By MIKE HUGHES
Times Leader News Editor
DANVILLE In River's three regular season losses, turnovers and mistakes that placed the Pilots' defense in tough positions ultimately led to its downfall.
That was the case once again Friday as a low punt snap, coupled with a critical fumble allowed Danville to take a 14-0 lead at the half in an Ohio Division VI, Region 23 quarterfinal matchup.
The Pilots were never able to recover and fell to the top-seeded Blue Devils 30-6, ending the Pilots' season with a 7-4 record.
"Again, our mistakes led to scores," River coach Mike Flannery said after the disappointing loss. "Then we came out after the half and failed to get a 4th-and-1 on our first drive. They scored right after and instead of being down 14-6, we trailed 22-0."
Danville 30, River 6
River 0 0 0 6 6
Danville 0 14 8 8
D Hershberger recovered fumble in the end zone (C.Meckley run)
D Hazen 17 pass from Staats (run fails)
D Geog 38 pass from Staats (Staats run)
R Asturi 2 run (pass fails)
D Geog 12 pass from Staats (Morehouse pass from Staats)
RUSHING:River 29-51 (Asturi 20-48-td, Caldwell 5-5, Sapp 4-(-2). Danville 36-142 (Staats 18-52, Shultz 5-15, Hazen 4-24, C.Meckley 2-21, Gonzales 5-38, Morehouse 1-6, Team 1-(-8).
PASSING: River 13-25-118-2x (all by Caldwell). Danville 19-24-196-4td-x (all by Staats).
RECEIVING: River 13-118 (Brown 6-63, 8 4-44, Asturi 2-6, Necessary 1-5). Danville 19-196-3td (Geog 7-68-2td, D.Meckley 2-26, C.Meckley 6-48, Hazen 4-54-td).
FIRST DOWNS: River 6, Danville 16.
PENALTIES: River 3-20, Danville 1-5.
FUMBLES: River 1-1, Danville 3-3.
River had perfect scoring opportunities in the first half, twice driving deep within Blue Devils' territory.
But drives stalled and resulted in field goal attempts. The first, a 42-yarder, came up short when sophomore Colton Wright slipped on the wet grass. The second, a 38-yarder, had the distance but missed right.
River was still in good shape after forcing Danville quarterback Bryce Staats to fumble inside the Pilots' 20, thwarting a drive.
River, however, was unable to advance out of its own end and when Wright was forced to punt on fourth down, he had to scramble to field a low snap. Unable to break free or get the ball out of the back of the end zone for a safety, the Devils' JaMarcus Hershberger recovered the loose ball for a touchdown.
On River's next drive, River fumbled on first down and four plays later, Staats hit Austin Hazen from 17 yards out for a 14-0 advantage with just 20 seconds remaining before the half.
After River's first drive of the second half was stopped on downs, Danville again went to work.
This time, Staats connected with Corey Geog from 38 yards out, the first of two scoring connections for the pair.
Staats finished with 196 yards passing and three scores on 19 of 24 passing.
"He's a pretty special quarterback," Flannery said. "He had 2,000 yards passing and 1,000 rushing for a reason and you can see why. He made the plays."
River, which had decent success through the air, finally got on the board in the fourth when Nick Asturi bulled his way in from 2-yards out. The two-point conversion pass failed, leaving the Pilots down 22-6.
Asturi finished with 48 yards on 20 carries, never quit getting untracked as Danville's front four controlled the line of scrimmage all game.
"They did a really good job," Danville coach Ed Honaberger said. "We dropped a guy down to make a five-man front to try to contain them. River pounded on people all year so we knew we had to win the battle there."
The Blue Devils advance to Friday's regional semifinal opposite Zanesville Rosecrans, a winner against Symmes Valley.
Rosecrans defeated Danville earlier in the season, 21-7, and also knocked the Blue Devils out of the postseason at in 2011.
Hughes may be reached at email@example.com