CLINTONVILLE — Peru continuously knocked on AuSable Valley's door Saturday, but the Patriots kept building up the barricade and never let the Nighthawks through.
Led by its ground game, AuSable Valley (1-1, 1-0) came away with a thrilling 32-30 win over Peru (0-2, 0-2) in Champlain Valley Athletic Conference football.
The Patriots' Nate Doner piled up 237 rushing yards and a score to go along with 146 more from Eli Douglas, who scored on three separate touchdown runs.
"This win just shows the grit that this team has," AuSable Valley coach Kyle Nolan said. "They don't quit. They came out and showed the same fight they had last week.
"Our offensive line, Eli and Nate were great. Peru knew we were going to run, and we were still getting yards. That's impressive. That's heart. That's character. That's wanting to win."
Zach O'Connell powered the Nighthawks with a great game at quarterback.
The sophomore connected on 27 of his 41 passes for 320 yards and a touchdown to go along with 23 rushing yards, which included three scores on the ground.
His 6-yard quarterback keeper with 1:21 remaining helped cut the Peru deficit to just two points in the fourth quarter, but the Patriots answered.
Doner busted free for a 56-yard gain on the ensuing drive, which helped get AuSable Valley deep into Nighthawk territory.
Doner's run was a theme of the entire game as the Patriots managed to sustain plenty of drives with the running attack and break off big plays at big moments.
"I just love it," Doner said. "Our line gave the holes today, and I just beat the linebackers, and when I did, it's just the best feeling in the world. You're just in the open and got to go.
"I am just going to go at guys and go head to head with them, and I am going to bully them as much as I can. That's our football. That's our way."
Peru did manage to get the ball back with 1.3 seconds remaining at its own 8-yard line, but AuSable Valley forced an incomplete pass to seal the deal.
"O'Connell is a very talented quarterback," Nolan said. "We will have our hands full for two more years. That's a very good coaching staff over there. We worked all week, and we were prepared. We told them Peru was not going to quit. We knew it was not going to be easy, but we were able to come up with the stops."
The Patriots jumped out to a 16-0 lead with 5:06 left in the second quarter after Doner broke loose for a 69-yard touchdown.
In the first quarter, Douglas hit Tanner Furnia for a 20-yard score to put AuSable Valley on the board.
"These guys on the line are the best line in the CVAC," Douglas said. "They work their butts off every day. Those guys are dogs. I get no credit in this win. It's Nate and the linemen just doing their thing."
O'Connell connected with Riley Hebert for a 12-yard touchdown with 24 seconds left before halftime to keep the Nighthawks within striking distance.
O'Connell scored on a 4-yard quarterback keeper with 4:17 to go in the third quarter to bring Peru within two points as the Nighthawks trailed 16-14.
O'Connell's counterpart, Douglas, was up for the challenge, however, and scored on a 10-yard run of his own 11 seconds after the fourth quarter began.
That started a trend Peru could not break.
Every time the Nighthawks got close, AuSable Valley bumped its lead back up.
"It's just the character of these kids," Nolan said. "They show up every day, and they don't show up to lose. They work hard at practice every day and put the work in to get these end results. That's why we were able to sustain drives and momentum."
O'Connell added his second-to-last touchdown run of the day on a 2-yard burst into the end zone with 9:50 remaining, but Douglas answered yet again with a 36-yard touchdown that capped off an 11-play, 85-yard drive with 3 minutes to go.
"AuSable is a good football team," Peru coach Ryon O'Connell said. "They ran the ball very effectively and hit a couple of big ones, and that's football."
Connor Hart (95), Rocky Hebert (78) and Riley Hebert (71) combined for 244 receiving yards for Peru.
Gavin Padron led the Nighthawks on the ground with 74 yards.
"I'm super proud of the senior leadership," Ryon O'Connell said. "The younger players are coming along nicely. We are just happy to be playing football, and we have been in two great football games. There's a lot to learn from this season.
"The underclassmen can grow from the experience of being in a varsity football game. The seniors led us down the field, and the underclassmen made some nice plays. We will grow from that as a team."
AuSable Valley 32, Peru 30
PCS 0 6 8 16 — 30
AVCS 8 8 0 16 — 32
AVCS- Furnia 20 pass from Douglas (Douglas run), 4:45.
AVCS- Doner 69 run (Douglas run), 5:06.
PCS- Ri. Hebert 12 pass from O'Connell (pass fails), 24.0.
PCS- O'Connell 4 run (Duprey pass from O'Connell), 4:17.
AVCS- Douglas 10 run (Doner pass from Douglas), 11:49.
PCS- O'Connell 2 run (Ri. Hebert pass from O'Connell), 9:50.
AVCS- Douglas 36 run (Douglas run), 3:00.
PCS- O'Connell 6 run (Duprey pass from O'Connell), 1:21.
PCS- Padron 13-74; O'Connell 7-23, 3TD; Duprey 1-5; Hart 2-1; Southwell 2-1. Totals: 25-104, 3TD.
AVCS- Doner 25-237, TD; Douglas 22-146, 2TD; Furnia 2-17; Pray 1-1; Depo 1-(-5). Totals: 51-396, 3TD.
PCS- O'Connell 27-41-1-320, TD; Hart 0-1-0-0. Totals: 27-42-1-320, TD.
AVCS- Douglas 4-10-2-42, TD.
PCS- Hart 8-95; Ro. Hebert 9-78; Ri. Hebert 7-71, TD; Duprey 2-42; Bushey 1-26; Southwell 0-8.
AVCS- Furnia 2-27, TD; Depo 2-15.
PCS- Bushey, Hart.
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