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Huskies face tall task in South Range

HANDING OFF — Roger Gabbert III, left, and Logan Gaschler look to lead Brooke to its second victory when it welcomes John Marshall on Friday. (Photo by Andrew Grimm)

CANFIELD — Harrison Central had to wait a week longer than anticipated to compete in a playoff game – and its challenge on Saturday will perhaps be the toughest it has faced yet.

The Huskies, who are the No. 15 seed in Division V, Region 17 and sit 3-3, will travel to No. 2 seed, 6-0 South Range.

In addition to being the No. 2 seed in the region, the Raiders are ranked No. 3 in Division V in the latest Ohio AP poll.

“We played St. Clairsville — one of the top-ranked teams in Division IV — now we get to play the No. 3 team in Division V, according to the Associated Press,” Harrison Central head coach Anthony Hayes said. “We’re excited for the opportunity. Our kids have faced some good teams this year. It is very exciting, but we still approach it the same way, we still prepare the same way. We understand we have to prepare to the best of our ability to give ourselves a chance on Saturday.

“Our kids, I don’t think, even realize (they are the underdogs). It doesn’t matter to them; they just relish the opportunity for a challenge. They don’t feel any pressure. They’re just excited.”

South Range had a playoff bye in the opening week of the modified tournament.

“They are very fundamentally sound,” Hayes said of the Raiders. “They don’t miss many opportunities. They are very, very good up front on both sides of the ball. They’re great tacklers, and they are tried and true at what they do. They run the football very well, and they throw the ball effectively when needed.

“They’re a well-coached team. They’re a very well-rounded team that’s well-polished.”

The Huskies were slated to battle Rootstown in the opening round in what was supposed to be the first home playoff game in school history, but that game was called off due to a COVID-19 issue keeping Rootstown from playing.

“I’m hoping the time off gave us a chance to heal up,” Hayes said. “It was almost a blessing in disguise. We were very banged up going into last week. Obviously, we wanted to host a playoff game for the first time, but things change, such is life.”

If the Huskies are going to pull off an upset, it will most certainly be led by some of the area’s top athletes on one of the area’s best offenses.

Kobe Mitchell is the top passer in the Herald-Star/Daily Times coverage area, throwing for 1,233 yards and 11 touchdowns, while adding another 354 yards and seven 6-pointers on the ground. Likewise, Trevor Carman leads the area in receiving with 33 catches for 549 yards and five scores.

The Huskies offense ranks third in the area, averaging 31.83 points and 343.33 yards per game. The South Range defense allows an average of 16.7 points against in their seven victories.

“We’ve been able to get the football to our skills guys,” Hayes said. “As of late, we haven’t ran the football as well as we need to. We need to get James Brooks and Caleb Cowens back on track.”

On defense, Hayes’ group will need to improve on its season totals, allowing an average of 25.67 points and 348.83 yards per game. The Raiders are scoring an average of 42.7 points this season.

“I believe with the athletes we have, we can play with anyone,” Hayes said. “We feel that we’re capable of beating any team that we play because we do present problems offensively for teams, and we have some skill on defense.

“We’ve yet to have a game this year where it’s all come together, where we’ve clicked on all cylinders. I keep telling the team when we do that, we’re going to cause some serious problems for good teams. Hopefully, this is the week it all comes together.”

Brooke looks to solve its turnover problems

WELLSBURG — There’s no way to analyze Brooke’s season without discussing the turnover problems that have plagued Brooke the last five weeks.

The good news for the Bruins is they have another four games to correct it, starting Friday night when John Marshall comes to town.

“It has been an ongoing thing for half of a season now,” Brooke head coach Mac McLean said. “We’ve tried to address it. I think our problem is we’ve had a run of bad luck, and we’ve let the turnovers get between our ears. We just need to go out and play like the mature team we are.

“Some of it is confidence, some of it is having been shut down at times over the summer. We had most of our camp taken away because of COVID, and we spend a lot of time in camp on fundamentals. That’s kind of haunted us.”

The Monarchs sit at 4-3 and have a high-powered offense, averaging 44.29 points per game. The Brooke defense is allowing an average of 33.83 points against and 359 yards.

