The Pilots dominated both sides of the line of scrimmage and had the individual “Starr” of the game in versatile senior Troy Starr who turned in a monster 254-yard, three-touchdown effort in a key 21-6 Pioneer Valley Conference victory over host Shenandoah.
The victory improves River to 8-0 and into a tie for the PVC lead with fellow unbeaten Buckeye Trail. Both are 4-0 in the conference.
The Pilots and Warriors will square off in a battle of likely OHSAA playoff participants Friday in Hannibal (River was second in Division VI, Region 23 while Trail was second in Division V, Region 19 entering Week 8’s action).
The Zeps, meanwhile, slipped to 5-3 overall and 2-2 in the PVC with a homecoming night loss that proved costly but not fatal to their chances of gaining a Division V, Region 19 playoff berth. Shenandoah was seventh in Division V, Region 19 entering the weekend.
Shenandoah managed just 25 yards on the ground and 165 total for the game. Defensively Hannibal has allowed 38 points this season.
Starr — playing both quarterback and running back for the Pilots — carried eight times or 53 yards on the opening series and completed a 12-yard pass to Taylor Potts. He also scored the touchdown on a 12-yard keeper out of shotgun formation with 6:41 left in the first quarter.
The Pilots’ defense forced Shenandoah to pun on its first two possessions, and the River offense went back to work following the second with another ground-oriented march.
Starr scored his second TD of the night and capped a drive in which he had nine more carries and 53 yards.
Freshman Tanner Wright nailed the PAT this time, boosting River’s lead to 13-0 with 4:48 remaining in the first half.
Shenandoah — limited to just 40 total yards in the first half — advanced to River’s 35 to start the third period before stalling.
An interception swap followed — Brad Densmore picking one off for the Zeps and Starr returning the favor for the Pilots.
River put the game on ice with 9:26 to go as Starr tallied his third TD of the night on a 45-yard burst.
After a blocked kick and a roughing-the-kicker penalty, the Pilots opted for the two-point conversion and Starr plowed over to extend the lead to 21-0.
Shenandoah went airborne on its next series, with junior QB Cody Johnson hitting 4-of-9 passes, including a 30-yard heave to the end zone to sophomore Cody Farmer.
River’s Duke — a thorn in the Zeps’ side all night long — blocked the point-after, leaving the count 21-6 with 7:42 remaining.
Paving the way for Starr’s big night was the River offensive line of seniors Harold Earley, Corey Frasnelly and Logan Binegar and juniors Jordan Clegg, Travis Riesbeck and Duke.
While coach Mike Flannery’s Pilots have their showdown with Buckeye Trail this week, Shenandoah will try to regroup and get victories in its final two games against Fort Frye and arch-rival Caldwell to stay in the playoff hunt.