NEW PARIS – The Tri-Village Patriots overcame a slow start to finish strong against the National Trail Blazers. The slick conditions on the field caused problems for both teams, but the Patriots were able to adjust and get their offense in gear to overwhelm the Blazers 43-7.
Coach Burk, “We challenged our kids, we wanted to have a playoff mentality this week. We wanted to make sure we had a home game by securing this win tonight. It was wet and sloppy but we didn’t hardly turn the ball over. We controlled the line of scrimmage. I can’t be more proud of our kids and the way that they responded. We had intensity all this week and in this game.”
The Patriot faithful had to be worried when the Patriots threw an interception on their opening drive and gave Trail the ball in very good field position. Weather can be an equalizer where rain will favor teams that rely on straight ahead blocking and running. But the Patriot defense rose to the challenge – putting the Blazers into negative yardage on that possession.
On Trails next possession they were deep in their own territory when the wet conditions caused them problems. A bad snap from center on a punt allowed Justin Finkbine to tackle the punter in the end zone for a safety. Now each team had been bitten by the weather bug.
Coach Burk, “Justin Finkbine has done a really good job for us this year, he leads our defense. He was an All-State defensive back last year and he brought it tonight. We are glad that he is on our side and is quarterbacking our defense this year.”
After Trail kicked, the Patriots had a nice return to the Trail 30-yard line. In a few plays quarterback Braden Keaton connected with Josh Scantland for a 19-yard touchdown catch. The Patriots were finding their rhythm and their fans could relax.
Another Trail turnover on the wet field set up the next Patriot score when who else but Scantland fell on a Blazer fumble. That drive ended with Reed Wehr plunging across the goal line from 2 yards out. What at first looked like it would be low scoring affair with both teams struggling under the conditions was becoming a rout.
The Tri-Village defense was outstanding throughout the game, giving up maybe a half dozen first downs and mostly holding Trail to 3-plays and a punt on most possessions. This gave the Patriots an advantage in field position. The only score by Trail was by the reserves (Chase Ruebush) in the last 30 seconds of the game. Other than that, the starting defense pitched a shutout.
“We’ve had a good defense all year. We’ve been trying to lock everything down all year long. We’ve been really happy with the defense all year long. We change things up. So not only do they have to execute physically on the field, but they have to execute mentally with our different fronts and coverages.”
The offense went on to establish the run which set up the passing game. It kept the Blazer defense guessing. Reed Wehr was versatile – rushing for 2-touchdowns and also scored on a 50-yard screen pass from Keaton. Joshua Randall caught a 15-yard TD and Cole Shroyer had a 2-yard run to end Patriot scoring for the night. So despite the conditions, the Patriots were able to control the field offensively.
“Braden Keaton has been incredible for us this year. He has stepped up into his role as quarterback. He is making plays for us game after game. And when you have Reed Wehr in the backfield any play can be a home run. Our offensive line does a great job of leading the way for him. Our receivers can not only catch, but they can block. Scantland had a great block on the screen pass. When they play for each other like that it makes it a lot of fun.”
So now Tri-Village is waiting on the final standings in the district to see who they will host this coming weekend in the state playoffs. As coach Burk stated in his talk to the team “Our second season starts now.”