Buckeye still marching on
YORKVILLE — The Buckeye Local Panthers host Beaver Local on Friday night at World War II Memorial Stadium, still searching for win No. 1 on the season.
While sitting with an 0-6 record, it has not been the season that first year Panthers head coach Roger Herbert would have hoped for coming in. He is encouraged by the effort and work ethic his team has shown to this point in the season.
“We played John Marshall last week, and I think they are a very good football team,” he said. “Our kids are playing hard whistle to whistle. As a coach that’s the first thing you ask of them. As far as effort, I can say that the kids have never quit on us and are doing everything we ask them to do.”
For Herbert’s club, the goal the the rest of the way is simple; find a way to get a win for the seniors who have gone through the struggles the program has faced with three coaches in three years and stuck it out through the worst of it. They also have not tasted victory since 2014, if they played as a freshman.
“There is nothing more we want for the program,” he said. “That group has been here for four years now and been through some hard times. It’s a testament to them because they come back every year and do everything they can. We want nothing more than to get them that first win and build on that. We look at them as the group to kind of start the culture change here for us, and it would be bittersweet to get a win for them. It’s got nothing to do with the coaches, it’s about the kids. Our No. 1 agenda for the rest of the season is getting them a win.”
The Panthers know they are the underdog every week.
“We’re telling them right now that we really don’t have anything to lose,” Herbert said. “We don’t have a win yet and deservidly so. We can let it all hang out on the line and hopefully hang around to the fourth quarter and have a chance to win late. We’ve got to deal with everybody’s first punch and weather the storm a little bit and then make some plays.”
It will be a tough task to do so this week when they face Beaver Local, who enters the matchup with a 5-1 record and are coming off of a close 28-26 victory over Bellaire. Chris Yanni’s blocked extra-point and interception of a two-point conversion within the last five minutes helped secure the victory.
“We scouted them against Bellaire,” Herbert said. “They are a strong, physical team that will put a lot of pressure on you defensively. They’ve got a couple of running backs that run the football pretty well. Their size is really something we’re going to have to contend with this week because they are really big.”
The Beavers currently rank seventh in Ohio Division IV, Region 13. They also won without leading rusher Michael Clendenning who left with an ankle injury.
To accomplish the goal of getting in the win column, cutting down mistakes and turnovers is key.
“Sometimes we’ve kind of hurt ourselves with turnovers and things like that,” Herbert said. “That’s kind of been our achillies heel for the season.”
The Panthers are averaging 157 yards of offense per game and putting up 8.2 points. Buckeye Local averages 87.8 yards on the ground and 69.2 through the air.
Sophomore quarterback Seth Richardson has been at the helm for the Panthers most of the way so far, putting up a solid 59.4 completion percentage and completing 38-of-64 passes for 382 yards with two touchdowns and six interceptions. The potential return of junior Shane Christian, who was in line to be the starter before a hand injury leading up to the first game of the season sidelined him, is something that Herbert hopes can help boost his offense.
“Seth Richardson has done a really nice job filling in for him,” Herbert said. “He has done everything he can do for us. Shane took a few reps this week and took a few reps last week. It’s a tough injury to come back from for a quarterback, but that might give us a little shot in the arm this week.”
Rushing the ball, one of those seniors the Panthers want to get a win for is John Marelli. He has 410 yards on 91 carries, averaging 4.5 yards per carry with three touchdowns. Sophomore Charlie Smith is having a nice season as well, averaging 5.1 yards per on his 26 carries and racking up 123 and a score.
Catching the ball, senior Josh Dulesky is one of the top receivers in the area with 19 catches for 203 yards and a touchdown, averaging 10.7 yards per catch. Marelli has added 10 catches for 120 yards and another score, while fellow senior Kaden Weaver has four catches for 24 yards.
“John is a senior, and he’s having a good season,” Herbert said. “Obviously people key on him. He made a good play last week where he beared down on a pass and broke free for about 40 yards down the field. His effort has been outstanding. Josh Dulesky has made several big catches for us.”
On defense, the Panthers are giving up an average of 348.7 yards and 40 points. The rush defense gives up an average of 230.8 against, while the secondary has performed better, giving up an average of 117.8 through the air.