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V.A.L.E.S. ultimate prize for Huskies, Panthers

RIVALRY SHOWDOWN — Buckeye Local’s Hayden Taylor and Harrison Central’s Kobe Mitchell look to lead their teams to the V.A.L.E.S. Trophy on Friday night. - Andrew Grimm

ADENA — Week 10 of the prep football season signifies a lot of different things.

For Harrison Central and Buckeye Local, it means V.A.L.E.S. week.

The budding rivalry between neighboring school districts will rekindle Friday evening when the Huskies and Panthers clash at World War II Memorial Stadium in Yorkville with the cherished V.A.L.E.S. (Veterans, Athletes, Legionnaires, Education, Sportsmanship) Trophy on the line.

“I know neither us nor Buckeye Local have had the season we hoped to have had, but we have one more chance to bring our best to the table,” Huskies head coach Anthony Hayes said. “We plan to do that, and we’ll let the chips fall where they may.”

This marks the ninth-consecutive year for the V.A.L.E.S. Trophy. The Panthers won the first, 20-19, in 2011. Since then, it’s been all Huskies, including last season’s 41-8 victory.

“This trophy, this game and everything we can do to honor our veterans is a wonderful thing,” Buckeye Local head coach Roger Herbert said. “We have a chance to end on a high note, win a trophy and when kids see success they often times want to jump on board, so there’s a lot at stake for us this week.”

Though the Panthers obviously wanted more, Herbert is actually upbeat about his team and the progress it’s made. After snapping a 43-game losing streak against Union Local in Week 2, the Panthers recorded their second win last week at Edison.

“For us, two wins obviously isn’t the end all because we try and want to win every game, but the improvement is really apparent for our players,” Herbert said. “To have no wins, as a program, for four years and now have a chance to get to three is big. Plus, we’ve competed well in a lot of other games, too.”

While Buckeye comes in riding a high, the Huskies saw their faint playoff hopes get put to rest last week with a 35-7 setback to Indian Creek. That means the opportunity to win their second trophy of the season and the chance to send their seasons out on a high note is big for the Huskies.

“There’s a lot of stuff going on around us this week in terms of events and pep assembles and such, so we stress to our kids about staying focused on the task at hand, embrace the challenges and be in tune for what we’re setting out to do on Friday. I have all the faith in the world that our kids will be able to do that.”

As the Panthers prepare this week, Herbert knows his team is going to have to make life on Harrison junior quarterback Kobe Mitchell tough if his team wishes to be successful.

Mitchell has shown flashes all season, including a huge effort against St. Clairsville earlier this month. All told, he’s completed 91-of-172 passes for 1,182 yards and 13 touchdowns.

“Kobe throws it around and they have plenty of capable targets, too,” Herbert said. “Their running game is under rated. I really think they’re finding their groove offensively at the right time.”

Mitchell’s favorite target is Cale McAfee. The versatile senior has caught 27 passes for 400 yards and four touchdowns. He’s also rushed 71 times for a team-high 385 yards and five touchdowns. Trevor Carman and Clayton Nunez also have had strong seasons.

Buckeye Local’s defense likes to bring pressure. Sophomore defensive tackle Hunter Darrah has had a brilliant season. Against Edison last week, he had eight tackles, four for loss, two sacks, three forced fumble and a fumble recovery.

“We need to be patient and create some matchups problems,” Hayes stressed. “If they’re giving us the run, we’ll run. If we have the opportunity to throw, we’ll do that. We simply need to execute based on what they give us.”

The Panthers’ offense exploded last week and Hayden Taylor was a big reason why. He scored five touchdowns, including three through the air.

Senior quarterback Seth Richardson finds himself 47 yards shy of becoming the Panthers’ all-time leader in passing yardage. He’s thrown for 776 yards this season.

Senior Charlie Smith is the leading rusher with 345 yards and four touchdowns. Bub Palmer is the leading receiver with 24 catches for 306 yards.

Harrison’s leading tackler for the season is Tucker Coultrap, but he’s didn’t play against the Redskins and his status is unclear. McAfee is second on the team with 67 tackles

“The key for us is going to be spreading the ball around,” Herbert said. “We know nothing will be given to us. We will need to earn everything we get.”

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