MARTINS FERRY - Martins Ferry's march to what it hopes is the postseason continued Friday night behind an explosive ground game and a strong defensive effort that provided the Purple Riders with a convincing 43-6 win over Buckeye Local at the Dave Bruney Football Complex.
With the win, the Riders boosted their record to 6-1 on the season. Coach Dave Bruney's Purple Riders finished the home portion of their regular season and will be on the road the next three weeks visiting Indian Creek on Friday before traveling to Edison and Bellaire to close out.
Buckeye Local, now 0-7, will host Western Reserve Academy on Saturday.
MARTINS FERRY’S Bryce Coleman rips through the Buckeye Local defense during Friday’s game at the Dave Bruney Football Complex. Coleman and the Purple Riders cruised to a 43-6 victory. Additional images may be found at cu.timesleaderonline.com
"Buckeye Local is young and outmanned, but I thought they played very well and that they have improved a lot this season," Bruney said after the win. "They did have a good scheme that negated our size and strength in the first half."
"We are pretty good up front," the veteran Purple Rider coach added. "We can use a lot of different people running the ball. They are all pretty talented so we don't have to run any one of them to death."
Bruney had high praise for all of his players, but made mention of the efforts of a few of them. He pointed out the efforts of Luke Straub, a superb two-way player who recovered a fumble and 6-6, 252 two-way end Robert Vargo.
"Bryan Styles, what can I say about him?" Bruney said. "He's 150 pounds and thinks he's 200. He plays with a lot of heart. He just does things out there that you can't coach."
With three tough road games coming up, Bruney was worried about a letdown against the Panthers.
"We told the kids this week that Buckeye has really played well and has improved a lot," Bruney said. "We told them that they almost beat Indian Creek and should have beaten Edison, but 15 to 18 year old kids don't believe you sometimes."
In the opening quarter, the Riders took the opening kickoff and started a successful drive with consecutive rushes by quarterback Bryan Styles and a run off tackle for a first down. After a 2-yard pick up on a Styles to Jake Barritt pass, the Riders stayed on the ground moving to the Buckeye 11. Bryce Coleman pushed it to the four. Two plays later, Styles went through the middle for the score. With 6:14 on the clock, Arjay Burress booted the PAT for a7-0 lead.
Buckeye bounced right back on its first possession behind the passing and running of Chase Hopkins and a 15-yard penalty against the Riders. Hopkins converted two eight-yard tosses to Dylan Dokes and Eric Banal. His 17-yard run pushed the ball deep into Rider territory and three plays later Hopkins squeezed in from the two cutting the gap to 7-6 at the 2:01 mark.
Wasting little time, Ferry scores with 56 seconds left in the frame as Styles capped a quick drive with a 38-yard scoring bomb to Andrew Watts. The PAT boot was wide as the hosts opened a13-6 lead.
Ferry added two points at the 8:21 mark of the second quarter on a Panther safety when a pitch slid into the end zone.
On the ensuing free kick, Watts returned the boot 51 yards to the Panther 30 to set up the next Rider score. Three consecutive rushes by Burress added 23 yards and along with a Panther infraction put the ball on the 2. With 6:44 on the board, Bruce Burger scored and Burress' PAT pushed the Ferry lead to 22-6.
Buckeye Local threatened late in the first half, marching from its own 29 following an 18-yard return by Brandon Panepucci. Staying strictly on the ground, the Panthers used the running of Shawn Tustin and Chase Hopkins to drive to the Rider 13. The drive took an odd twist as Burger caught Hopkins for a seven yard loss, but the Panthers then found themselves on the 10 following a Rider pass interference. The visitors fourth down pass fell incomplete n the end zone as the hosts ran out the first half clock.
After Buckeye's opening drive stalled, the Riders started their first scoring drive of the second half. Bruney used four different runners in putting together a 54-yard drive that culminated in an exciting 19-yard scoring run by Styles with 7:12 on the clock. Marcus Sutton went over the middle for the two-pointer and a 30-6 lead.
Minutes later, Styles returned a Panther punt 44 yards to the Buckeye 19. Runs by Burress and Burger put the ball on the 11. Two procedure penalties and a pass theft by Chase Hopkins stalled the drive.
Early in the fourth, Burress added to the Purple Rider totals wih an electrifying 57-yard scoring romp with 11:04 on the clock. Burress booted the PAT for a 37-6 lead.
Martins Ferry added another score with 6:14 on the clock on a 16-yard Burger run off the right side. The PAT kick was wide.
"I have to give Martins Ferry a lot of credit," Panther coach Pest said. "They are a very good team, a well-coached team with a lot of talented players."
"I thought we ran the ball well against them in the first half, but it's been the same thing all season. You just can't keep having the fumbles, the penalties and all of those little mistakes and expect to beat good teams like that," Pest added. "But we go back and get ready for Western Reserve."