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October 1, 2020

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Bluffton nips Ada in shootout thriller

"Football is a game of momentum and we had it, then they had it, we had it, then they did," said Ada third-year head coach Shawn Christopher

By Cort Reynolds
ADA - In an exciting rollercoaster ride of a game, Bluffton got the last run in to edge Ada 48-46 in the finale to the Northwest Conference round robin Friday on an unseasonably cool night at War Memorial Stadium.

Bluffton rallied from a 10-point second half deficit with 20 unanswered points. But after an Ada touchdown cut the deficit to two points late, the Pirates had to dodge a last-second drive to hold on for the hard-hitting rivalry win.

Bluffton improved to 1-2 in the NWC East with the victory. Ada fell to 0-3 in the NWC East with the tough-luck defeat in their home opener on Senior Night. 

"Football is a game of momentum and we had it, then they had it, we had it, then they did," said Ada third-year head coach Shawn Christopher. "It was a great game of back and forth with a lot of guys making plays.    

"I was proud of how we battled," he added.

With pool play finished, the NWC tournament starts next weekend with Ada as the fourth seed against the top seed from the West (Spencerville). 

Ada trailed 14-8 at halftime but took control with a 22-point outburst in the third stanza. Cameron Bober returned the third period kickoff 65 yards to the Pirate 12 to set up the go-ahead score.

An 11-yard pass to Keagan Hull set up a one-yard scoring plunge by Brandon Hull that tied it 14-14. The two-point converiosn pass from Brandon Hull to Danny Thompson put Ada in front 16-14 just 34 seconds into the second half.

The Bulldogs then continued to gain momentum when Jermey Cameron recovered the ensuing short kickoff at the Pirate 35. Two plays later Hull tossed a screen to quick wideout Colton Biederman and the senior made a nice cut for a 29-yard TD reception.

The two-point pass fell incomplete but Ada now led 22-14 just 1:26 into the third period. Bluffton's next drive penetrated Bulldog territory. But on fourth and 12, a blitzing Keagan Hull sacked Nate Schaadt to give Ada possession on the Pirate 35.

The Pirate defense returned the favor when Jackson Wilson sacked Brandon Hull on fourth and nine to force a turnover on downs at the Bluffton 39.

The Pirates then marched 61 yards on eight runs to paydirt. Schaadt converted a key third and one run to the Ada 18 to move the chains. He then cut back well for a 10-yard scamper to the six.

Schaadt then ran left, eluded a Bulldog tackler and scooted in from six yards out to score with 4:02 left in the third period. 

Schaadt then ran right to convert the two-pointer and tie it 22-all. 

Ada responded by putting together a 65-yard scoring drive. A 41-yard TD run by QB Hull was nullified by a penalty. But on fourth and two Hull bounced off a Pirate tackler and rumbled 15 yards to the end zone with 22 ticks remaining in the quarter.

His two-point toss to Cayden Murphy extended the lead to 30-22.

Bluffton came right back behind the big-play efforts of Tyson Shutler. He ignited the 69-yard TD drive with a 26-yard reception.

The speedster then made a fine cutback run and scampered 41 yards to paydort to cap the three-play drive that took just 45 seconds. 

Schaadt's two-point run came up short to keep Ada on top with 11:37 remaining, 30-28.

Ada regained the momentum though when Keagan Hull sprinted past the Pirate defense for a 57-yard TD jaunt to cap a 60-yard, wo-play possession.

Brandon Hull's two-point run extended Ada's biggest lead to 38-28. Bluffton then took over at its own 44 after a short kickoff.

Brandon Hull tackled Schaadt for a six-yard loss, but a 32-yard aerial to Wilson moved the visitors near the red zone. On fourth and six, Schaadt rolled left and connected with an open Landon Fleharty in the end zone for a 21-yard TD reception.

The two-point try failed, keeping the margin at 38-34 with 8:07 still to go. 

A questionable unnecessary roughness call helped thwart the next Ada drive. Bluffton took possession at its own 30 and proceeded to regain the lead. 

Landyn Fleharty authored a nice 52-yard cutback run to the Ada 19 to start the drive. Thompson and Antonio Pettit combined to sack Schaadt to force fourth and 17 from the 25.

Schaadt found Shutler circling out of the backfield wide open over the middle, and the speedster made a nice side step move and scored from 25 yards out to put the Pirates ahead with 4:22 left.

Schaadt's two-point pass to the 6-4 Wilson made it 42-38.

"Shutler made some big plays," said Christopher. "He is a college player and an under-the-radar defensive back too."

Then came the backbreaking play. Cornerback Shutler shot through and picked off a screen pass, then scurried 42 yards to the end zone with 4:13 left to play to shock Ada.

Schaadt's PAT kick missed to keep the margin at 48-38.

Ada bounced right back to stay within striking distance, however. The Hull duo immediately hooked up on a 36-yard pass over the middle down to the Pirate 12.

Biederman then made a nice grab along the right sideline down to the two. Brandon Hull scored on a two-yard run with 3:33 left. His two-point toss to Cam Bober pulled Ada within 48-46.

Bluffton then milked key time off the clock with a drive to the Ada 32. A key play came when Fleharty scampered 17 yards on a reverse. 