“They’re what you expect from a John Marshall team. They have a big, powerful running game,” McLean said. “No matter the year, they always seem to be able to find a good running back down in Marshall County. What’s different this year is the quarterback they have. He can make time and room, and he can make throws. That’s going to be a challenge for us.”

The Monarchs defense has been hit and miss, holding teams to seven points or fewer three times but also allowing 55 or more points three times. Overall, John Marshall is averaging 30.29 points against.

The Bruins offense is averaging 20.17 points and 274.83 yards.

“Both defenses are going to be under the spotlight this week to see who can hold the other team to a lower score,” McLean said.

Drake Hukill leads the Bruins on the ground with 379 yards and two touchdowns, while Josh Shorts has thrown for 467 yards and five scores. Aaron Scipio and Braelyn Sperringer each have 11 catches on the season.

There is a common opponent, with both teams having traveled to Oak Glen.

“Oak Glen, I think, is going to win a AA state championship this year, and they were a handful for John Marshall,” McLean said. “What I learned about John Marshall from their game against Oak Glen is they’re going to fight all the way to the end.”

Panthers head to Newcomerstown

NEWCOMERSTOWN — After getting a taste of playoff football, Buckeye Local resumes its regular-season schedule with a trip to Newcomerstown on Friday, looking for a second win.

The Panthers dropped a 35-6 decision to Ravenna Southeast in a Division V, Region 17 tournament game on Saturday, but before that had been playing well with a win and an overtime loss in the previous two weeks.

“We played a heckuva good football team last week, but the last four weeks we have really improved,” Buckeye Local head coach Roger Herbert said. “That’s been the whole goal of our season, to get better. I thought the playoff game was good experience for us. We moved the ball well but didn’t finish drives.

“It’s a very big deal for us to have games scheduled and be able to play. Our AD, Jason Merryman, has been on the phone all season and is still on the phone. He’s done a wonderful job. Scheduling is normally done years in advance, and he’s been doing it in weeks.”

Newcomerstown will be playing for the first time since Sept. 25 after the Trojans had their previous two games canceled due to COVID-19 issues. They sit 1-4, having dropped each of their last four games after winning the opener.

“There’s two ways to look at it. They’ll be healthy and rested having had some time off, but they could also be rusty from not playing for a couple weeks,” Herbert said. “That’s something we can use to our advantage, maybe. We are treating it the same and preparing as we have every week.”

He also noted the Panthers are healthy.

“This is a healthiest we have been in weeks,” Herbert said. “We have most of our guys back now, and that’s a big deal for us.”

The Panthers offense is averaging 11.71 points per game and 161.86 yards, numbers Herbert will look to improve on against a Newcomerstown defense that allows an average of 25.6 points.

“With the COVID this year and the schedule changes, we don’t have any common opponents with them,” Herbert said. “We just have to go off of what we see on film. We look to come out and run the ball again. I think there are some things we can accomplish. There are opportunities there for us.”

Brian Palmer, Jr. is one of the top receivers in the area with 26 catches for 439 yards and two touchdowns, while Trey Hoover has 377 rush yards and six scores. Hayden Taylor, who has been eased into the quarterback role as he’s gotten healthy, has completed better than 53 percent of his pass attempts.

The Buckeye Local defense has been a bright spot for Herbert, sitting No. 3 in the area allowing 227.57 yards and 25.14 points. They’ll be facing a Trojan offense averaging 17.2 points.

“Our scores don’t always show it. Sometimes that’s because our offense struggles, but our defense has been a bright spot for us,” Herbert said. “They fly around, and our defense is something we lean on.”

Not playing this week

Two local teams had games slated for this week called off on Tuesday due to COVID-19.

Indian Creek, who sits at 2-5, was slated to take on 1-6 Union Local on the road in Morristown Friday night, but that game was canceled because of a coronavirus positive. As of Tuesday night, Union Local was looking for a replacement opponent.

Edison (3-4) was scheduled to host 0-7 Claymont on Friday night, but Claymont announced on Twitter it had a positive case on the team and therefore had to cancel.

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