Buckeye Local more upbeat

YORKVILLE — The Buckeye Local Panthers season came to an end with an all to0 familiar record, a third consecutive 0-10 campaign.

This one was different than the previous two, though, according to first-year head coach Roger Herbert.

“For us I’m pretty happy with how our season went,” Herbert said. “Obviously we wanted to get some wins and that didn’t happen, but I keep a calendar on my desk and every game was closer than last year. There was a big difference at the end of year in terms of scoring points. Injuries played a little bit of a part of (our record), but that happens to everybody. In terms of wins and losses it wasn’t a success, but in terms of efforts and attitudes it was a big success.

“I said when I interviewed for the job that it wasn’t going to happen to overnight. Next year we expect to win some games. It’ll be our second year. The kids will know the systems on offense and defense, and we should take a step forward.”

One of the biggest bright spots for Herbert was just that, the effort of his players.

“I really thought at times last year effort was not very good, and this year it was,” he said. “When I talk to the coaches, they all said the kids were playing a lot harder. I think that was a success.”

The Panthers had several bright spots in individual performances, including school records from junior quarterback Shayne Christian and senior receiver Josh Dulesky.

Christian missed the first six games with a broken hand suffered prior to the teams Week 1 matchup with Martins Ferry, a 47-0 loss to the playoff bound Purple Riders. He came back and threw for a school record 334 yards in his first start in a 55-24 loss to Beaver Local in his Week 7 return. He finished with 1,163 yards in just four starts, averaging 290.8 yards in the last four weeks. He completed 73-of-151 passes (48.3 percent) for nine touchdowns and 13 interceptions.

“He looked really good in the preseason and then broke his hand,” Herbert said. “If you look at his numbers, he would have had a tremendous year if he was healthy all season. With a full offseason to learn his audibles and get more comfortable in the offense, I think the sky is the limit for him next year. If he can stay healthy people will know his name next year.”

While Christian was sidelined, sophomore Seth Richardson was thrust into duty a little earlier than expected and completed more than 59 percent of of his passes, finishing the season 38-of-64 for 382 yards, three scores and six picks.

“He got pushed in the fire a little early,” Herbert said. “We had some blessings in disguise with the injuries because now I know that if Shayne would go down again, and obviously it is an open job every year, Seth can step right in and he knows the offense. We’re very confident in Seth as well. He is a very smart kid that could be a coach some day. He got to play jayvee football once Shayne was back and guided them to a couple wins. What’s better than having one quarterback is having two. I think we really found something there.”

Dulesky broke a 27-year-old record in Week 10 with a 203-yard performance in a 70-34 loss to Harrison Central, and finished as the No. 2 receiver in the Herald-Star/Daily Times coverage area with 39 catches for 660 yards and five scores, averaging just less than 17 yards per catch. Right behind him was fellow senior John Marelli, who caught 35 passes for 565 and four scores, averaging just more than 16 yards per.

“They might have had 80 catches if we had our full gamete of guys all year,” Herbert said. “They will be sorely missed next year. They’re both explosive and very coachable guys.”

Marelli was the Panthers leading rusher, finishing with 422 yards and two scores on 108 carries. Sophomore Charlie Smith rushed for 133 yards and a touchdown on 33 carries. Christian ran for three touchdowns and 57 yards on 26 carries.

Buckeye Local averaged 217.4 yards and 13.2 points on offense, rushing for 63.5 yards and averaging 153.9 passing. On defense, the Panthers gave up 373.8 yards and 44.2 points on average, allowing 266.6 yards a game on the ground and 107.2 through the air.

As a whole the Panthers will send off 12 seniors from the 2017 squad in David Zanes, Troy Perkin, Dulesky, Marelli, William Hopkins, Kadin Weaver, Cody Griffith, Matt Barsch, Luka Dickerson, Jeremiah Seamen, Luke Bell and Ashton Antigo.

“After Friday’s game, the first people I thanked was the seniors for coming back,” Herbert said. “It’s tough to keep coming back when things aren’t going well. Everyone wants to play football when you’re 10-0. When you’re 0-10 it’s really tough to stand out there and say ‘I’m gonna play’ and they did.

“Those 12 guys didn’t complain. They did what we asked. They changed offenses three years in a row. They changed defenses a couple times. We’ve got a lot of successful kids there that will do well in life, and that’s really what the main thing is. We’ve got a lot of kids going to college and a lot of guys looking to join the work force, and I am very proud of them.”

The Panthers will return 12 juniors, who will be the next senior class, and 17 sophomores, something Herbert is excited about.

“We bring back a lot,” he said. “There are 30-plus guys from this year’s roster that we expect to have back next year. We were very excited about our roster because it is balanced. We have some juniors coming back that we look at to be leaders. We got a lot of guys some valuable playing time and a lot of guys jayvee playing time. We’ve got some exciting junior high kids coming in, too. I really think I got hired at the right time.”