Sep. 9—ROOTSTOWN — In a game that figured points were going to be hard to come by, the Rootstown defense dominated.
Pymatuning Valley held its own for a half, but the unbeaten Rovers' size and depth were too much after halftime in a 28-6 victory on Friday night.
"They were big and physical. I think they wore us down a little bit," Lakers coach Neal Croston said.
PV (2-2), facing a team much like its own that relies on a dominating rushing attack and hard-hitting defense, couldn't get anything going in the second half.
The Lakers had a 17-play, 84-yard scoring drive that consumed 9 minutes, 13 seconds of the first half, culminating in a 1-yard touchdown run by quarterback Ryan Croston with 7:51 remaining in the second quarter.
The ball was fumbled on the ensuing 2-point try, however, and PV trailed 7-6.
Rootstown answered with a long scoring drive of its own to take a 14-6 lead at halftime.
In the first half, the Lakers controlled the ball for 14:38 and averaged 4.4 yards per rush. In the second half, PV ran just 16 plays and gained only 20 total yards.
The Lakers' only first down after halftime was courtesy of a personal foul penalty on Rootstown.
"We tried to adjust, we just couldn't hit that pass play or break that outside run," Croston said. "They were getting to us.
"We've got to hit that waggle when they're coming up that strong."
Rootstown, meanwhile, ran 37 plays for 194 yards after halftime and averaged better 4.5 yards per rush attempt.
"The message at halftime was the game was going to be won in the trenches," Rovers coach Chris Knopick said. "I thought in the first half they were taking it to us. We were getting pushed back and they were getting lower than us and firing off the ball.
"Our kids did a great job in the second hal. We told them, you've got to get them in second and long."
The Lakers ran five first-down plays in the second half for minus-1 yard total.
Defensively, PV played well.
The Rovers' opening drive of the third quarter was a 14-play effort that stalled on downs at the PV 11, and the Lakers forced a three-and-out later in the period.
But Rootstown got the ball back with 11:53 remaining in the game — it was still 14-6 — and drove 63 yards in seven plays.
The Rovers' best rusher, Dawson Morgan, broke two tackles (one in the offensive backfield) on fourth-and-1 from the PV 43 and outraced the defense to the end zone.
"I thought our guys played hard and physical," Croston said. "They come right at you and we didn't back down. Yeah, we gave up a few 10-yard runs or whatever here and there, but we stuffed them at the line plenty of times. I thought our guys, overall, on defense did a good job. We just got wore down."
Rootstown followed that up by forcing a three-and-out, then drove 68 yards in 13 plays to score again with 1:39 left on a 4-yard run by Dominic Duvall.
Morgan also scored on a 6-yard run in the first quarter to give Rootstown a 7-0 lead.
He finished with 26 carries for 147 yards, but take away the 43-yarder and he averaged just over 4 yards per carry.
Last week, Morgan rushed for 233 yards and has 946 yards on the season.
"I think we were able to kind of figure out what they were doing with their front and we did wear them down eventually," Knopick said. "Our mentality is to keep attacking, keep attacking, keep attacking and eventually we'll start cracking."
Croston finished with 18 rushes for 73 yards and completed 4-of-14 through the air for 33 yards. He did not complete a pass in the second half, but Rootstown senior Will McEweun was credited with three pass breakups.
"Will is a guy who has really stepped up for us," Knopick said. "He bailed us out on a couple plays where [the intended receiver] wasn't even his guy. He saved us a couple of touchdowns. Those were huge plays that often go unnoticed."
The Lakers will look to get back to their winning ways next Friday at Girard. Rootstown hosts Shenandoah from Noble County.