A lot on the line for Harrison vs. Buckeye Local
When Harrison Central and Buckeye Local get together there’s no added incentive required.
But, there’s plenty of extras on the line outside of just borderline bragging rights when the two clash in Cadiz Friday night.
On top of the VALES Trophy, which is in its second year, the Huskies (6-3) need a win over the Panthers if they wish to extend their season into Week 11 for just the second time in school history.
“You really can’t focus on anything except winning this game,” said Huskies’ head coach Justin Kropka. “It’s so important for our seniors to go out with a win in their final regular season game.”
On top of all the above, the Panthers have never lost to the Huskies in their four previous meetings, which doesn’t sit too well with the folks of Harrison County.
“We’ve never beaten them; we’ve never had the VALES Trophy, so a lot of firsts can happen if we take care of business Friday night,” Kropka said. “We’re really just focused on Buckeye Local.”
The Panthers have been mathematically eliminated from the playoff chase at 4-5, but rookie head coach Phil Pest is looking to send his senior class out with a victory, retain VALES and finish with a .500 record.
“It’s been an interesting, but good year,” Pest said. “We’d love to finish the season at .500 and historically, we’ve played Harrison Central very well in very good games that have come down to the last few plays the last couple of meetings. This is it for our seniors, and it’ll be important to them and we’re going to come looking to win.”
In today’s society, it’s extremely tough to keep the playoff scenarios out of the limelight. The Huskies are currently sitting in seventh in the Division IV, Region 15 computer rankings and if the tournament started this week it would mean a lengthy road trip to Ironton.
“If the kids want to talk about (the playoffs), I’m fine with it,” Kropka said. “I don’t think it adds any pressure or anything. These kids want to win regardless. If it’s talked about, I don’t shy away from it. Reaching the playoffs has been our goal, and I don’t think you should be shy about your goals.”
Don’t think for a minute that Buckeye Local doesn’t know what’s on the line for Harrison Central.
“This is our playoff game,” Pest continued. “It’s an important game and we want to get another win. It’s important for our seniors to end with another win.”
The Huskies got back on track after dropping back-to-back contests last week with a win at Union Local.
For Harrison Central, it starts with the ground attack and more specifically senior tailback Maurtice Hython, who leads the Ohio Valley in rushing with 1,647 yards and 17 touchdowns on 208 carries. Hython has more than 4,600 yards in his career for the Huskies.
Senior quarterback Ra’shaen Mitchell has been superb this season. He’s completed 71-of-1,320 yards and 13 touchdowns, while throwing just five interceptions.
Nate Olmstead is the Huskies’ primary passing target. He’s caught 24 balls for 561 yards and seven touchdowns. Senior standout Nick Pelegreen has made 16 receptions for 289 yards and two scores from his tight end spot. Josh Moore has made 15 catches.
“We have a number of plans going into the game and part of it is controlling the ball more because our defense has been on the field too much,” Pest said. “Hython is a good runner who will probably get 25 or 30 carries and we’re preparing for it.”
The Panthers’ offense is triggered by Nathan Kirk, who has passed for 775 yards and six touchdowns. He’s thrown 14 interceptions, however.
The Buckeye Local ground game is led by Austin Marshall with 417 yards and three scores. Andy Stock has added 259 yards.
In the passing game, Shane Duncan has been the top option. He’s made only 20 catches, but has 505 yards and four scores.
“Buckeye has a large senior class and they play extremely hard,” Kropka said. “What they do, they do well. They’re capable of beating anyone in the league on any night. We’re going into this with the attitude that we’re the underdog because I don’t know how you can be the favorite if you’ve never beaten a team.”
Kickoff is slated for 7:30 p.m.