The Ada defense held and stopped Bluffton on fourth and 12 to get one last chance to win, starting at their own 32. A 28-yard aerial from Hull to Bober reached the Pirate 40 with 27 seconds left.

But on third and 10 Hull was flushed out of the pocket and had to scramble. The last play took the final 13 seconds and ended up with him heaving an incomplete pass in the end zone to preserve the final Pirate lead.

Bluffton took the game-opening kickoff and marched 69 yards to score on a run-oriented drive that took just over seven minutes.

On fourth and five, Schaadt kept the ball off right tackle for a 15-yard TD run to give the visitors a 6-0 lead with 4:44 to go in the first period.

Ada's first drive ended in an interception by Landon Shutler. The Pirates were unable to capitalize and had to punt. Ada then scored on an unusual play.

The ball was snapped over Hull's head but he gathered the loose pigskin and improvised a 41-yard TD pass to Danny Thompson.

"It was nice to see Danny get in the end zone," said Christopher. 

The snap sailed over Hull again on the two-point try, and he recovered to scramble and throw to Keagan Hull. Ada led 8-6 with 11:56 left until intermission.

The next Pirate drive was stymied by a fumble recovered by Ada at its own 26. After a quick three and out possession and a shanked punt, Bluffton started out on the Bulldog 35.

Eight straight runs netted 63 yards and a first down at the Ada two. But Schaadt then fumbled when reaching for the goal line. Brandon Hull recovered the loose ball and returned it to the 10 to get Ada out of trouble.

Ada had to punt again and the Pirates took over at their own 36. Ethan Bogart grabbed a short Schaadt pass, slipped a tackler and scurried 64 yards down the left sideline for a TD with 2:08 left in the half. 

Schaadt converted the two-point run to give Bluffton a 14-8 lead.

Ada appeared to strike right back when Keagan Hull sped 71 yards for a score. But the TD was negated by a holding call.

Later that drive Brandon Hull faked a punt on fourth and four, and hit Murphy for a 19-yard gain to midfield. But the big play was called back for an ineligible receiver downfield flag to keep the margin at six heading to intermission.

"We didn't lose on official's calls," noted Christpher. "We missed some blocks and had some inconsistent line play."

    1    2    3    4    F
Ada    0    8    22    16    46
Bluf    6    8    8    26    48

Notes, quotes and stats
Ada ran 56 plays and compiled 337 net yards (6.0 avg. per play). Bluffton amased 23 first downs to 13 for the purple and gold. 

Bluffton ran 74 plays and compiled 470 yards in total offense (6.4 average). The Pirates rushed 53 times for 246 yards (4.6 avg.). They outscored Ada 26-16 in the eventful final quarter.

Ada ran 27 times for 151 yards (5.6 avg.). Keagan Hull ran 15 times for a game-high 114 yards and one TD. 

"Keagan ran hard and well," said Christopher. "He had a burst."

Schaadt completed 13 of 21 passes for 224 yards and three TDs with no interceptions. Schaadt also rushed for 80 yards on 29 runs with two scores.

Tyson Shutler racked up 78 yards on nine carries with one TD. Fleharty added 70 yards on four rushes. 

Shutler also caught six passes for 87 yards and a TD. Bogart made one grab for a 64-yard score. Fleharty added two catches for 27 yards. 

Hull completed 14 of 29 passes for 186 yards with two TDs and two interceptions. He also rushed for 31 yards on 11 carries with three scores. 

Keagan Hull caught six aerials for 53 yards. Biederman snared four passes for 49 yards while Thmpson made two catches for 52 yards. Bober added a 27-yard reception.

The Bulldogs committed two turnovers while the Pirates fumbled the ball away twice. Ada was penalized nine times for 70 costly yards, and the visitors were flagged eight times for 60 yards.

The purple and gold were 0-7 on third down conversions, and 1-3 on fourth down. Bluffton was 3-15 on third down and 5-7 on fourth.

"Bluffton made a lot of big plays on third or fourth down and long," Christopher noted. "We were able to put them in some bad positions but they came up with big plays."

The Bulldogs possessed the ball 19:54 compared to 27:13 by Bluffton. Ada has been outscored 141-78 (47-26 ppg) so far this season in three games.     

Bluffton beat Ada 70-50 in another shootout last year. The Pirates have been outscored 133-77 in its three games. 

Ada at Bearcats, Pirates vs. Knights in first NWC tourney next week
In the first round of the initial NWC tournament, Ada will visit top West division finisher Spencerville. The Bearcats have shared the NWC title the past two years and won it outright in 2017. 

The consistently good Bearcats have finished no lower than second in the NWC since 2013.

"It's a tall task," said Christopher. "They are well-coached and always play hard. They are a hard-hitting team. We need to regroup and get ready for the NWC tournament."

The preliminary pool play records determined tourney seeding for the NWC tournament.

NWC West champion Spencerville improved to 3-0 with a 26-20 victory over Paulding, while Grove won the NWC East with a 30-21 win over second-place Allen East. 

If seeding holds, Ada would likely host Paulding (1-2) in round two. 

Third-place Bluffton will play at NWC West second place finisher Crestview (2-1) in round one of the inaugural NWC tournament.    

Delphos Jefferson (0-3) plays East champ Columbus Grove, while AE (2-1) takes on Paulding.