FISHER — The Pirates of Toledo Cumberland came into Fisher looking to plunder a playoff game from a Bunnies team that beat them in a first-round playoff game last year. It didn’t work out for Cumberland, but the Pirates gave Fisher quite a tussle before falling 26-14.
Cumberland set the tone Saturday, forcing a turnover on the first drive. Fisher won the toss and elected to receive, which put the Pirates defense on the field to start the game. Will Delaney pitched the ball on an option which was dropped and the Pirates jumped on the ball.
Toledo head Coach Lucas Watkins felt good about how his team came out early.
“I thought we started well defensively, forcing a big turnover,” Watkins said. “Unfortunately, we could not capitalize on the turnover and get a score.”
The Bunnies defense came up with a big stop inside their own territory following the turnover.
Fisher could not get anything going on offense on the ensuing drive, giving the Pirates a chance to take an early lead at the start of the second quarter.
Cumberland took advantage of that opportunity when junior running back Wyatt Bryant broke multiple Fisher tackles on the way to an 11-yard touchdown run. The Pirates led 7-0 with 8:23 left in the first half.
Fisher head coach Jake Palmer knew the Pirates would come out ready to go.
“Their kids did a great job; they came out and had a really good game plan defensively and did some things on offense we had to adjust to,” Palmer said.
Fisher was able to take the momentum back on a third-and 15-when Senior quarterback Will Delaney found Fisher all-time single-season rushing leader Tyler Wilson on a screen pass for a 60-yard touchdown play that tied the score at 7-7 with 5:31 to go until half.
Watkins said the play got Cumberland off guard.
“That screen pass is something we didn’t see on film and were not ready for,” Watkins said.
Following a defensive stop, the Bunnies grabbed the lead before half when Delaney found Wilson again for an 11-yard touchdown pass, putting Fisher on top 14-7 with just 1:29 until half. The Drive took less than two minutes to cover 52 yards.
Delaney said that it is important for him to be versatile as the Bunnies quarterback.
“I think it is big because we are a triple-option offense, so I have to move around and throw the ball,” Delaney said. “I do need to clean up my reads and play a better game next week.”
Palmer agreed with that.
“Will is just a really special kid, and he is one of the best leaders I have ever been around.” Palmer said.
The Pirates got to midfield before having to punt with 31 seconds to go in the half, and the Bunnies took a knee heading into half with a 14-7 lead.
Palmer knows that having the game at home was a big advantage for the Bunnies. Fisher fans filled the stands and the sidelines and even some spilled into the grass behind the end zone.
“Our fans are just incredible, and the community is so supportive of the team,” Palmer said.
The Bunnies had a fight on their hands in the second half as Cumberland came down and tied the game with a methodical drive to open up the half. The drive to 5:40 seconds and spanned over 70 yards.
Running back Blayne Donsbach capped the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run with 6:20 to go in the third quarter. The Extra point tied the score at 14-14.
Fisher drove right down the field and took the momentum and lead right back. Delaney found Drew Purvis for an 11-yard touchdown pass that put the Bunnies up 20-14 with 3:59 to go in the third quarter.
The touchdown came just a play after the Bunnies got a Delaney 30-yard touchdown run called back due to a holding call as Delaney was crossing the goal line.
The Bunnies responded not only on the next play but on the defensive side, getting the ball back after forcing a three-and-out.
Put away drive
The Bunnies had the ball to start the fourth quarter, and that is when Delaney put the game on ice.
Delaney capped the scoring on a 56-yard keeper with 10:24 left in the game. Fisher led 26-14.
The Pirates offense could not get anything going, and the Bunnies were content to run the clock out.
Palmer was excited about his team’s performance.
“Any time you can win a football game, you feel really good about it because winning football games is really hard,” Palmer said.
Cumberland ends the season with a 6-4 record. The Bunnies now head to No. 1 seed Moweaqua Central A&M. The Raiders are 10-0 on the season.
Delaney likes his chances against the unbeaten Raiders.
“Central A&M is a really good football team, and we know that, but I think we are a really good football team, too, and we just have to make some adjustments and be better against Central A&M.” Delaney said.
Palmer knows the Bunnies will have to bring their best game to win next week.
“They present a lot of challenges with their size and speed, so we will have to clean it up without tackling ... to have an opportunity to win,” Palmer said.
Central A&M head coach Brent Weakly says the Bunnies will give his team everything the can handle.
“There run game is really impressive,” Weakly said. “Delaney and Wilson are super dynamic in the run and pass game.”
The Raiders have a super dynamic team at their disposal as well.
“We are a really athletic group and they can really handle the postseason atmosphere,” Weakly said.
The Raiders have an impressive resume coming in with no better win than Decatur St. Teresa 28-26 who is 9-1.
“We have played five playoff teams, which has really prepared us for this oppurtunity,” Weakly said.
The Bunnies will head to Moweaqua on Saturday, and the game will kick off at 1 pm.
You can contact Ryan Birch at Rbirch@RantoulPress.com or on twitter @RyanBirchRP