Hart manages to sneak past Shelby for the third straight year, 16-14

SHELBY – For the third consecutive year, the Hart and Shelby football teams battled down to the wire, which is fitting for an intense rivalry game between two neighbors.

And once again, Hart escaped with a narrow but exciting win.

After winning by one point in 2016 and seven points last season, the Pirates snuck past the host Tigers 16-14 on Friday in West Michigan Conference action.

That meant the Pirates got to keep the “Blood Sweat and Tears Jug” for yet another year.

Hart improved to 2-3 on the season and 2-2 in conference play. Shelby dropped to 0-5 and 0-4.

O’Rian Torres breaks off a big run for Hart. Photo/Leo Valdez

“A win is a win is a win,” said Hart head coach Rick Witteveen. “But we keep finding ways to keep things interesting. The jug stays here, baby. It feels so sweet.”

The Pirates led 16-6 entering the fourth quarter, but the Tigers didn’t quit. Shelby had a chance to tie the game late, but fell just short.

Shelby quarterback Christian Cooper’s one-yard touchdown run made it 16-14 with 1:42 left in the game, but the two-point conversion failed. Hart was able to run out the clock following the kickoff.

“Give Shelby credit, they never gave up,” Witteveen said. “But it’s our time and we just kept playing with emotion. Now we’ve got to learn from this.”

Shelby lost by a single possession for the second time this season.

“We keep getting better every week,” Shelby head coach Lorenzo Rodriguez said. “But it’s time to go back to the drawing board and find a way to win.”

Hart now has its first two-game win streak since 2004. It’s also the Pirates'[ first three-game win streak over the rival Tigers since they won four in a row in 1991-94. The three wins have come by a combined 10 points.

The Tigers had more first downs, more total yards and a longer time of possession Friday night, but turnovers and penalties cost them a chance to win their first game of the year.

“We’ve got to finish,” Rodriguez said. “It’s the story of our season, not holding onto the the football, and making mistakes at the wrong time.”

Shelby QB Christian Cooper drops back to make the pass. Photo/Leo Valdez

Both offenses got off to a slow start and the game was scoreless after one quarter.

Hart appeared to strike first on a 67-yard run by O’Rian Torres, but the play was called back for a holding penalty, one of just two Pirate penalties in the game.

On the Pirates’ next possession, Torres officially opened the scoring with a 30-yard score. Coach Witteveen then called for a fake extra point kick, and holder Matt Robbins lobbed the ball to wide-open Ayden Beachum for the conversion and an 8-0 lead.

Shelby finally scored on the last play of the first half when Cooper connected with wide receiver Gage Landis. The speedy junior outran several Pirates and took the play 64 yards to the house as time expired.

The two point conversion failed and Hart led 8-6 at halftime.

Shelby started the second half in good field position, but Cooper mishandled the ball and Seth Andritsis recovered for Hart at the Tigers’ 42-yard-line.

A personal foul penalty against Shelby helped Hart drive to the one-yard line, then Torres punched it in for his second score.

Senior quarterback Dustin Klotz ran in the two-point conversion to make the score 16-6.

Shelby got a few points back early in the fourth quarter on a Hart miscue. The Pirates were in punt formation, but the snap sailed over the head of Torres. He managed to recover, but was down in the end zone for a safety, cutting the lead to 16-8 with 11 minutes left in the game.

The Tigers had another late drive, which was aided by a successful fake punt on fourth down. Blake Greene found Landis for a 22-yard completion to keep the drive alive. Cooper punched in a one-yard score, but the failed conversion ended the comeback attempt.

Cooper completed 9 of 16 passes for 132 yards with a touchdown and an interception, and led the Tigers on defense with 10 tackles.

Senior fullback Tanner Astraukas gained 68 yards on 21 carries, while Landis had three catches for 118 yards and a touchdown.

Torres led Hart with 66 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries. Klotz finished 4-for-8 passing for 42 yards and ran for 52 yards on 11 carries.

Senior linebacker Kameron Bronkema had two sacks for the Pirates.

The tenth annual Pink and Green Game was also a victory for cancer research. All of the proceeds from the game go to Oceana County agencies to help those affected by the deadly disease.

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