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Panthers welcome Martins Ferry to lair

September 27, 2012
By SETH STASKEY - Special to the Football Extra , The (Martins Ferry) Times Leader

YORKVILLE - Martins Ferry and Buckeye Local have similar philosophies on their approach to the game of football.

That's part of why their matchups, over the years, have yielded some entertaining games and allowed the game to become an entertaining rivalry of schools that are just a few miles apart.

"This is always a good game for both schools and communities," said Purple Riders' head coach Dave Bruney. "It's become a game that both teams really look forward to, especially in the last six or so years."

The teams will renew that rivalry Friday night at 7 p.m. at World War II Memorial Stadium when the Panthers celebrate Homecoming festivities.

"We're going to have to fight for every win we get," said rookie Panthers' head coach Phil Pest. "Martins Ferry is a good team and this game is always fun for both schools because most of the kids know each other and will be up for the game."

Both teams got back to their winning ways last week after suffering losses in Week 4. Martins Ferry was an impressive winner against Union Local, while Buckeye Local fended off Edison.

"Our offensive line stepped up, showed some improvement and we were able to rush the ball well," Bruney said. "We're happy with the progress we've made since week one and we hope to continue to make progress each week."

The Panthers, meanwhile, will try to build on an impressive first half, which included an air raid from quarterback Nathan Kirk. In the second half, they were victimized by turnovers, which put the defense in some precarious spots.

"Our defense played well late in the game when we really needed it to," Pest said. "That was definitely a positive for us as was the first half by Nathan Kirk, who I thought played great."

Kirk has been steadily getting better since being inserted into the starting lineup. He's passed for 529 yards and six touchdowns, but he's been picked off eight times.

The Panthers' leading receiver is Shane Duncan with 13 catches for 365 yards and four touchdowns.

On the ground, Austin Marshall and Andy Stock provide a solid one-two punch. They've combined for 431 yards and two touchdowns.

"I am sure Buckeye is pleased with the progress they've made since Week 1," Bruney noted.

"We've got to be able to defend both the pass and the run. I think we've done a pretty good job of that all year, but whenever a team can be balanced, it presents some problems."

The Purple Riders' offense has been balanced in its own right as junior Eric Flowers has taken over the starting duties due to the injury suffered by Tyler Strama.

Flowers has been impressive, completing 44-of-63 passes for 542 yards and three touchdowns.

His favorite target is senior standout Cody Schau. He's made 35 catches for 520 yards and five touchdowns. Senior Robert Vargo has caught 19 balls for 213 yards.

The Riders have employed running back by committee with the likes of Marcus Sutton (52-283-3td), Brandon Laughman (47-309-4td) and Brian Styles, who didn't play last week due to injury.

"They're very impressive, especially along the line," said Pest. "They've had some injuries, but they're very quick and athletic. Plus, Schau is a really talented receiver and they're running some good schemes to get their playmakers the ball."

Bruney expects the Panthers' troops to play extremely physical.

"They use a lot of different stunts and blitzes and they get a lot of people near the ball to stop the run," Bruney said. "Coach Pest has done a good job getting his team on track. They're well coached and their kids work hard at what they're coached to do."