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Streaking Panthers, Bears clash

NEW MANCHESTER — Friday marks the third time Buckeye Local and Oak Glen will meet under their current head coaches.

It is safe to say that both teams are the most excited they have been headed into any of the three.

Oak Glen is 2-0, coming off impressive wins in the first two weeks and looking for its first 3-0 start in 49 years. The Panthers finally snapped their 43-game losing streak and sit 1-1.

Golden Bears coach Ted Arneault is keeping his team from buying into the building hype.

“I think what we need to do is just go to work every week and not look at past history and outside perspective,” he said. “That is a distraction. If we go 3-0, it would be the first time since 1970, but I’m not telling the kids that. I really want them focused on one game at a time.

“A lot of people will bring up historical precedence, but we’re going to do our best to focus on what’s important. We’re taking Buckeye very seriously.”

Panthers coach Roger Herbert had a similar message for his team following Friday’s celebration.

“That was big for the kids and the community to get the monkey off our backs,” he said. “I told the kids to enjoy it Friday night and then get back to work on Saturday morning.”

As for the Golden Bears being where they are, don’t count Herbert as among those surprised by it.

“I think lot of people kind of underestimated them,” he said. “We have to slow them down and try to get turnovers.”

Last year, the Golden Bears bested the Panthers, 35-21, on the road. The year prior, Oak Glen prevailed in double overtime, 28-21.

Both times the Panthers went with Seth Richardson as the starting quarterback. During their victory over Union Local last week, Herbert turned to Hayden Taylor.

“We went with a quarterback switch. Both quarterbacks took snaps,” Herbert said. “Hayden moved the ball pretty well for us. He just came to us this year. We still have packages for Seth Richardson, as he’s been a starter for 18-20 games for us. It is a benefit for us to have two guys that can take snaps for us and have prominent roles. We moved to some wide receiver and tight end. He is certainly part of our packages, and maybe it gives opponents something else to think about.”

Arneault is preparing for both Buckeye Local QBs to see time.

“They run the ball. There are a lot of two-back sets, but they can get into empty formations and chuck it around,” he said. “Seth Richardson has been there a few years now and has a lot of experience. (Taylor) will play quarterback. Both are capable running the offense.”

Oak Glen’s defense has been impressive so far, allowing 14 points to Weir High and none against Phillip Barbour. It is averaging 168.5 yards allowed per contest, while the offense averages 464.5 yards and 39.5 points.

“We are becoming a more balanced team,” Arneault said. “Against Weir, we ran twice as much as we passed. Against Phillip Barbour, we were able to throw the ball some. We’re able to have some balance, and I think makes us a little harder to game plan for.”

Buckeye Local, meanwhile, averages 159 yards and 14 points on offense. Defensively, it is averaging 268.5 yards allowed.

“We told the captains we are going to win the coin toss and we are going to take the ball,” Herbert said. “We went down and scored, got a defensive stand and went down and scored again. I always use the Mike Tyson line, ‘People have a game plan until they get punched in the mouth.’ Well, we punched first and maybe changed UL’s game plan.

“Getting a good early start is a big deal. Oak Glen has started fast in both of their games. We have to be ready to go out and throw a few punches with them, weather the storm and keep our game plan.”

(Grimm can be reached at agrimm@heraldstaronline.com)

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