Buckeye Local looking for turnaround

T-L Photo/SETH STASKEY PICTURED IS the 2019 Buckeye Local Panthers football team. Front row, from left, are Garrett Cesario, Sam Sabo, Andrew Toto, Zac Cesario, Seth Richardson, Gino Barber, Lane Herbert, Charlie Smith, Ethan Powell and Corban Westfall. Second row, from left, are head coach Roger Herbert, Mariah Pelkey, Alexio Morales, Austin Langford, Tyler Donahue, Andrew Wharton, Jacob Zanes, Brian Palmer Jr., Hayden Taylor, Danny Nation and assistant coach Kyle Solar. Third row, from left, are assistant coach Chuck Watson, Colin Lucas, Hunter Ruckman, Ayden Krupinski, Kolby Keyoski, Luke Darrah, Hunter Darrah, Ian Roe, Justin Driscoll, Johnny Leput and Trevor Herbert. Top row, from left, are assistant coach Jim Westfall, assistant coach Dylan Stickler, Wyatt Kalman, Randy Wade, Xavier Jones, Isaac Chandler, Rodney Meeker, assistant coach Lee Heisler and assistant Neal Zaccagnini.

YORKVILLE — Roger Herbert is starting his third season as Buckeye Local’s head coach and is still looking for that elusive first win. That may be the bad news.

On the other hand, Herbert is starting his third season with the Panthers and not only does he believe this is the best group of players he has had since day one, but his sights are set on post-season play.

Buckeye’s coach has one sure quality — he is a straight-shooter and he doesn’t try to sugar coat anything. When he talks about his first two Panther teams, he knows that in both cases he may not have had the players that win a lot of games. Heading into this season, he truly believes that his Panthers aren’t looking for just one win, but a bunch of them.

“I’m really excited about this group of kids,” Herbert said. “Our seniors have been here four years now and you see what they have gone through, but they came back again. I’m really proud of them. I think we have some multi-talent leaders in this senior group and our success will depend on the older kids.”

Herbert has a squad of just 36, but the reduction in squad size isn’t anything that a lot of other teams are going through these days and he is aware of that. He said that his squad is nearly and even split of 10 each in the upper three grades and six freshmen.

“Our numbers are what they are, but I’m encouraged by the our junior group. It was much smaller last season as sophomores,” the coach pointed out. “We have a few juniors that came back out this year after sitting out a year ago.”

“This group is one of the best teams I’ve been around in coaching. They are good kids from good families and they get along well with the coaching staff. Overall, it’s just a good bunch of kids.”

When asked if the kids talk much about the plight of Buckeye football which is current in the midst of a 43-game losing streak going back to week eight of the 2014 season, Herbert’s response was a bit surprising.

“These kids aren’t just looking for one win, they are looking for one win after another after another. They aren’t thinking about winning the first one, but being good enough to find themselves playing in the postseason.”

“Our team depth is much better than what we have seen in the past and I think a lot of that is a result to the competition for positions among the kids,” Herbert said. “We will most likely use 20-25 kids in a game and will be about 10 deep at wide receiver.”

“In the first two years, we were looking to spread things out and pass a lot, but I really would like to establish more of a running game to open up the passing game more,” he said. “Of course, we have a quarterback who has played four years and started for three years, so I’m confident that we will have some success in the air,”

Buckeye will looking to replace nine graduated players from a year ago including a very talented player in Shayne Christian and a standout two-way player in Gage Kornetti. Also gone are Matt Carpenter, Jack Reese, Jacob Still, Dustin DiCola, Ben Bailey, Dylan Mayle, Nick Jones and Kris Kendjorsky.

Those graduates are not the only losses from the Panthers of a year ago, Buckeye also saw its season opening opponent, Martins Ferry, replaced by Barnesville, week five opponent Bellaire replaced by River View and John Marshall falling off the slate and replaced by Shenandoah.

Herbert’s offense is a senior-laden group for starters with a few youngsters sprinkled in and led by Seth Richardson (5-11, 180) at quarterback.

Behind Richardson will be senior tailback Charlie Smith (5-9, 190) and senior fullback Ethan Taylor (5-10, 185). Both will add considerably to the Buckeye running game.

On the line will be sophomore Hunter Darrah (6-6, 215) at left tackle; senior Zac Cesario (5-7, 170) at left guard; senior Sam Sabo (5-8, 175) at center; senior Andrew Toto (5-8, 150) gets the nod at right guard, while senior Garrett Cesario (5-7, 170) is set to open at left tackle and sophomore Luke Darrah (6-4, 190) at tight end.

Buckeye’s top three receivers will be seniors Corban Westfall (5-8, 170) and Gino Barber (5-10, 130) and junior Brian Palmer, Jr. (5-7, 150).

In addition to the prospective starters on offense, the Panthers also return lettermen in junior Andrew Wharton (6-4, 165), senior Lane Herbert (5-10, 130), Hayden Taylor (5-9, 165) a junior transfer from Steubenville at quarterback/safety.

Rounding out the senior contingent is Walker Doty (5-7, 135), who will supply depth at both wide receiver and defensive back.

Buckeye’s kicking game will feature Hunter Darrah on kickoffs and extra points and Westfall will be the punter.

Defensively, the Panthers will have both Darrahs at the ends and Toto at nose guard. The linebackers will be Palmer, Westfall, Smith, Powell and junior Danny Nation (5-8, 160).

In the secondary, Herbert will open with junior Jacob Zanes (5-8, 160) along with Barber and Hayden.

Adding to the list of juniors is Austin Langford (5-10, 175), at both quarterback/linebacker; Tyler Donahue (5-10, 180) at tight end/linebacker and Alexio Morales (5-10, 215) at nose tackle and running back.

The sophomore class measures eight deep and many should play a big part in the Panther attack. The group has Johnny Leput (5-7, 145), who is a receiver/defensive back; Trevor Herbert (5-6, 120), a tailback/linebacker; Kolby Keyoski (5-11, 205) two-way lineman; Justin Driscoll (5-9, 250), who will play along the; Colin Lucas (6-0, 170), who will see time at tackle and end; Ian Roe (5-7, 195), who is a two-way lineman; Mariah Pelkey (5-9, 170) who is a two-way tackle and Ayden Krupinski (5-9, 160) at linebacker.

Five freshmen will be available for Herbert including wide receiver and defensive back Xavier Jones (6-1, 165), lineman Randy Wade (5-8, 200), lineman Wyatt Kalman (5-5, 155); lineman Isaac Chandler (6-2, 225) and lineman Rodney Meeker (5-8, 215).

Herbert’s staff includes a large group of holdovers including Jim Westfall, Kyle Solar, Chuck Watson, Dylan Stickler, Lee Heisler and Neal Zaccagnini.

The Panthers junior high staff has Jason Merriman, Spencer Sninchak and Gino Cesario.