YORKVILLE - It's a rivalry that started just six years back in 2008, with the VALES Trophy on the line and bragging rights for a year.
The Harrison Central and Buckeye Local matchup was more than just a game for two teams that were putting a lid on their seasons Friday night.
Knotted at 8-all after the first quarter, Harrison Central's Huskies held off a determined Panther club en route to a hard-earned 30-14 win Friday night at Memorial Stadium.
HARRISON CENTRAL quarterback David Miser attempts to fight off Buckeye Local’s Devin Pychiak during the first half of Friday’s game in Yorkville. The Huskies prevailed, 30-14 and retained VALES. Additional images may be found at cu.timesleaderonline.com
Of course, to the victors went the VALES Trophy, presented annually to the winner. Just the third year for the presentation, the Huskies were able to retain the hardware.
Coach Justin Kropka's Harrison squad finished the season with a 5-5 record and in the process defeated the Panthers. They trail in the series, 4-2.
Coach Phil Pest and his Panthers closed out a disappointing season that saw Buckeye finish at 1-9.
"Anytime you can win a game against your rival, and do it on their field, you have to happy with the result," Kropka said. "I give Buckeye Local's kids all the credit in the world. They played hard and played their hearts out right to the end."
"We knew that we were going into the game a little short-handed at tailback, but Nate Maykowski and Tison Johnson did an excellent job rotating at that position," the Huskie coach added. "We didn't want to wear out Maykowski on offense because he plays such a demanding position on defense.
"That's part of gaining maturity," Kropka said about his team's ability to take advantage of Panther miscues. "We sort of mature on the fly. We've got to be happy with these kids. How could you not?
"It is important to us to win the trophy, but it is more important to remember what it stands for," Kropka added. "The community made it happen and our hearts go out to each of those veterans that made it possible."
Buckeye's first possession was a quick one following Damion Beall's 13-yard kick return. Beall opened with a 22-yard pick up and QB Chase Hopkins followed that with a 25-yarder through the middle that pushed the ball to the Huskie 10. It took the Panthers four plays to score from the against Harrison defense. On fourth down, Hopkins threw three yards to Logan Dehnart in the back of the endzone for the score with 9:12 on the board. Dylan Dokes ran through the middle for the two-pointer.
Harrison put together a nice drive after the ensuing kickoff, but saw the drive stall at the Buckeye 16. Nate Maykowski paced the Huskie drive with his hard running that produced 30 yards on five carries.
Late in the first, Harrison regained possession and put together a five-play scoring drive. Maykowski started the drive with a 13-yard run through the middle. Nico Williams added 17 to the 24 before David Miser hooked up with Dalton Rutter at the one. Maykowski added the yard for the score with no time left on the first quarter clock. Nate Olmstead added the two-pointer with a leap over the Buckeye defender.
Rutter picked off a Buckeye pass with 6:50 on the second quarter clock to set up the Huskies next score. Three big plays at the start of the drive sparked the scoring drive. Olmstead ran off the right side for 24 yards, Maykowski went off the left side or 17 and Tison Johnson tacked on 13 yards to the Buckeye 27. With Johnson and Maykowski carrying the load, the Huskies found the endzone five plays late on Maykowski's one-yard run. Geoff Pecar booted the PAT for a 15-8 Huskie lead with 3:35 on the board.
Back-to-back QB sacks by Buckeye's Josh Figurski and Steve Sable forced a Huskie punt early in the third and the defensive stand set the stage for a second Panther score. Hopkins tossed to Dokes for 18 yards, Shawn Tustin ran for three and Damion Beall added six to the 35. On the next play, Dokes broke off the right side and ran untouched to the endzone. The try for the two-pointer was unsuccessful as Buckeye trailed. 15-14.
A short kickoff handed the Huskies the ball at their own 47 and the visitors proceeded to burn clock and yardage in a 53-yard scoring drive. Maykowski, Johnson and Niko Williams combined to handle the ground work while Miser's 9-yard toss to Rutter was the lone gainer through the air. Despite a combined sack by Figurski and Dominic Rose, the Huskies were still able to push the ball to the two. Maykowski bulled through the middle for his third TD of the game and after Pecar's PAT, the Huskies were up by 23-14.
In the fourth frame, the Huskie defense, led by Maykowski, Williams, Coles Howes and Jesse Ball, stalled the Panther attempts to close the gap. Ball finished the contest with three QB sacks.
Harrison closed the scoring in electrifying fashion as Miser hooked up with Rutter on 52-yard scoring play that, along with Pecar's PAT extended the lead to 30-14.
"Our kids played hard right to end," Pest said after the contest. "We came out and played very well in the first quarter, but again the mistakes hurt us."
"We missed opportunities and I was disappointed with the way things went with some of the officials calls out there, but the kids played hard and were close to scoring right down to the final seconds."