Bay/RR FB

Bay's Nick Buttari stiff arms a Rocky River defender Friday night. Buttari led the Rockets' offense with 205 yards and two touchdowns on the ground.

Bay's Buttari rushes for 205 yards, two scores in victory over rival Rocky River

From the first drive Friday night, it was evident that junior running back Nick Buttari was going to be the focal point of the Bay Rockets’ offense.

He wouldn’t have it any other way.

Buttari was unstoppable in the Rockets’ 34-17 victory over archrival Rocky River, carrying 33 times for 205 yards and two touchdowns. On Bay’s opening drive, Buttari carried all six plays for 65 yards and a score.

“We worked hard all week and it all paid off in the end,” Buttari said. “Linemen did a good job. I just followed the blocks. It’s kind of easy when you’ve got a good O-Line.”

Bay coach Ron Rutt has praised Buttari all season and continued, saying, “He didn’t leave the field on a single play. He’s a heck of a football player.”

The game marks the fourth-consecutive season the Rockets beat the Pirates and secured “The Helm.” All of Bay’s coaches and players gathered on the field for a photo with the old ship handle that serves as an annual trophy between the rivals.

“There’s nothing like it, especially on the opponent’s turf,” Buttari said. “There was a lot of talk on the field. They have nothing to say anymore.”

More than “The Helm” was on the line, though. Both teams came into the matchup 5-2 overall, but Bay (4-2 Great Lakes Conference) held a half-game advantage over the Pirates (3-2 GLC) in the conference. The Rockets were ranked sixth in Division III, Region 10, while Rocky River entered ranked 11th. Only the top-eight teams make the playoffs, so the game carried major postseason implications for both.

“Knowing the playoff points that come with this (win), it’s really going to help us out,” Rutt said. “We needed one like this to put us over to where we feel like, ‘OK, we’re probably going to be in,’ and now we can start thinking about, maybe, where our seed’s going to be. It’s exciting.”

After Bay’s opening scoring drive, Rocky River answered, also relying heavily on its ground game. Sophomore running back Tommy Bebie scored on a 3-yard run, but a missed extra point kept the Pirates behind 7-6. Bebie was stifled the rest of the game, however and finished with 19 carries for 61 yards.

In the second quarter, Rocky River quarterback Braedon Spies was intercepted by Cullen Gergye before Rockets quarterback Logan LaMere scored from the 1.

Spies had a strong first half (nine of 12 passing for 117, a touchdown and an interception) but couldn’t find a rhythm in the second half (three for 14 for nine yards). LaMere only attempted six passes, completing three for 79 yards and a score.

That lone passing touchdown was a 66-yard reception to Jake Martin, giving Bay a 20-6 lead with 1:22 left in the first half. A perfectly-orchestrated hurry-up drill by Rocky River cut the lead to 20-14 at halftime. Bebie scored on a 36-yard touchdown reception, followed by a two-point conversion.

Rocky River added a 20-yard field goal on its opening drive of the third quarter but didn’t score again. A Pirates 32-yard field goal attempt was blocked midway through the fourth.

“We were able to move the ball down inside the five and we couldn’t convert,” Rocky River coach Josh Wells said. “Those are the situations - giving up plays on defense and not being able to get into the endzone inside the 10-yard line. We gotta prepare our kids better to succeed in those situations. We’ll learn from it as a coaching staff and put them in better situations next week.”

The Rockets also scored on a 1-yard run by fullback Joe Galati (eight carries for 50 yards and a touchdown) and a 6-yard carry by Buttari.

Bay will play host Friday night to Parma in its final home game of the season, while Rocky River will travel to Medina to play Buckeye. Both games are slated for 7.

Contact this reporter at jkopanski@westlifenews.com or 440-871-5797.

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