Panthers capture V.A.L.E.S. trophy for first time since 2011
YORKVILLE — With the V.A.L.E.S. Trophy sitting in the corner and a possible playoff berth in the offering, Harrison Central and Buckeye Local locked horns at World War II Memorial Stadium Friday night in Yorkville.
On a soggy and slick turf in the regular season finale, the Panthers scored in the first minute and that was all they needed as Buckeye went on to register an impressive 25-0 win over the Huskies on senior night.
Coming into the game on the heels of two straight losses, coach Jim Hoover’s Panthers improved their record to 3-5 on the season and re-claimed the coveted trophy for the first time since 2011.
Joe Eitel, as of Friday night, also had the Panthers listed as likely to qualify for the playoffs for the first time since 2009.
Harrison Central saw its brief two-game win streak snapped as Coach Anthony Hayes’ Huskies finished at 4-6. The game also marked the first time that the two head coaches were former players in their respective school systems, Hayes a graduate of Harrison and Hoover a graduate of Buckeye North.
“We did as very good job. The coaches did a great job getting everybody ready to go. Coach (Troy) Fetty did a great job with our defense. Our defense played lights out again,” Hoover said. “This is our house and we are proud of it. We don’t have the fancy turf or the fancy field house, but this is our house. Our place gives us a big advantage and it paid dividends tonight.
“This is the signature win we have been waiting for. I told the kids that we need to change the culture here and we did that tonight with this win. We won the V.A.L.E.S. trophy, the first one we won in 10 years. We won our homecoming game for the first time in 10 years, so we are heading in the right direction.”
Just three plays into the game, speedy sophomore back Noah Kourim broke through a large hole in the left side of the line and scampered 49 yards to the endzone with 11:02 on the first quarter clock. Wyatt Kalman booted the PAT for a 7-0 gap.
Throughout the remainder of the first quarter and through the second frame, it was all defense as both teams’ offenses were stymied by some excellent defensive play. Harrison picked off two Panthers passes before the intermission with Parker Hutton stepping in front of a Panther pass late in the first and Tre Rex intercepting a pass late in the second. Just two plays before Rex’s INT, Buckeye’s Johnny Leput picked off as Huskie pass.
Harrison put together a long drive at the outset of the third frame before giving way on downs at the Panther 3. Buckeye then used runs of 29 and 28 yards by Trey Hoover to eventually move into Husky territory, but a Panther fumble was covered by Trevor Carson of the Huskies.
Just three plays into the Huskie drive, Ethan McHugh picked off a Harrison pass and returned it 35 yards to the endzone with 4:49 left in the third.
At the start of the fourth quarter, lightning-quick Panther QB Skyler Ebright found a hole in the Husky defense and raced 63 yards to the score with 11:49 on the clock.
Buckeye would add one more score late in the fourth on a 13-yard run by Hoover at the 2:34 mark. The scoring opportunity was set up by a pass theft by the Panthers Dylan Palmer. Hoover closed with 128 yards rushing, his fifth game of the season over 100 yards.
“It works both ways playing in the mud and the grass, but credit them,” Hayes said after the loss. “They executed a good game plan. We had some good opportunities, too, but we made a mistake, our guys dropped a pass or didn’t convert on a third and short a couple times, but credit them.
“With our guys it certainly wasn’t a lack of heart. Tonight, was a night where attrition finally caught up with us. We were without 14 guys and sooner or later it is going to catch up to you and it caught up to us tonight.
“Our young kids were incredible for us this year. I played seven or eight freshmen and sophomores on both sides of the ball tonight. They gave us everything they had tonight. They poured their heart and souls into the game for us and so did our seniors. I’m very proud of our senior class. I’m really going to miss them.”
The Huskies will have to wait see over the weekend if they reached the playoffs, as they entered the week 15 and sat on the bubble, according to Eitel, as of late Friday.
Buckeye Local 25, Harrison Central 0
Harrison Central 0 0 0 0 – 0
Buckeye Local 7 0 6 12 – 25
B – Kourim 49 run. (Kalman kick)
B – McHugh 35 Int Ret. (Kick failed)
B – Ebright 63 run. (Kick failed)
B – Hoover 13 run. (Kick failed)
RUSHING: Buckeye Local 39-257-3tds (Hoover 19-128-1td, Ebright 5-75-1td, Kourim 9-88-1td, Driscoll, 1-6) Harrison Central 31-66-0tds (Bertolino 18-56, Cassidy 6-(-3), McAfee 3-2., Quito 2-4, Atkins 3-(-3).
PASSING: Buckeye Local 3-11-3-2Ints (Ebright 3-9-3-2 ints, Hoover 0-2) Harrison Central (17-34-117-2 INTs) (all by Cassidy)
RECEIVING: Buckeye Local 3-11-2 (McHugh 1-(-2), Hoover 1-0, Leput 1-5). Harrison Central 17-34-117 (McAfee 4-13, Hutton 7-87, Bertolino 3-(-2), TRex 2-29.)
FIRST DOWNS: Buckeye Local 9. Harrison Central 9.
FUMBLES: Buckeye Local 1-1. Harrison Central 1-1.
PENALTIES: Buckeye Local 8-83. Harrison Central 3-34.