Grand Valley knocked out in first round again

ORWELL — Grand Valley coach John Glavickas felt like he was experiencing deja vu.

One year after LaBrae routed the Mustangs at Grand Valley High School in the first round of the playoffs, the Mustangs found themselves trailing Black River by 28 points at halftime and by as many as 35 during a 48-26 loss in a Division V, Region 17 first-round playoff game on Saturday evening.

The only difference was the way by which the Pirates (8-3) took it to GV (9-2). In 2015, LaBrae’s speed at the skill positions proved to be too much. In 2016, Black River’s misdirection rushing attack gave the Mustangs fits all night long.

“We did (experience deja vu), but it wasn’t as bad as last year,” Glavickas said. “Last year, we were beat on the speed, and this year, we weren’t beat on the speed — they just ran the ball right down the middle of the field.”

By game’s end, the Pirates accrued 447 yards on the ground. Jacob Campbell led the way with 173 yards up the middle and two scores on 27 rushes, but 73 of those yards occurred on just one play.

The biggest problems for the GV defense came on stopping the off-tackle runs and sweeps. It began when Cory Bartolic went 32 yards at the 9:26 mark in the first quarter, and it continued as Riley Gibbs went on to score three more touchdowns on such plays. The 5-foot-6, 175-pound Bartolic had 83 yards on four carries, while the 5-8, 170-pound Gibbs amassed 110 yards on just eight attempts.

Glavickas credited Black River for running the wing-T offense to perfection, saying his players struggled to find which of the Pirates four main running backs (Travis Sexton also had 74 yards on 11 carries) were getting the ball on a given play.

“I don’t know if we’ve seen it run that well,” Glavickas said. “We saw it earlier in the season with other teams, but they run it great and they are so deceptive with where they’re going with that football and the way they ride things.”

While the Pirates ran the ball at will, the Mustangs couldn’t run the ball at all. During the regular season, GV averaged 296.6 yards per game. Against Black River, the Mustangs had just 24 yards on the ground.

Black River coach Al Young explained how the game plan was to take away the GV rushing attack, especially leading runner Eduardo Hernandez. The 5-9 junior had just three yards Saturday.

“I thought we did an unbelievable job defensively, especially in the first half,” Young said. “I mean, they had a 1,600-yard rusher, and I’m not sure the kid had 10 yards. We did what we wanted to do there.”

With the ground game nonexistent, GV was forced to turn to the arm of Michael McGovern to get back into the game, and in the second half, it was working.

The junior signal-caller threw four scores in the second half while connecting on 16-of-36 passes, and he finished the game 23-of-49 passing for 383 yards and two interceptions.

McGovern threw his touchdowns to three different players — one each to Cody Osburn and Jake Reichek and the final two to Hernandez. Osburn was his favorite receiver, as the quarterback targeted the senior 16 times en route to an eight-grab, 132-yard day.

Glavickas praised not only McGovern’s performance in the second half, but also the entire team’s. He pointed out how the Mustangs didn’t give up, even when the Pirates got 30-point leads to start the running clock twice — only for GV to score and end it.

“The thing I was most impressed with these kids and proud of was the fact that they never gave up until that last minute,” Glavickas said. “That goes a lot of in (their hearts) and their values that they’re brought up with their parents, and it was great to see them fight.”

GV entered the season with goals of recording the program’s second-ever postseason win.

Although the Mustangs didn’t accomplish that feat, Glavickas said his players should still be proud of what they accomplished this year.

“It was a great year, and we don’t want to deter from what we did during the year,” Glavickas said. “We got nine wins. We’re proud of what they accomplished, especially with the amount of seniors we lost from last year’s team at key positions.

“I know they’re going to be disappointed because they set their goals very high, and we didn’t just want to make the playoffs — we wanted to win in the playoffs.”