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Red Knights storm back, stun Panthers

ESCAPE ARTIST — Toronto’s Caleb Leasure escapes pressure from Buckeye Local’s Austin Langford on Friday. -Andrew Grimm

TORONTO – Trailing by two scores late in the fourth and staring an 0-3 start right in the face, it was gutcheck time for Toronto – and the Red Knights were up to the task.

Toronto scored 21 points in a span of 2:41 and erased a 14-point deficit to defeat Buckeye Local, 27-20, in thrilling fashion on senior night at Clarke Hinkle Stadium.

“We told our kids before the game that adversity was going to strike,” Toronto head coach Josh Franke said. “When it does and you get punched in the mouth, backed up in the corner, what are you going to do? Are you going to duck out like we did last week, or are you going to push forward and fight? Our kids didn’t give up, they fought.

“It was gutcheck time. You could see in some of our kids eyes that they were questioning things, but we had some leaders step up and make plays, and no one gave up.”

After struggling at times in the first two losses and for much of Friday night’s game, senior quarterback Caleb Leasure was finally able to find his game, delivering scoring passes of 48 and 65 yards during the fourth-quarter frenzy, the second of which ended up being the game-winner to Devin Corrao with 1:05 to go.

“Caleb has been going through some ruts, and he was due,” Franke said. “I told Caleb. ‘You have to have a night, you have to get out of it tonight’ and he did. He stepped up big time, made some big time throws.

“He stood in the pocked against a D-I kid in (Buckeye Local’s Hunter) Darrah and completed those passes. Without Caleb Leasure and his experience from the past two years, I don’t know if we get the win.”

Leasure finished 13 of 22 for 221 yards.

On the flip side, the Panthers’ (0-3) inexperience just got the better of them once the more experienced Red Knights (1-2) grabbed the momentum.

“We have to learn how to finish a game,” Buckeye Local head coach Roger Herbert said. “Credit to Toronto, they kept playing and we had a couple mishaps. I thought the kids played a heckuva game. It was a good game to watch, but I’d obviously rather be on the other side of it. We just have to find a way to finish, punch one more in or get one more stop. We have a lot of kids growing up out there as we go.

“(Toronto’s) experience plays a huge factor. I’ve been around sports for a long time, and usually the teams that have been there have more success than the teams that haven’t been there as much in those situations. They didn’t lose composure, and we maybe got a little bit rattled. The more we do this, the better we’ll get.”

Sophomore quarterback Trey Hoover had the best night of his young career, tossing for 187 yards and a score, while rushing for 34 yards and two more touchdowns in what was his third varsity start.

“It was big for him,” Herbert said. “He doesn’t look like a sophomore, but this was only his third varsity start. It’s coming. I thought he played well and ran the ball hard. Getting him going is big for us. It’s big for his confidence going forward.”

While Corrao hauled in the winning score, Shane Keenan started the furious comeback with a 48-yard catch and run to the end zone with 3:46 to go to make it 20-12. He finished with 93 yards on three catches.

“We talked with Shane, and it was a simple message: Big-time players make big-time plays when they are needed,” Franke said. “That’s exactly what he did. He proved to everyone that even at 300 pounds, he’s a versatile athlete, and that’s what we expect from him.”

The Red Knights recovered an onside kick, then Leasure found Corrao deep in the Panthers end to set up a Garrett Dozier (72 yards, two touchdowns) plunge. Dozier also converted the 2-point play to tie the game at 20-20 with 2:46 to go.

The Panthers were driving, with Hoover connecting with Brian Palmer Jr. (three catches, 99 yards) for a couple of nice gains, but a Bryson Anderson interception ended the drive.

On the next play, Leasure hit Corrao in stride for the winning score.

“Bryan Anderson made plays tonight. Devin Corrao made plays, Brant Reeves made plays, kids you didn’t expect or know their names came through in the clutch and made some big-time plays,” Franke said.

The Panthers got off to a fast start, with Hoover hitting Hayden Taylor for a 43-yard score in Taylor’s first game back from an injury.

“We got him loose a little bit. He made some plays for us,” Herbert said. “It was nice to have him back. Just the threat of him being out there makes it tougher for teams to guard. He’s a big boost to our offense.”

Hoover then ran for a 16-yard score to make it 14-0 after one quarter.

Dozier converted for a 3-yard scoring run to make it a 14-6 game at halftime.

Neither team scored in the third quarter, then Hoover powered in from 5-yards out to cap a six-play, 57-yard drive for a 20-6 lead with 5:02 to go.

“We talk about emotions and not getting too high or too low. We might have got too high at 20-6,” Herbert said. “We have to stay the course. The game wasn’t over yet, and we found out it wasn’t over the hard way.”

From there, it was all Red Knights.

“First win is always the hardest win to get,” Franke said. “It’s huge for us. We get the monkey off our back and get some momentum going into next week.”

UP NEXT

Buckeye Local: Returns home to face Indian Creek (0-3) at World War II Memorial Stadium on Friday night.

Toronto: Is back at Clarke Hinkle Stadium Friday night, hosting Bellaire (2-0).

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

Toronto 27, Buckeye Local 20

Buckeye Local 14 0 0 6 — 20

Toronto 0 6 0 21 — 27

BL — Taylor 43 yard pass from Hoover (pass failed) 6:23

BL — Hoover 16 run (Hoover pass to Palmer) 1:16

T — Dozier 3 run (run failed) 11:43

BL — Hoover 5 run (pass failed) 5:02

T — Keenan 48 pass from Leasure (kick blocked) 3:46

T — Dozier 1 run (Dozier run) 2:46

T — Corrao 65 pass from Leasure (Parker kick) 1:05

RUSHING: Buckeye Local 34-46-2TD (Hoover 23-34-2TD; D. Palmer 5-19; B. Palmer 3-11; Taylor 3-(-18); Toronto 24-104-2TD (Dozier 11-72-2TD; Mick 3-(-5); Savage 7-40; Corrao 1-(-1); Leasure 2(-2).

PASSING: Buckeye Local 8-20-187-TD-INT (all by Hoover); Toronto 14-25-245-2TD-INT (Leasure 13-22-221-2TD-INT; Mick 1-3-24).

RECEIVING: Buckeye Local 8-187-TD (Zanes 2-26; Taylor 2-59-TD; Ebright 1-3; B. Palmer 3-99); Toronto 14-245-2TD (Keenan 3-93-TD; Savage 4-19; Reeves 2-25; Dozier 1-8; Mick 1-17; Corrao 2-91-TD).

FIRST DOWNS: Buckeye Local 10; Toronto 11.

PENALTIES-YARDS: Buckeye Local 4-31; Toronto 8-80.

FUMBLES-LOST: Buckeye Local 2-1; Toronto 1-0.

PUNTS: Buckeye Local 4-34.5; Toronto 2-33.5.

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