CADIZ - All Harrison Central could do was take care of its business on the field and then wait to see how things unfolded across the state. The Huskies certainly took care of business in the team's season finale by defeating Buckeye Local 49-6 Friday in Cadiz.
"This is the most focused we came out for a game since the Martins Ferry game," Harrison Central head coach Justin Kropka said. "I think it really hit home to them when they walked on the field in pregame that this would be it. They were focused, and we were sharp on both sides of the ball."
The one-sided affair was over by halftime once Harrison Central built a commanding 30-0 advantage.
Courtesy Action Images
IN THE AIR — Harrison Central quarterback Rashaen Mitchell tries to avoid Buckeye Local’s Shane Duncan during Friday’s 49-6 win by the Huskies, which clinched a playoff spot.
TAKING THE TROPHY HOME — Harrison?Central seniors, from left, Maurtice Hython, Nick?Pelegreen and Rashaen Mitchell pose with the VALES?trophy after Friday’s 49-6 home win over Buckeye Local.
After the Huskies forced Buckeye Local into an opening series three-and-out, Harrison Central's running game set the tone. Tailback Maurtice Hython ran the ball nine times with only one pass - which resulted in pass interference - sandwiched between those carries. Hython racked up 55 yards until the Huskies were on their 23-yard line. Harrison Central took advantage of a Buckeye Local defense which was concentrating on Hython. Kropka called a zone read, and quarterback Rashaen Mitchell bounced the ball to the outside and glided 23 yards into the endzone. A Rafael Teixiera extra point conversion gave Harrison Central quick 7-0 lead.
Buckeye Local responded with another three-and-out on its next two offensive series. Harrison Central harassed the Panthers offense throughout the contest.
"We always want to take away the run first," Kropka said. "And we've been able to do that all year. We really didn't run anything special. We played our base defense most of the night."
Harrison Central 49, Buckeye Local 6
Buckeye Local 0 0 6 0 6
Harrison Central 7 23 13 6 49
HC: Mitchell 23 run (Teixeira kick)
HC: Hython 3 run (Teixeira kick)
HC: Mitchell 7 run (Teixeira kick)
HC: safety on kickoff return
HC: Rutter 4 yard pass from Mitchell (Teixeira kick)
HC: Watt 16 yard pass from Mitchell (Teixeira kick)
HC: Lindsey 1 run (Miser run failed)
BL: Marshall 79 kick return (Kirk run failed)
HC: Porter 2 run (Miser run failed)
RUSHING: Buckeye Local 28-85-0 (Pielech 9-33, Tustin 3-9, Hopkins 1-10, Marshall 4-6, Stock 2-3, Kirk 5-(-9)); Harrison Central 55-361-5x (Hython 22-147-1, Mitchell 5-51-2x, Williams 4-44, Miser 3-36, Stenson 8-30, Porter 4-21-1, Maykowski 2-13, Johnson 2-2).
PASSING: Buckeye Local 1-9-15-0-2 (Kirk 1-7-15-0-1, Duncan 0-1-0-0-1, Hopkins 0-1); Harrison Central 5-6-113-2-0 (all by Mitchell).
RECEIVING: Buckeye Local (Agnew 1-15); Harrison Central (Rutter 2-69-1, Hython 2-28, Watt 1-4-1).
FIRST DOWNS: Buckeye Local 5; Harrison Central 22
PENALTIES: Buckeye Local 1-15; Harrison Central 5-44
TURNOVERS-LOST: Buckeye Local 4/2; Harrison Central 2/0.
The first quarter clock was ticking down, and Harrison Central had the football. Mitchell completed a long 65-yard pass to Dalton Rutter as time ran off the clock for the end of the quarter. Harrison Central was set up nicely at the three-yard line as the second quarter began. Hython capitalized by bulling his way into the endzone to extend the Huskies lead 14-0.
Hython carried the ball 18 times for 91 yards in the first half. He finished with 147 yard on 22 carries.
"That Hython is the real deal," Buckeye Local head coach Phil Pest complimented. "They are a very good football. They have a very good quarterback. I really think they could have passed a lot more if they wanted to."
Mitchell again exploited Buckeye Local's porous defense the following series. The Huskies methodically marched down the football field. A 31-scamper by Niko Williams put the team on the five-yard line. Mitchell employed a zone read where he held the football and tiptoed into the endzone for his second rushing touchdown of the evening. Harrison Central led 21-0 with 5:18 before halftime.
Buckeye's Local mistakes started to pile up on the ensuing kickoff. Harrison Central's squib kick landed in no man's land, and the Panthers' Andy Marshall had to scramble to pick it up the football. Marshall tried to make something out of nothing. Unfortunately, all Marshall could do was backpedal to the 10-yard line, while Harrison Central stripped the football. A mass of humanity covered the ball with a Buckeye Local player under the pile with the pigskin. The safety gave Harrison Central a 23-0 advantage.
Harrison Central's final score of the half would come on the ensuing possession. The Huskies had prime field position after the safety punt at the 42-yard line. Hython rumbled over and through the Panthers' defense for a 23-yard gain to place the Huskies on the four-yard line. Harrison Central decided not to pound the football in this instance. Mitchell, instead, threw an easy pass to a wide open Dalton Rutter in the left corner of the endzone for the aforementioned 30-0 halftime lead.
Harrison Central added scores from Fletcher Watt, Terrance Lindsey and Austyn Porter in the second half.
Buckeye Local's only score came on a 79-yard kickoff return by Austin Marshall. Marshall was one of 20 Panther seniors that played their final game Friday.
"We are really going to miss (Brian) Zeroski, (Shane) Duncan, Marshall and (Nathan) Kirk and all of our seniors," Pest said. "We had kids that played hurt all year for us. We played with a lot of injuries.
"We started out the year well. Our kids did the things that had to do to win early, but then the injury bug hit and it just got a lot tougher for us right when we got into the tough part of our schedule."
While the final chapter has been written to Buckeye Local's 4-6 season, Harrison Central (7-3) is positioned for a potential playoff run.
'"The most important factor for us all week was to make sure these seniors left this field winners their last time out," Kropka stated. "Things are going to happen that are out of our control. We'll see how that all plays out.
"I couldn't be more proud of our senior group. I'll say this. If this is our last game together, I'll miss this group a ton.
"If there is a next step, we'll get up and play whoever we're supposed to play.
"When you get into the post season, you're playing with other people's money. We'll play whoever they give us."