Brother Rice blows by Bartlett in 8A opener
Being on the business end of Friday's 28-8 Class 8A playoff loss to No. 24 Brother Rice obviously wasn't the way No. 9 Bartlett wanted to go out.
The night did not pass without a moment of appreciation between teammates, however, and a look to a brighter future for Bartlett football.
The Upstate Eight co-champion Hawks trailed by four touchdowns in the fourth quarter. Looking to go out swinging, Bartlett drove 46 yards to the Brother Rice 24-yard line on a grass field that had long since turned to a swampy quagmire, only playable at all thanks to the heroic all-day efforts of District U-46 grounds operations, coordinated by Joe Creadon.
The Hawks then found their silver lining through the rain/snow mix that fell throughout the second half.
Quarterback Mike Priami, who engineered the drive to that point with passes to Nick Bucaro, Matt Young and Hayden Angell, audibled out of the called play.
He instead gave the ball to senior running back Tyler Rivelli, the team's 1,000-yard rusher.
Rivelli got to the edge and cut up the soggy field toward daylight. He sprinted 24 yards through the slop to score Bartlett's only touchdown of the game. Bucaro's 2-point conversion run followed.
The moment of a success on an otherwise frustrating night when the offense turned the ball over three times allowed seniors like Rivelli to finish their high school careers on a positive note.
"I have to thank Mikey for that," Rivelli said of his quarterback. "It was a different call. He audibled out just so I would have another chance to get in the end zone just one last time."
It was a rare moment of satisfaction for Bartlett (8-2), which was unable to match the physicality of 2018 state-runner up Brother Rice (6-4). The Crusaders outgained the Hawks 306-146, which allowed them to overcome interceptions by Bartlett's Jakub Maniak and Bucaro.
"They beat us up front. They beat us on the line," second-year Bartlett coach Matt Erlenbaugh said. "Conditions were bad for both of us, but they won the battle up front."
Brother Rice's offensive line created enough openings for 284 rushing yards on 47 carries. Junior Willie Shaw, the player of the year in his conference, carried 14 times for 121 yards, including touchdown runs of 14 and 12 yards that gave the visitors a 12-0 halftime lead.
Bucaro's interception in the end zone on the final play of the first half kept it a two-score game, but the Hawks were unable to contain quarterback Jack Lausch in the second half. The 6-foot-2, 175-pound sophomore, whose No. 37 was nearly unidentifiable after 12 minutes of play, rushed 22 times for 112 yards.
Midway through the third quarter Lausch scored on a 3-yard keeper on fourth-and-goal that took the steam out of the hopeful Hawks.
Said Lausch: "I was just thinking 'It's only 3 yards. There's no way I can't get in. Got to get this one.'"
Lausch added a 6-yard touchdown run and the 2-point conversion with 10:35 remaining to put the game out of reach.
Afterward, Rivelli had a message for the 26 players on the 37-man roster who will return next season.
"We're growing here at Bartlett, that's the most important part," he said. "I just hope that I impacted all these guys, all these juniors and sophomores. I just hope we made a difference. We flipped our schedule. We were 2-7 my sophomore year, then 7-2 and 8-1. We're just moving up.
"So, watch out. Bartlett's coming up."