YORKVILLE - An incomplete pass will never be looked at in the same light again after those final seconds of the Buckeye Local-Harrison Central clash Friday night at Memorial Stadium.
Buckeye Local had battled back to regain a 20-19 lead with just 1:45 remaining, were then assessed a 15-yard penalty on the ensuing kickoff that gave the visiting Huskies possession near midfield.
A Rasheen Mitchell-to-Nick Pelegreen pass and a 12-yard run by Mitchell put Harrison Central in line for some late game heroics.
HOLDING IT HIGH — Members of the Buckeye Local football team hold the VALES?trophy after beating Harrison?Central, 20-19, Friday night in Yorkville as both teams ended the season.
-- Mike Palmer
Two sterling defensive plays by Buckeye Local's Devan Pyciak and Dakota Flaherty added to the excitement with the Huskies left with a fourth down, no time outs and 36 yards of soggy Panther turf between them and the endzone time on the clock for just one play.
Taking the snap, Mitchell glided to his left then fired a pass toward the endzone. Seconds turned to minutes and joy and sorrow griped both sets of bleachers for just a fleeting second as the pass first fell into the hands of a Panther defender, then slipped into the hands of a Huskie receiver. But in the end, that ball lay on the ground and Buckeye Local celebrated a thrilling 20-19 win.
With the win, the jubilant Panthers were presented with the first V.A.L.E.S trophy which was presented for the first time to the winner of the neighborhood rivalry.
Buckeye Local 20, Harrison Central 19
Harrison Central 0 13 0 6 - 19
Buckeye Local 6 6 0 8 - 20
BL: Dear 31 run (pass failed)
BL: Dear 2 run (pass failed)
HC: Hython 2 run (Hyde kick)
HC: Hython 6 run (pass failed)
HC: Schurr recovered fumble in endzone (kick blocked)
BL: Piergallini 3 run (Dear run)
RUSHING: Buckeye Local 36-240-3 (Dear 22-144-2, Piergallini, 12-42-1; Marshall 3-6). Harrison Central 38-225-2 (Hython 29-177-2, Eddy 5-35; Mitchell 4-13).
PASSING: Buckeye Local 7-14-79-0-0 (all by Barsch). Harrison Central 7-20-53-0-1 (Mitchell, 6-19-41-0-1, Hython, 1-1-12).
RECEIVING: Buckeye Local (Piergallini, 4-34; Dear, 2-20; Duncan, 1-34); Harrison Central (Hyde, 3-35; Pelegreen, 2-5; Sproull, 1-6; Eddy, 1-7).
FIRST DOWNS: Buckeye Local 17; Harrison Central 17
PENALTIES: Buckeye Local 6/51; Harrison Central, 9/54
FUMBLES: Buckeye Local 3-1 ; Harrison Central 1-0
Fans could not have asked for more as the two teams traded leads and put on a masterful display of running the football. Buckeye Local's departing senior Josten Dear closed with 144 on 22 carries and Harrison sophomore Maurtice Hython rushed for 177 yards on 29 carries just one week after carrying the ball for over 300 yards.
Buckeye Local's win pushed the Panthers to a 6-4 mark on the season. Coach Anthony Barsch's club suffered a pair of one-point losses and a four-point setback during the season.
Justin Kropka's gutsy Huskies finished with a 4-6 record, but just like their Friday night counterparts, dropped some close contests during the season.
"Harrison Central played a great game tonight," Barsch said. "They came in here with a good game plan. It was a great game and as it turned out it came down to the very last play.
"We had a little bit of a letdown in the second quarter and we could have rolled over and just quit, but these guys just kept fighting.
"This a bit of an emotional game for me as a coach and a father tonight. We knew we had a lot of skilled players coming back this season, but we came in with a first year line, a first-year quarterback and a pretty tough Buckeye 8 schedule.
"I'm very proud of these guys. They finished at 6-4 because they were able to get the job done."
Buckeye Local got things rolling on its second possession when Dear scored on a 31-yard run with 5:27 left in the first quarter.
An interception and long return by Flaherty set up the next Panther score in the second frame. Flaherty's theft gave the hosts possession at the Harrison 11 with 8:19 left in the half. Dear then ran for four yards, Jordan Piergallini added five and Dear bulled over from the two with 6:55 on the board for a 12-0 lead.
Harrison quickly started its comeback. Taking possession midfield on the ensuing kickoff, Kropka called on Hython on three straight plays and he collected 23 yards to the 27. A Doug Eddy 19-yard run pushed the ball to the 8 and Hython added six to the two. With 4:26 on the clock, Hython bolted into the endzone and the PAT closed the gap to 12-7.
With just under three minutes remaining, the Huskies started another scoring drive from their own 45. Staying strictly on the ground and calling on Hython, Mitchell and Eddy, the Huskies eventually took the lead on a 2-yard burst over the middle by Hython with 0:39 left in the half.
It wasn't until midway through the final session did action heat up again. Pelegreen pounced on a Panther fumble with 10:18 on the fourth quarter clock that set the stage for the Huskies final scoring drive. Starting from the Panther 39, Hython ran for two, Eddy added three and Mitchell connected with Eddy for seven to the 27. Buckeye's defense thwarted the Huskie offense to eventually force fourth-and-nine. Mitchell threw into the flat, but a Panther defender was flagged for interference. With new life at the 15, Hython burst through the middle. Near the one, he was hit by a Buckeye tackler forcing a fumble that was recovered in the endzone by an alert Austin Schurr with 7:14 on the clock. The PAT boot was blocked and the Huskies held a 19-12 lead.
Buckeye bounced right back. Combining the running of Dear and Piergallini and a Barsch-to-Piergallini pass that covered 15 yards, the Panthers set up was would be the game-winning scores. With 1:45 left, Piegallini capped the long drive with three-yard run off tackle for the score and Dear followed with a sweep of the left side with the decisive two-point conversion.
"Same song, different dance," a dejected Kropka said after the heartbreaking loss. "We played well on both sides of the ball.
"It's tough to explain to these guys. They played hard and do some many of the thing that they are suppose to do. It's just not in the cards. These seniors deserve a better fate. They battle through injuries and everything that happen this season. I'm very proud of them."