Martins Ferry, Union Local renew rivalry in Morristown

The Buckeye 8 doesn’t offer too many opportunities to look ahead.

That works out well for Martins Ferry’s Dave Bruney and Union Local’s Bruce Stiles who want their teams’ attention strictly on the opponent at hand.

The Purple Riders and Jets square off Friday night in Morristown.

The Purple Riders come in seeking their fifth win in six tries, while the Jets are seeking to snap a two-game losing streak since opening the season with three straight wins.

“We need to patch up the ship a little bit,” Stiles said. “We’re seeing positive things and doing some good things when you look at our film, but we have to quit shooting ourselves in the foot. We’ve got to get back to not beating ourselves.”

The Jets haven’t tasted victory since winning the ‘Milk Jug’ against Barnesville. They’ve since dropped road verdicts to Harrison Central and Edison.

“Our kids are continuing to work hard and we’re focused on getting better,” Stiles said. “We’re trying to get better every week and we know we’ve got another big challenge ahead this week.”

The Purple Riders, meanwhile, rebounded from their first loss last week with a relatively easy victory against Harrison Central. Ferry is currently ranked 10th in the Division V Associated Press Poll.

“We’re just taking one game at a time,” Bruney said. “That’s been our theme. All of our goals are still in front of us. I was proud of how we responded last week and now we’ll get a chance to see how we do on the road.”

The trip to Morristown is the first bus trip of the season for Ferry, which opened with a five-game homestand.

Another theme the Riders have lived by this season is getting a multitude of backs involved with the offense. This past week, Arjay Burress was the go-to-guy. He ran for better than 250 yards and three scores.

Earlier in the season, senior Marcus Sutton and junior Bruce Burger have had their opportunities to shine. Senior quarterback Brian Styles is another serious threat on the offensive side for the Riders, who have ran for 1,653 yards and 19 touchdowns as a squad.

“We have to be prepared to play physical and stop the run,” Stiles said. “They’ve got a whole stable of backs who run down hill and hard. They run the ball well, so we’ll hvae to step up and accept the challenge.”

The Riders’ offensive line of Luke Straub, Nick Bain, Brian Sadosky, Cody Beavers, Mark Douglas and tight end Robert Vargo, has been impressive.

“We thought going into the year, our strength would be up front,” Bruney confessed. “Except for Luke Straub and Robert Vargo, it’s an underclass group. Plus, the backs we have are all unselfish and they’ve done a great job when their number has been called.”

Union Local’s offense expects a lift when quarterback Travis James returns to the lineup after missing the bulk of the action the last two weeks.

Eric Dunfee (70-376-3td) and Jake Leishman (35-243-3td) are the Jets’ leading rushers. Spencer Ware is the top receiver with 14 catches for 202 yards.

Through the air, James is 26-of-51 for 377 yards and five touchdowns.

“I think Union Local has made a lot of progress,” Bruney said. “Coach Stiles has obviously put a lot of work in. They’re playing good defense and they’ve found some things to hang their hat on offensively.”

Staskey can be reached at