Toronto rallies past Buckeye

TORONTO – Trailing by two scores late in the fourth and starring an 0-3 start right in the face, it was gutcheck time for Toronto – and the Red Knights were up to the task.

Toronto scored 21 points in a span of 2:41, erasing a 14-point deficit to defeat Buckeye Local 27-20 in thrilling fashion on senior night at Clarke Hinkle Stadium.

“We told our kids before the game that adversity was going to strike,” Toronto head coach Josh Franke said. “When it does and you get punched in the mouth, backed up in the corner, what are you going to do? Are you going to duck out like we did last week, or are you going to push forward and fight? Our kids didn’t give up, they fought.

“It was gutcheck time. You could see in some of our kids eyes that they were questioning things, but we had some leaders step up and make plays and no one gave up.”

After struggling at times in the first two losses and for much of Friday night’s game, senior quarterback Caleb Leasure was finally able to find his game, delivering scoring passes of 48 and 65 yards during the fourth quarter frenzy, the second of which ended up being the game-winner to Devin Corrao with 1:05 to go.

Without Caleb Leasure and his experience from the past two years, I don’t know if we get the win.”

Leasure finished 13 of 22 for 221 yards.

On the flip side, the Panthers (0-3) inexperience just got the better of them once the more experienced Red Knights (1-2) grabbed the momentum.

“We have to learn how to finish a game,” Buckeye Local head coach Roger Herbert said. “Credit to Toronto, they kept playing and we had a couple mishaps. I thought the kids played a heckuva game. It was a good game to watch, but I’d obviously rather be on the other side of it. We just have to find a way to finish, punch one more in or get one more stop. We have a lot of kids growing up out there as we go.

“(Toronto’s) experience plays a huge factor. I’ve been around sports for a long time and usually the teams that have been there have more success than the teams that haven’t been there as much in those situations. They didn’t lose composure, and we maybe got a little bit rattled. The more we do this, the better we’ll get.”

Sophomore quarterback Trey Hoover had the best night of his young career, tossing for 187 yards and a score while rushing for 34 yards and two more touchdowns in what was his third varsity start.

“It was big for him,” Herbert said. “He doesn’t look like a sophomore, but this was only his third varsity start. It’s coming. I thought he played well and ran the ball hard. Getting him going is big for us. It’s big for his confidence going forward.”

While Corrao hauled in the winning score, Shane Keenan started the furious comeback with a 48-yard catch and run to the end zone with 3:46 to go to make it 20-12. He finished with 93 yards on three catches.

The Red Knights recovered an onside kick, then Leasure found Corrao deep in the Panthers end to set up a Garrett Dozier (72 yards, two touchdowns) plunge. Dozier also converted the two-point play to tie the game at 20-20 with 2:46 to go.

The Panthers were driving with Hoover connecting with Brian Palmer Jr. (three catches, 99 yards) for a couple of nice gains, but a Bryson Anderson interception ended the drive.

On the next play, Leasure hit Corrao in stride for the winning score.

The Panthers got off to a fast start, with Hoover hitting Hayden Taylor for a 43-yard score in Taylor’s first game back from an injury.

Hoover then ran for a 16-yard score to make it 14-0 after one quarter.

Dozier converted for a 3-yard scoring run to make it a 14-6 game at halftime.

Neither team scored in the third quarter, then Hoover powered in from 5-yards out to cap a 6-play, 57-yard drive for a 20-6 lead with 5:02 to go.

“We talk about emotions and not getting too high or too low, we might have got too high at 20-6,” Herbert said. “We have to stay the course, the game wasn’t over yet and we found out it wasn’t over the hard way.”

From there, it was all Red Knights.

“First win is always the hardest win to get,” Franke said. “It’s huge for us, we get the monkey off our back and get some momentum going into next week.”


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