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Panthers, Wildcats meet in key Region 17 matchup

Collopy: Edison will need to bring its ‘lunch pail’ to play Buckeye Local

RICHMOND — When the Wildcats and Panthers meet at the Edison Unified Athletic Complex Friday night, a lot of playoff implications will be on the line.

Edison sits 5-3 and dropped to No. 11 in the latest OHSAA Division V, Region 17 playoff standings following its second defeat in the previous seven games. Prior to the 27-17 loss to Harrison Central, another team in the Region 17 hunt, last Friday, the Wildcats had been sitting in position to potentially host a playoff game.

A win over Buckeye Local for coach Mike Collopy’s group would go a long way in the Wildcats efforts to solidify their postseason spot and climb the rankings again.

“Every week is a big week when you’re playing a team where the schools are close to one another,” Collopy said. “Us and Buckeye have always had a nice rivalry through the years. We’re two very similar schools.

“I’m sure they are going to be ready. They are in position to try and make a run (at the playoffs) so we have to be ready.

“This week is one of those games where we need to bring our lunch pail, that’s for sure.”

On the flip side, the Panthers enter the game on the outside looking in, sitting No. 19 in Region 17, but are less than a percentage point behind the next three teams in front of them and have two chances the final two weeks of the regular season to score a lot of points in the computer ratings, starting with Friday’s trip to Edison. Buckeye Local hosts Harrison Central, which is in the bubble spot in the region, in Week 10.

“There definitely is opportunity in front of us,” Buckeye Local head coach Jim Hoover said. “We never really talk about playoffs, we take it one game at a time. We have to keep improving and getting better.

“I have been telling the kids since I got hired — with all the talk about the playoffs going to 12 teams, 16 teams — the playoffs will happen but we’ve got to control what we can control and that is winning every Friday. Hopefully we get healthy this week and get a win.”

Though the Panthers are 2-4 (two games have been canceled by COVID issues) and are coming off a loss, 37-0 on the road at Tiffin Calvert, Collopy feels their record is quite deceiving when one takes a look at the level of competition Buckeye Local has faced.

“They have played a tough schedule opening with Barnesville, coming back with Shadyside and the two teams they played from out of the area are good teams,” the first year Edison football head coach said. “They have played some tough competition and 2-4 is not at all indicative of the club they have.

“Coach Hoover does an outstanding job, he always has. They are big and strong up front, they’ve got two big running backs (Trey Hoover and Noah Kourim) and a fullback, Justin Driscoll, that is a really good blocker. Their quarterback (Skyler Ebright) is a sophomore and he runs their offense really well, he’s quick and elusive.

“They’re a good team, they just happen to have played some really good teams.”

While Hoover and Collopy are both in their first year of guiding their respective programs, neither are strangers to each other or Ohio Valley Football. Collopy, of course, has had a long, successful run as Edison’s baseball coach as well as time as a football assistant in the past, and Hoover had been an assistant for a long time prior to becoming the Panthers head coach, including at Edison from 1994-2001.

“Coach Hoover has done a really good job with them and they are playing the type of football that he likes to coach, big, strong and physical,” Collopy said.

The respect between the grid bosses is mutual.

“Coach Collopy is a really good coach, he runs a tight ship and I have nothing but respect for him,” Hoover said.

For Edison to be successful, it will have to find a way to slow down the Herald-Star/Daily Times coverage area’s leading rusher in the Panthers’ Trey Hoover.

After leading the area and garnering All-Area, All-District and All-State recognition in 2020 as a sophomore despite switching to running back mid-season, the bruising back again took the top spot in the area with a 167-yard performance last week. For the season, he has 650 yards and seven scores despite having played in two fewer games than other Ohio teams.

“Trey Hoover is an outstanding running back. He has gotten better as the season has gone on and he had a heckuva year as a sophomore (in 2020),” Collopy said. “He is going to run the ball a lot for them, they have other guys they can hand the ball to, but if they need a tough yard, they are going to go to him.”

Behind Trey Hoover, the Panthers offense is averaging 194.7 yards and 13.5 points per game. Some 157.5 of those yards are coming on the ground.

The Edison defense is allowing an average of 263.9 yards and 23.5 points. The Wildcats are allowing an average of 151.5 yards on the ground.

On the other side, Edison’s offense is led by signal caller Gage Cline, who is third in the area with 1,200 passing yards, 13 touchdowns and has added another 498 yards and 11 scores with his feet for more than 1,600 total yards of offense and 24 total TDs.

When he throws the ball, he’s got the top receiver in the area to throw it to in senior Jacob Cusick, who has 42 catches for 686 yards and seven scores, and the No. 2 rusher in the area to hand it to in Talan McLurg, who trails Trey Hoover by just one yard in the area rushing list.

“They have some good skill kids, some good wideouts and their quarterback has grown up the last couple years,” coach Hoover said. “He looks good, he runs well and he throws the ball well and they have some weapons on the outside for him to get the ball to.”

That offense will be going against a Panther defense that allows an average of 265.7 yards (almost evenly split between rush and pass yards) and 23.7 points.

“Defensively, they get to the ball and they’re very aggressive. There are a lot of things you have to prepare for,” Collopy said.

With time running short in the regular season, now is the time for Buckeye Local to find the consistency that has eluded it through schedule changes, games canceled, injuries and quarantined players affecting the season.

“We look good one week and then look like we have never seen a practice field the next week, so we have to start coming together and work on basic, fundamental stuff,” coach Hoover said. “No question, we have to find some consistency. The last couple weeks we haven’t had the same offensive line, the same five guys, which I think is really hurting us. Hopefully we get that corrected and can right the ship.

“We have to do a better job of tackling. We need consistency tackling and blocking.”

After the modified schedule in 2020 due to COVID did not allow the teams to meet last year, Edison is excited to have the game back on the schedule.

“It’s exciting to have the game back on the schedule, any time local teams play, the communities follow the teams and with it being local, the crowds are nice and we have a lot of kids that go to the JVS with their kids, so those games are always good for the community,” Collopy said.

Though Edison has had a lot of success against the Panthers in the last decade, Buckeye Local did win the last meeting in 2019, 54-35, at the old Cartright Field.

The kick at Edison’s new digs is set for 7 p.m.

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