solid defense of its own goal line by stopping three straight plays inside its own 3-yard line. [box]

THIS WEEK: River closes out a short week eight with a Thursday game at Normandy (3-4, 0-4). The Pirates-Invaders game will be held at Byers Field and will kick off at 7 p.m. … Normandy has averaged 16.6 points per game this season, while allowing 29.1 PPG. Rocky River heads into week eight averaging 25.3 PPG while yielding 20.4 PPG.

PIRATES-INVADERS: In an all-time series that dates to 1978, Rocky River is 10-4 against Normandy. The two GLC meetings between the Pirates and Invaders over the last two years, Rocky River has been dominant. River stomped Normandy, 44-7, last year and 49-21 in 2015.

STREAK STOPPED, STARTED: The Invaders – losers of 41 straight games coming into the 2017 season – won three straight games to begin the season. They have since lost three in a row.

AWAY FROM PORT: The Pirates are 1-2 over a trio of road games this season. Rocky River’s road victory came on Sept. 15, when the Pirates defeated Holy Name, 36-19.

NOTING THE DEFENSE: On Friday the Pirates held the Patriots to 3.6 yards per play. That marks River’s best single-game defensive figure since the Pirates bludgeoned Collinwood, 35-0, on Sept. 8. In that game, River held the Railroaders to 1.4 yards per play. In the Valley Forge game, Rocky River pitched two three-and-outs and two four-and-outs. The defense, did, however yield four drives of 55 yards or more. The longest of those Patriot marches was an 11-play, 72-yard, five-minute-and-49-second drive early in the game’s second quarter. … The Pirate defense continues to lock down and hold firm on key third-down plays. Rocky River held Valley Forge to a 4-of-13 (31 percent) mark; for the season the Pirates have held foes to a 36-percent success rate on the penultimate down. … The River defense did allow a 30-yard run and a 34-yard pass play, but holding the Patriots to those two big plays represents an improvement for a defense that had been yielding three-plus plays of bigger magnitude over previous weeks. … The Pirate pass defense held an opponent without a passing TD for a second straight week and for a fifth time in seven games. Rocky River has allowed just two passing TDs all season. … Junior linebacker Ross Hartman logged 15 tackles for a second straight game with a 15-stop performance against Valley Forge. Two of those stops came behind the Patriot line of scrimmage; on the season Hartman has 1a team-high 11-1/2 such tackles.

NOTING THE OFFENSE: Rocky River was three-and-outed five times in a Valley Forge game that saw the Pirates held to a 12:32 time of possession. River’s longest drive of the night was a late-second-quarter drive of two minutes-and-23 seconds. That drive – of 25 yards – netted a Michael Konrad field goal. … Because of those three-and-outs and a couple short-field drives late in the contest, River was limited to just 43 plays from scrimmage in the game. That marks the team’s lowest play count since the Sept. 8 Collinwood game which was shortened by a second-half running clock. Over the 43 plays, the Pirates did average 4.8 yards per play, their highest average in four weeks. The River rushing game cranked out 5.9 yards per attempt, tying a single-game high for the 2017 season (Sept. 15 at Holy Name). … Through seven games, Rocky River has rushed for 1,092 yards and thrown for 792.

NOTING THE SPECIAL TEAMS: Senior kicker Michael Konrad booted a season-long 40-yarder in Friday’s first half. At the time – the 2:33-mark of the second quarter – the eked-over-the-crossbar effort spelled the only difference in a 17-14 game between the Pirates and Patriots. On the season, Konrad is now 5-of-8 on field-goal attempts. Friday’s 40-yarder marked the third-longest of his career – his career long of 44 yards came on Sept. 16, 2016 vs. University School. … Konrad’s wasn’t the only big Pirate boot on display on Friday evening. Junior punter Patrick Green belted out a career-long 66-yarder as part of a busy night in which he averaged nearly 50 yards per punt on five attempts. On the season, the Pirate port-sider is averaging a robust 41.2 yards per kick. Among Ohio schools that file stats on the website MaxPreps, Green’s average ranks as the top figure. And he’s logged that number with seven punts pinning back River opponents inside their own 20-yardline.

SMALL LOAD OF LAUNDRY: After committing 30 penalties for 233 yards over their three previous contests, the Pirates were whistled for just five infractions in their win over the Patriots. For the season, Rocky River has been saddled with 421 yards of penalties on 55 flags.

BIG RUN, BIG NIGHT: Matt Popovich, who had a 63-yard TD run in the first half of Friday’s game, finished with 101 yards on eight carries against the Patriots. His 100-yard rushing game marked River’s first since Sept. 15 (at Holy Name), and his 63-yard bolt marked the Pirates’ longest play from scrimmage this season. The powerful veteran rusher capped off his night with a determined 12-yard TD ramble in which he broke a pair of tackled inside the 5-yard line. …Friday’s game marked the fourth 100-yard rushing game of Popovich’s career.

ANCHORING DOWN: The Pirate defense recorded a season-high 11 tackles for losses on Friday. Four of those tackles were sacks and seven were run stuffs. Jacob Fuchs had three of those TFLs. Ross Hartman and Michael Shoaf garnered two each.

AROUND THE GLC: The week-eight conference slate includes two Friday GLC games (Bay at Elyria Catholic, Parma at Valley Forge) and one Saturday night non-conference tilt (Garfield Heights at Holy Name).

A WORTHY PLEDGE: Senior kicker Michael Konrad participates in the Kick-It Champions program, an initiative to raise funds to benefit childhood cancer research through Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation. Once again in 2017, Konrad is accepting donations and pledges. Contributions can be made online at his donation page at Kick-It.org.

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