ROCKSPRINGS, Ohio — In the immediate aftermath on Friday night, Mike Bartrum did his best to talk about being positive.
Even though his disappointment scale stood at a “negative-10”.
That’s because, in stunning fashion, the Meigs High School football team — and much of Southeastern Ohio in fact — found itself surprised by the Amanda-Clearcreek Aces.
Never trailing throughout, and simply stifling the high-powered Marauder offensive attack, Amanda-Clearcreek captured a 20-14 non-league upset — inside a shell-shocked Farmers Bank Stadium on the campus of Meigs High School.
Both teams are now 1-1, although the Aces are feeling much better about themselves following Friday night’s impressive victory.
Amanda-Clearcreek, after a 2-8 campaign last season, came back after a disappointing 20-19 defeat at Lakewood in its opener.
Last season, in the team’s only other meeting in history, the Marauders manufactured a 42-27 weather-delayed win in Amanda.
In the return tilt, most observers predicted perhaps a Meigs landslide win, given the recent struggles of the traditional powerhouse Aces.
Well, Amanda-Clearcreek came out from being shuffled somewhere in the middle of the proverbial deck.
The Aces raced out to a 14-0 lead halfway through the second quarter, withstood a furious rally by the Marauders that tied the game at half, then crafted an old-fashioned ground-and-pound fourth-quarter scoring drive to put the game away.
“We beat a very good Meigs football team and one of the best players we’ll see all year in (Meigs quarterback) Cody Bartrum. “We just kept fighting and I’m so proud of them right now,” said an overjoyed Amanda-Clearcreek coach Scott Hinton. “As down as I was last week, it’s the complete opposite right now.”
Speaking of the complete opposite, the Marauders — who have high expectations this season — were on the other end of the spectrum.
Bartrum, in his fifth season as Meigs head coach, bore the bulk of the responsibility.
“They really came down here and kicked our tails. And it all starts with me as the head coach,” he said. “I have to take full responsibility and our coaches and coordinators have to take full responsibility. We have to get better. Plain and simple. I don’t know if we can get any worse because we didn’t play very well. There were plays that the kids needed to make and didn’t make, and we as coaches have to make better calls.”
As for the credit, tip your hat to Hinton and his staff.
The Aces’ defense did the lockdown job on Meigs’ spread-the-field aerial attack and senior quarterback Cody Bartrum — the reigning Southeast District Division IV Offensive Player of the Year.
Bartrum completed 16-of-30 passes for 168 yards and two second-quarter touchdowns — but the Aces didn’t allow the Marauders to make the big play, keeping everything either short or underneath and in front of them.
The Aces also bottled up Meigs between the tackles, as the Marauders rushed for just 64 yards on 29 attempts, including Bartrum leading the way with 38 yards on 14 carries.
The Maroon and Gold gained only 76 of its 232 total yards in the second half, including 24 on the ground.
“The run game. You have to be able to run the ball. Amanda kept everything in front of them. Our quarterback running, jet plays, sweeps, deep balls, I can’t say enough what they did to us,” admitted Coach Bartrum. “They handled us up front.”
“Our gameplan was to do everything we could to not let (Cody) Bartrum beat us,” said Hinton. “The key concepts were keep everything in front of us and not give up big plays. We didn’t give up many big pass plays tonight. The linebackers were to not fly out in coverage, but just stay in and be spies on the quarterback. We had two spies on Bartrum all night. That’s just what we had to do.”
After exchanging three-and-out possessions to open the game, Amanda-Clearcreek clearly turned the tide in its favor halfway through the opening quarter — when Michael Sites stepped in front of a Bartrum pass and returned the ball 30 yards to the Marauder 35.
Two plays later, Joey Drake’s run right up the middle made the Marauders miss tackles, as he scampered 35 yards to put the Aces on top near the six-minute mark.
Zach Meadows made the extra point, as the Aces added their second touchdown almost a full 12 minutes later —after the Marauders turned the ball over on downs near midfield and following another exchange of three-and-outs.
