BLUFFTON — After getting beaten by single-digit margins the past two seasons by Bluffton, the Blue Devils enacted revenge Friday night at Harmon Field by doing what they do best — running the ball.
After a slow start to the first half by both teams, Carey (1-1) broke loose for 19 second-half points in a 26-0 victory over the Pirates (1-1) in non-conference action.
Bluffton had defeated the Blue Devils 35-28 and 31-28, respectively, since 2010.
Coming off its first opening-week loss since 1997 last week, Carey coach Todd Worst said it was a much-needed win for his ball club.
“For our guys mentally, they needed success,” Worst said. “We made good improvements from last week to this week and we made good improvements from the first quarter to the third and fourth quarters. We were able to run it down and with a young group, that’s really going to help our confidence. In the long run, that’s more important than anything else.”
The halftime adjustments made led to an enormous difference in the ground game as Carey struggled to 63 yards rushing in the first half before rumbling to 211 yards in the second half.
Thirty-seven of the team’s first-half rushing yards came in the opening quarter as quarterback Matt Holsinger kept the ball on an option read around the left tackle and went into the promised land for the game’s first score at the 6:34 mark.
Unfortunately for the junior signal-caller, he was forced to leave the game shortly into the second half.
“He had a cut on his (throwing hand’s) thumb,” Worst said. “He made a run shortly after halftime and got tackled and came off (the field to the sideline). We tried to put tape on it, but it just kept coming off and it was bleeding enough.”
Holsinger finished with 62 yards rushing before leaving the game.
After the Pirates punted the ball back to Carey on the ensuing drive, Justin Meek stepped into the position behind center and led the Blue Devils down the field on their best drive of the game to that point.
After seven runs put Carey at the Bluffton 38-yard line, Meek scrambled and found enough daylight down the middle of the field to escape close to the left pylon before being tripped up at the goal line with 1:12 left in the third quarter.
“We have a good senior quarterback (Meek) and he made some plays and I was glad to see that,” Worst said. “A little bit of confidence helps. When they’re young guys and they make a big play, they get a little cocky and even if they didn’t make the big block on the play, they still feel better about what they’re doing.”
Fullback Austin Tschanen punched in the rock from about a foot out on the next play with 44.6 remaining in the quarter to put the Blue Devils ahead 13-0 heading into the final quarter. He finished with 44 yards rushing in the victory.
Meek finished the night with a game-high 92 yards rushing on just seven attempts, while Tschanen finished with 44 yards on the ground.
While Carey was beginning to hit its stride, Bluffton could not find any rhythm in its spread offense.
“We have to be able to move the football,” Pirates coach Dennis Lee said. “Things didn’t go our way early and we just made some huge mistakes and it just kind of snowballed from there. I think they wore on us as the game went on.”
Bluffton took the opening drive of the game to the Carey 27-yard line before fumbling the snap on a field-goal attempt 1:17 into the first quarter. Pirates quarterback Robbie Stratton also threw two interceptions in the opening half on his own 36-yard line in the first quarter and at the Blue Devils’ 28-yard line just 26 seconds into the second quarter.
The Carey defense kept the sophomore under duress all night as he only managed to complete 7 of 26 passes for 77 yards. He added 40 yards rushing on 17 carries.
As the Blue Devils’ sideline raised hands with four fingers to signify the beginning of the final quarter of play, the outcome was put to rest as Bryan Powers took a carry up the gut for a seven-yard touchdown with 7:56 left in the game for a 19-0 Carey advantage.
Fullback Levi Smalley tacked on another rushing score from five yards out at the 1:55 mark to cap off an eight-play, 79-yard drive, which was highlighted by a Meek 51-yard run to the Pirates’ 14-yard line.
In addition to Meek, Holsinger and Tschanen, the Blue Devils’ run game was rounded out by Brandon Zechman contributing 53 yards, Powers adding 15 yards and Smalley rushing for nine yards.
En route to the shutout, Carey’s defense held Bluffton to 122 yards of offense.
The Blue Devils host non-conference foe Toledo Scott at 7 p.m. Friday.
By PATRICK MASSARA
Score by quarters
Carey 7 0 6 13 — 26
Bluffton 0 0 0 0 — 0
C — Holsinger 36-yard run (Strahm kick), 6:27.
C — Tschanen 1-yard run (Kick failed), 0:45.
C — Powers 7-yard run (Run failed), 7:56.
C — Smalley 5-yard run (Strahm kick), 1:55.
Carey: Holsinger, 2-3, 8 yards.
Bluffton: Stratton, 7-26, 77 yards, 2 INTs.
Carey: Meek, 7-92; Holsinger, 12-62, 1 TD; Zechman, 7-53; Tschanen, 12-44, 1 TD; Powers, 4-15, 1 TD; Smalley, 3-9, 1 TD; Team, 1-(minus 1).
Bluffton: Stratton, 17-40; Bourassa, 4-9; Z. Wilson, 4-4; Lee, 1-(minus 1); Team, 1-(minus 1).
Carey: Powers, 2-8.
Bluffton: Brickner, 2-26; Kistler, 1-28; I. Little, 1-12; Demellweek, 1-7; Z. Wilson, 1-5; Dr. Luginbuhl, 4-(minus 1).
First Downs 10 8
Yards Rushing 46-274 27-45
Yards Passing 8 77
Passes 2-3 7-26
Passes Intercepted by 2 0
Fumbles-Lost 6-1 3-0
Punts 6-37.3 7-34.8
Penalties 4-40 3-25