WINTERSVILLE An interception return, a hustle play, and a goal line stand keyed Indian Creek's 30-16 victory over Buckeye Local Friday at Kettlewell Memorial Stadium.
With the Redskins leading 15-8, the Panthers found themselves with a 1st and goal after a bad snap on a punt gave them the ball at the 8-yard line with 7 seconds left in the third quarter. On the second play of the fourth quarter, Indian Creek's Tyler Lathem stepped in front of a Chase Hopkins pass at the goal line and raced 100 yard to pay dirt. Blake Roar punched in the 2-point conversion, and the Redskins led 23-8, and cruised from there.
"It was big," said Indian Creek head coach Andrew Connor, "Anytime your defense can step up and make a big play then turn it into points it's big. I thought defensively we played well. They gave up the one score until late. Obviously, it was a big stand for us because we had turned them away a couple times, we had the goal line stand, and then the pick six when they were down there again.
BUCKEYE LOCAL’S Shawn Tustin turns the corner for a gain during Friday’s game at Indian Creek. The Panthers fell, 30-16. The loss drops Buckeye to 0-4 on the season.
"Those are big moments in a game, and I think our defense rose to those moments."
The goal line stand came at the end of the first half. The Panthers drove 52 yards in nine plays, setting up a fourth and 1 from the 2-yard line with 3 seconds remaining. The Redskins defense stepped up, stopping Devin Pyciak at the 1-yard line to maintain a 15-8 lead at intermission.
"We came out and answered the bell I thought, but turnovers are just killing us," said Buckeye Local head coach Phil Pest. "We had a couple chances to go ahead or tie the game, and we're our own worst enemy sometimes. I'm proud of the kids' effort, but we just came up short.
"We have to quit turning the ball over, and we have to settle in on a goal line package. We have a package ready, and we get a couple kids hurt. It just changes the whole game for us."
Zach Cole came up with the hustle play for the Redskins at the start of the third quarter. Buckeye Local's Brandon Panepucci took the second half kickoff, bounced outside, and raced down the visitors sideline seemingly destined for the end zone. Cole stuck with the play, ran down Panepucci, and pulled him down at the Redskins' 24 after a 61-yard return.
That play proved huge as the Panthers threw four straight incompletions to turn the ball over on downs.
The Redskins started the scoring on the game's opening possession. On the fifth play from scrimmage Lathem busted loose for a 48-yard score. He also added the 2-pont conversion to make the score 8-0 Indian Creek.
After the teams exchanged stops, Blake Roar put on a show on the last play of the first quarter. Taking the ball at his own 16, Roar spun through and over Buckeye Local tacklers on his way to an 84-yard score. Lee Utt put home the point after to make the score 15-0 Redskins.
Despite the big play Pest was happy with his defense's play.
"The defense really stepped up tonight," said Pest. "They had a 100-yard interception going into score. You can't put that on our defense. They had that long run on our defense, but other than that we played them pretty even. They did a nice job."
The Panthers got on the board with their air attack. On 2nd and 10 from the Indian Creek 42, Hopkins hit Eric Banal in stride, and he took it in for the touchdown. Hopkins then hit Jared Moore for the 2-point conversion and scoreboard read 15-8.
That's where the game stood when Lathem took the interception to the house, and Indian Creek then took a 30-8 lead behind the running of Michael Puorro.
Buckeye Local turned the ball over on downs following the Lathem pick six, setting up the Redskins with good field position. Puorro went to work, carrying the ball five times for 54 yards, including a 13-yard TD run. Utt kicked his second extra point, and the Redskins lead extended to 22 points.
The Panthers put the final score on the board on the ensuing possession. Helped by a pass interference call, and set up by a 31-yard completion from Hopkins to Panepucci, Buckeye Local scored on a 3-yard Pyciak run. Hopkins hit Panepucci for the 2-point conversion to put the final score at 30-16 Redskins.
The Redskins offense consisted mainly of a rushing attack that accounted for 349 yards on 48 plays. Puorro led the team with 124 yards on 12 carries with one score. Roar had 113 yards on 13 touches with a score. He had 9 carries for 107 yards in the 1st half. Lathem had 4 carries for 74 yards and a touchdown.
Hopkins led the Panthers, throwing 12 for 30 for 231 yards.
with a touchdown and an interception. Banal caught 3 balls for 65 yards and a score. Panepucci had 2 grabs for 69 yards.
Indian Creek, who played without several key players, moves to 4-0 and travels to similarly undefeated St. Clairsville next Friday.
"It's hard to overcome having six, seven starters out in a game, and losing two or three during the game," said Connor. "In high school football when you're down eight or nine starters in a game that's tough. I give two things there.
Buckeye Local (0-4) is also in action next Friday, hosting Bellaire.