The Aces put together a massive 12-play, 49-yard scoring march, relying on the 1-2 ground-game punch of quarterback Brayden Neff and running back R.J. Martin.
Martin capped off the drive with a 1-yard plunge, and Meadows made the extra point to make it 14-0 — with six-and-a-half minutes left in the first half.
On the drive, the Aces appeared to attempt a 24-yard field goal facing 4th-and-5 from the Meigs 7, but the Marauders jumped offsides to set up a 4th-and-inches situation.
Hinton then changed plans and went for it, as Drake dove for the first-down foot that was confirmed via way of a measurement.
The Marauders then rallied for their two touchdowns and 14 points within two minutes and 19 seconds of each other, sandwiched around a Meigs fumble recovery off the Aces’ only turnover.
Meigs marched six plays and 59 yards and seven plays and 42 yards, as Bartrum’s TD tosses went to Tyler Garretson for 20 yards and to Zach Helton for four.
With Layne Acree adding both extra-point kicks, the Marauders managed the 14-14 tie with 2:14 left in the second stanza.
But the Marauders couldn’t keep that momentum going.
“We talk all the time about momentum, especially the first three minutes of the third quarter. We stopped them, but then we go three-and-out twice and punted three times,” said Coach Bartrum. “You can’t spin your wheels. There were huge plays where there was a block here, or a catch (dropped pass) there, or a read with the quarterback or whatever it was.”
The second half — particularly the third quarter — featured more exchanges of punts, including another three-and-out by each.
But A-C punter Keaton Baldwin booted the Marauders deep all night, as all seven of his punts ranged between 38 and 49 yards — including six times pining Meigs down inside its own 20-yard-line.
“We couldn’t hardly return them (punts) because of the height he (Baldwin) had on the ball and over the head of our return guys,” said Coach Bartrum. “Then they go out of bounds inside the 10 and one of them rolled out at the 1. Their kicking game was better than ours.”
“We controlled the field position the whole game. You can’t give Meigs a short field, because when you do, they feel like they can take some shots downfield at you,” said Hinton. “By pinning them down deep, that was a huge part of the game.”
Finally, the Aces regained the lead after another impressive scoring drive — this one covering 45 yards in eight plays and all on the ground with Martin and Neff.
Martin, off tackle from 15 yards out and almost untouched on the play, put A-C in front 20-14 with only 4:38 to go.
In all, Martin mustered a massive 126 yards on 24 carries, as Neff added 21 rushing yards and another 47 through the air.
“The offense did enough tonight to win the game too,” said Hinton. “R. J. (Martin) has been hot carrying the ball, and we have to keep feeding him when he is hot. The runs in those two scoring drives by him and Brayden (Neff) were just huge. The offensive line worked their tails off the entire game. The key was wearing them (Marauders) down, going down and scoring and going ahead, which allowed us to play the type of defense we wanted.”
That Aces’ defense then made one more fantastic stand against the Marauders — only a minute and 19 seconds later.
Meigs drove from midfield to just inside the Aces’ 41, setting up a 4th-and-a-foot to possibly pick up the first down.
But Bartrum, who had operated out of the shotgun all night, decided to move up under center — drawing an extra defender into the gap.
Bartrum stepped back with the ball and briefly lost his balance in pushing to the right, as his second effort in reaching for the first down was stopped by the oncoming A-C surge.
Zach Bartrum led the Marauders — and all receivers — with 72 yards on seven receptions, as Helton had three for 31 and Bailey Caruthers four for 42.
Meigs actually outgained the Aces 232-226, held a 15-13 advantage in first downs, and ran 59 plays from scrimmage to the Aces’ 54.
However, that was of little-to-no importance.
Instead, Bartrum was already focusing on remaining upbeat — with the Marauders welcoming winless Logan next week.
“We can’t dwell on this. We have to get this behind us. You have to move on to the next game. If not, then it’s going to happen again and again,” said Coach Bartrum. “We’re always staying positive, getting though things, learning from losses and moving on. We just have to stay positive and keep working hard. I don’t care if we go 10-0 or 0-10. We’re going to keep working hard and stay positive.”
Paul Boggs can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2106