Buckeye 8 roller coaster ride continues for Ferry and Harrison

There’s no time in the Buckeye 8 to get too high or too low.

Both Harrison Central and Martins Ferry are well aware of that as they prepare to square off with one another at the Dave Bruney Football Complex Friday night. Kickoff for the Purple Riders’ homecoming celebration is slated for 7.

The 2-2 Huskies are coming off an impressive victory against previously undefeated Union Local. It’s been a roller coaster of emotions already for Harrison since falling to Wheeling Central in the opener.

“We’re playing above our talent level, and I am sure other teams know that,” Harrison Central head coach Justin Kropka said. “But, it’s a testament to our kids that have came before these guys in this program. We have to continue to give everything we have on every snap.”

While the Huskies were celebrating in Cadiz, the Purple Riders were dealt their first defeat of the season, 35-14, from St. Clairsville.

“All of our goals are still ahead of us,” Purple Riders’ head coach Dave Bruney. “It’s always tough to recover from a loss real quick, but we watched film on Saturday morning and we’ll get back to work.”

After watching that tape of the game against St. Clairsville, Bruney and company quickly shifted their attention to the Huskies.

“I think they’ve played better than people expected from them before the season,” Bruney said. “They’ve got some young kids who are really playing well, and I’d say that about our team, too. We’re getting good contributions from our seniors and our younger guys are playing well.”

When Kropka began preparing for his alma mater, he wasn’t surprised with what he was watching.

“All of the superlatives people have used about Martins Ferry for the last 30 years can still be applied,” Kropka said. “They’re a solid team that does the little things right.”

As the game of football has grown more and more complex, the Purple Riders have kept going with what’s worked since Bruney took over.

“If you block and tackle well, you’ll win a lot of football games,” Kropka said. “Martins Ferry’s been doing that for a century. Everyone likes the new stuff (in football), but when it comes down to it, if you do the little things, work hard, put the time in to get better, you’re probably going to win more than you lose.”

The Riders’ ground attack has once again been the key to their offensive success. A bevy of options are available for Bruney to call upon. Senior Marcus Sutton is the top option with 442 yards and four scores on 66 totes. Junior Bruce Burger has ran for 243 yards and five touchdowns.

Arjay Burress and Brian Styles are also viable options in the running game. Styles is actually a weapon all over the field. He can play quarterback, running back or wide receiver.

Juniors Jack Fitch and Jake Barritt, along with senior tight end Robert Vargo are the top pass catching threats.

“Those (backs) Ferry uses look like they’ve been stamped out of an assembly line,” Kropka said. “If they didn’t wear numbers, you’d never know who was carrying the ball. They’ve done a good job of making a different guy, the guy each week because it keeps defenses off balance.”

The Huskies’ defense has been lights out. It leads the area in points allowed. The Huskies surrender under 10 points a week.

“Harrison is aggressive and they tackle well,” Bruney said. “They try to apply pressure the whole game, so hopefully we have some things ready for that.”

Harrison Central’s offense is led by quarterback David Miser. He’s thrown for 773 yards and eight touchdowns. However, he’s also thrown eight interceptions. He’s spread the wealth in the passing game.

Dalton Rutter, Nate Olmstead and Travis Stenson, who is also the Huskie’s leading rusher, are the top pass catchers. Stenson’s status is unclear after he was injured last week.

“Their balance has been the biggest thing for them,” Bruney said. “They’re throwing it almost equal to running it and that’s always a good thing as long as you don’t turn it over too much.”

Ferry’s defense allowed some big plays last week against St. Clairsville. Luke Straub, Burger, Sutton, Hondo Palmer and Vargo are the top Riders’ tacklers.

“Anyone who knows Bill Bruney knows what you’re up against when you play a defense he’s coaching,” Kropka said. “They’re sound, don’t make mistakes and make you earn every inch you get.”

Staskey can be reached at sstaskey@timesleaderonline.com