Sep. 17—ORWIGSBURG — Tyler Miller made his first-ever start at quarterback Friday night for Blue Mountain.
He made it a good one.
Starting in place of the injured Will Jacobson, out for the season with a broken fibula, Miller was the central figure in an Eagles' ground game that pounded out a 17-0 victory over Pottsville in the 11th annual Clash of 61 at the Eagles' Nest.
The victory was the first for Blue Mountain in the last five matchups between the neighboring rivals.
Miller and junior running back Payton Fasnacht were both key to an Eagles' rushing attack that turned 47 carries into 347 yards, dominating time of possession and, ultimately, the scoreboard. Carrying 24 times on the night, Miller finished with 153 yards. Fasnacht, on 14 carries, piled up 154 yards, including a 64-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.
Blue Mountain passed the ball only three times all night, completing one for 11 yards. The ground game was the story and Pottsville never fully figured out a way to stop it.
"We saw a little bit of him (Miller) last week, but we weren't sure if he was going to start or if (Derek) Walasavage was going to start, so it was a little bit of a guessing game," Pottsville coach Tom McGeoy said. "We knew they were going to have a package.
"We couldn't stop it, so they stuck with it. We didn't know if it was their game plan to use him all game, but it worked so they just stuck with it."
Blue Mountain head coach Tom Gallagher said the decision to go with Miller under center was based on putting the best athlete in a position to do the most.
"Well, we just felt that with what happened to our quarterback, it was best to get the best athlete on the team with the ball in his hands and let him lead the way," Gallagher said. "We felt if we could run the ball, we may as well stay with it, especially with a little quarterback who's a little unpolished."
After a scoreless first quarter, it was a defensive gem that put the Eagles on the board first. Pottsville quarterback Tejay Allen attempted a swing pass to a receiver on the outside right edge, but the ball hit the ground, was ruled a backward pass by the officials and was picked up by linebacker Carson Kerstetter, who raced 45 yards for a touchdown.
After forcing a punt on Pottsville's next offensive series, the Eagles struck quickly three plays later when Fasnacht took a handoff and sprinted down the right side 64 yards for a 14-0 lead.
Two plays after the ensuing kickoff, Kerstetter picked off an Allen pass and went out of bounds at the Eagles' 45. Seven plays later, faced with a fourth down at the Tide 10, the Eagles elected to attempt a field goal and Kreese Stablein converted a 27-yard field goal for a 17-0 lead and what turned out to be the game's final points.
Pottsville lost two fumbles and threw two interceptions. The first turnover, a fumble after taking the opening kickoff and driving inside the Eagles' 5-yard-line, may have been the most costly.
"Four turnovers, especially one going in early when everything was going our way with a fumble on the 3-yard line, we're not good enough to overcome that," McGeoy said.
Neither team was able to score over the final two quarters, although Blue Mountain's offense was dominating enough to maintain control of the ball. The Eagles took the second-half kickoff with a fair catch at their own 12. They drove to the Pottsville 15 before a missed field goal ended the threat, but they managed to use up all but the final 1:57 of the quarter on the drive. On top of that, on the fourth play after the missed field goal, Miller picked off a Pottsville pass to halt the Tide in their tracks.
"We slowed it down a little bit in the second half, but not enough to get off the field," McGeoy said. "We did better holding them, but we didn't do a good enough job to get them off the field."
The Clash of 61 series began in 2012 and Blue Mountain won three of the first four, but dropped five of the last six. This victory, Gallagher said, was very important for his squad.
"It means everything to these guys," Gallagher said as he motioned toward his celebrating team. "They're excited.
"They wanted this really bad. We have to move forward now and continue on with our season, but this is definitely a good start for us."
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