Harrison clashes with Buckeye 8 rival Bellaire

CADIZ — Anytime Bellaire and Harrison Central lock horns, there’s always the potential for fireworks.

And to hear Mark Spigarelli and Justin Kropka tell it, the 2017 renewal of the Buckeye 8 rivalry Friday night at Wagner Field will likely have more.

“Much like every other time we’ve played them, I think it’s two pretty even teams,” Kropka said, the Huskies’ veteran head coach. “The game usually goes one touchdown one way or another.

“It’s a ‘buckle your seatbelts’ type of game. It’s going to come down to one or two plays, or maybe the last play like it did last year.”

The 2016 edition of the series at Nelson Field didn’t come down to the last play, but it was pretty close. Mason Ramsay hit D’eondre Burney with a 23-yard touchdown strike with 16 seconds left. Then, Ramsay nailed the extra-point to lift the Big Reds to a 35-34 triumph that, in the end, possibly kept the Huskies out of the playoffs.

“He had about two inches to get that ball in there, and he did it,” Kropka said. “So, we know what he can do.”

Ramsay, the Big Reds’ 6-2, 188-pound signalcaller, is just what you want in a quarterback with all the veteran leadership and savvy any coach would want. Spigarelli is happy to have him.

“He’s a quiet leader,” Bellaire’s second-year head coach said. ”He’s not a rah-rah guy. He kind of leads by example and the other guys kind of feed off him. If he can continue to have good games, others have to raise theirs.”

Ramsay threw for 211 yards in the Big Reds’ 35-6 triumph against Caldwell last week at soggy Nelson Field. It was a performance that not only impressed Spigarelli, but Kropka as well, who’s grown accustomed to watching Ramsay dissect opposing defenses the past few years, including his.

“He’s just one of the tough players they have,” Kropka said. “They have typical, tough Bellaire players. I think they’re a good team. This year, I think they’re more balanced.”

After falling short at River in Week 1, the Big Reds looked solid on both sides of the ball in dominating a Redskins squad that rolled Fairfield Christian in its opener.

Spigarelli was pleased that his team moved on from the River loss and that it put forth a balanced effort.

“I think our offensive line is coming together really well,” he said. “Hopefully, we continue to run and pass the ball when we need to.”

That line helped create plenty of holes for Big Reds ball carriers, especially Thor Duffy and Cole Porter. Duffy, who was limited late in the River game, finished with 77 yards, while Porter had 70. Combined, Spigarelli said, they made quite a tandem.

“We were able to move the ball with almost everyone in there,” he said. “I have confidence in all those guys.”

Gabe Rejonis caught five passes for nearly for nearly 200 yards for Bellaire, highlighted by touchdown catches of 80 and 74 yards.

DeJuan Caldwell had his own big receiving night last week for Harrison Central, hauling in four catches for 68 yards. Although he didn’t catch a touchdown pass, he did throw one, part of the Huskies’ 36-30 victory against D1 Cleveland Rhodes.

“They have super athletes, and we know we’re going to have to try and contain those guys as best we can,” Spigarelli said.

After falling at East Hardy in Week 1, Harrison Central came back with, like Bellaire, a solid showing on both sides of the ball in Week 2. Kropka said his team, as well as the coaches, have been battling illness as they prepare for the Big Reds.

“We’ve faced a lot of adversity so far this year,” he said. “I thought our kids came up big mentally and emotionally last week to get the first win on the new turf (at Wagner Field). That’s something they can hang their hat on the rest of their life.”

The Huskies’ offense hung its hat on Tyler West, who rushed for 214 yards and three scores.

“He’s their workhorse,” Spigarelli said. “I know they’ll try and get him the ball as much as possible because he’s a great athlete.”

West was complemented by the passing of Wyatt Elias, who threw for 122 yards.

“You could tell he was pushing and pressing in Week 1 and trying to make a play and it cost him,” Kropka said. “It snowballed. I tell him all the time that you just have to be Wyatt Elias and nobody else. When he’s calm and we have the running game rocking a little bit, that’s when he’s at his best. We don’t expect him to throw the ball 50 times a game. He just has to be efficient.”