<9> <9>The initial Beaver Local vs. East Liverpool football game was played in 1962. At that time the “Team From Up North” was led onto Patterson Field by an enthusiastic coach, Wellsville native Jack O’Rourke, and a determined quarterback, Jim McLaughlin. Thirty-six games later, it seemed as though nothing had changed as, once again, the Beavers showed up at Patterson Field with an enthusiastic coaching staff and a quarterback named McLaughlin. This time it was Trevor McLaughlin (no relation) whose two early TD passes set the tone for the rest of the evening in a 40-7 win for Coach Jeremy McElroy and his improving team.
The game got off to an unfavorable start for the Potters when the Beavers recovered their onside opening kickoff, taking over at their own 44. Six plays later, McLaughlin found Cory Riddle on a 42-yard bomb and it was 7-0 following Chase Hilliard’s conversion kick, two minutes and 45 seconds into the contest.
In the words of Yogi Berra, “It was deja-vu all over again” on the next kick off - another onsider recovered by the Beavers at the Potters’ 45, and it was off to the races for the Red and White. Led by Robert Johnston, it took only four plays and two minutes for the shifty back, who carried on three of the four BL plays good for 27 yards, to find the end zone from the seven. The extra point attempt failed, and it was 13-0 with 7:46 remaining in the first quarter.
Neither team could do much on their next possessions with Coach Josh Ludwig and his crew going three-and-out, setting the visitors up on their own 39. Advancing to the EL 30, the Red and White bogged down after seven plays. However, a fumble by the Potters on their first play after taking over on downs gave the ball back to McLaughlin, Johnston and Devon Zellers, one of nine Beaver Local backs to tote the ball on the evening. Carrying four times on the drive, good for 17 yards, Zellers muscled the ball down to the nine. Two plays later Johnston took it to the house and it was 19-0. Once again the extra point failed with 2:07 remaining in the first quarter.
Ryan Bombich, who would intercept two passes on the night, and nearly a third, took the ensuing kickoff, a deep effort by Hilliard, back to his own 29 from where the Potters appeared to inally get things together with Austin Mayfield completing three of five passes. Unfortunately, success was short lived as the sophomore quarterback was forced to punt to the BL 22 in a fourth and six situation.
Following a four-yard run by Johnston, who rushed 21 times for 135 stripes on the night, Bombich made his first pick of the game, allowing his team to begin a mini-drive at midfield. After a 19-yard run by Kade Reynolds on their first play reaching the Beavers’ 31, the Potters regressed back to the BL 37, and the visitors took over as the game moved into the second quarter.
The contest then bounced back-and-forth, highlighted by East Liverpool’s longest drive of the night, an eight-play effort that got them to mid-field before punting. Bombich then pulled off his second interception of a McLaughlin pass, on a second-and-five situation with 4:47 remaining before the break.
The Beavers would tally once more prior to the intermission following a Mayfield punt. Starting on their own 36, it took the visitors nine plays to score on a ten-yard pass from McLaughlin to Bryce McKenzie. Kole McKenzie ran for a two point conversion making it 27-0, which is how the half ended.
The Beavers, relying exclusively on their running game, scored twice in the second half. Their initial TD, which would put the mercy rule into effect, came at the conclusion of a 15-play, 64-yard drive that ate up all but 4:06 ticks showing on the third quarter clock making it 33-0 when Logan Bobby scored from the three. The extra point kick was blocked.
Kole McKenzie with a five-yard run at the end of a seven-play, fifty-yard drive for the Beavers set the score at 40-0 following Hilliard’s conversion kick with 9:47 left to play.
The Potters finally got on the board with less than a minute remaining when Kade Reynolds scored from the five and Ryan Lilly’s conversion kick made it 40-7, the final.
“We came out of the gate with intensity and stuffed their runs early”, said East Liverpool head coach Josh Ludwig. “Early on, we played with an attitude. However, turnovers hurt us.
‘’We weren’t able to get things rolling on offense.” Ludwig said. “The kids played hard. The effort was there. We lacked execution.”
Coincidentally, both coaches played under Larry Keheres at Mount Union. For Ludwig, it would be as a member of the Class of 2005 when the Purple Raiders won three consecutive national Division III championships in his final three seasons.
The backyard series, which was tied at 17 wins with the Beaver Local victory in 2012 was once again knotted at 18 after this one.
Beaver Local’s place kicker, Chase Hilliard, is also a member of his school’s soccer team which would go on to lose Saturday to Steubenville Big Red in district tournament action 3-1. Hilliard scored his team’s lone goal.
The game ended at 9:32 p.m. – early -- as the result of the new Ohio High School mercy rule, which calls for the clock to go into continuous operation when a 30-point spread occurs.
Scoreboard operator Darrell McClelland , known as the man who replaced the legendary Pete Copeland, continues to do an outstanding job from his perch high above Patterson Field in the press box named for his predecessor.