Buckeye Local aims to restore the roar
By RICK DELUCA
Times Leader Sports Writer
CONNORVILLE — Roger Herbert came to Buckeye Local last fall set on re-building the Panther football program. He endured a winless season as the school’s third coach in three years.
Talking to Coach Herbert, it takes just a minute of the conversation to see that he is certainly a coach that looks ahead and doesn’t waste his time looking back. He is optimistic about the approaching 2018 season, which opens Thursday at home against rival Martins Ferry, but he is realistic in his thinking. He works on the moment while building for the future.
“I think the second year in the program, our guys know what our expectations are,” the Buckeye grid boss said. “Our offense is ahead of last year and our defense is in the third year of our system and the offseason went well.”
“We have several two and three sport kids and we support all of those sports, but I am very optimistic about this year and that we should win a few games this year. I told our kids that last year was kind of a feeling out year for me, for them, for the staff. But most of our staff is back. The continuity is there, we just have to start going in our own direction.”
With the bulk of his staff back, Herbert has an experience group of assistants to work with this season. The staff includes Neil Zaccagnini, defensive coordinator; Lee Heisler, special teams: Kyle Solar, offensive line coach; Doug Sabo, defensive line coach; Dylan Stickler, offensive line coach and Brad Brooks, running backs coach. Herbert plans to call his own plays this season. His junior high staff has Spencer Sninchak, Gino Cesario and Jim Westfall to run the show.
Although Buckeye is looking to revamp its schedule for 2019, the schedule hasn’t seen any changes from a year ago. It will be brutal again this year, but Herbert believes that his squad will be up to the challenge.
Herbert will be starting the new season without a good group of graduated players that included Josh Dulesky, a participant in the OVAC all-star game and John Marelli, a speedy back who provided the offense with some break-away thrills. The remainder of the list of grads is David Zanes, William Hopkins, Kadin Weaver, Cody Griffith, Matt Barsch, Lukas Dickerson, Luke Bell, Ashten Antigo and exchange student Matteo Viola.
“I think the kids lost a lot with the change in the coaches over the three previous years, but I think they see that we are going to be here. When they see turnover and change, they don’t have as much confidence.”
“In the past they were looking for improvement in six months, but in reality we are looking for like three, four, five years to get this program back,”
Herbert is optimistic for the future as well, with an improving junior high program that has brought out better numbers and a staff that is not just coaching, but working to prepare the younger players for movement into the varsity and jayvee levels in a year or two.
Herbert reaffirmed that in order to get the program going in the right direction, the start must come from the junior-high level.
“Staying with the same crew and the same staff is nothing but a good thing for the team and the school,” the coach remarked while noting that the current senior group is smaller in numbers, but that the numbers are higher at the junior, sophomore and freshman level.
Ten seniors are part of that Panther roster and the group includes some very valuable influences to the Buckeye attack. The senior group includes two-way lineman Matt Carpenter (6-0, 180), center-defensive tackle Gage Kornetti (5-8, 230); wide receiver-linebacker Shayne Christian (5-11, 185); two-way end Jack Reese (5-7, 200); receiver-defensive back Jacob Still (6-2, 200); offensive lineman-linebacker Dustin DiCola (5-10, 192); O-line-defensive end Ben Bailey (6-0, 220); two-way tackle Dylan Mayle (6-0, 225); two-way lineman Nick Jones (5-11, 230); receiver-defensive back Kris Kendjorsky (5-9, 140).
Christian split half of last season under center and in one game established a school record for passing yards. He is being moved to wideout to give the Panthers more options on offense.
A big contingent of juniors includes quarterback Seth Richardson (6-0, 165), who started most of last season until being sidelined by injury. He will be back as the starter at QB.
Juniors expected to be a big part of the Panther assault are two-way lineman Zac Cesario (5-10, 220); guard-defensive end Sam Sabo (5-9, 190); wide receiver-defensive back Gino Barber (5-9, 125); wideout-defensive back Corban Westfall (5-8, 155); two-way lineman Andrew Toto (5-9, 158); quarterback-defensive back Lane Herbert (6-3, 155); two-way lineman Garrett Cesario (5-6, 165); receiver-defensive back Jacob Moffo (6-1, 160); fullback-linebacker, Charles Smith (5-9, 180); tight end-linebacker Ethan Powell (5-9, 180); two-way lineman Max Kendjorsky (6-2, 1820; two-way lineman Logan Charnook (5-6, 200); two-way lineman Seth Bird (6-0, 156); receiver-defensive back Walker Doty (5-7, 142); two-way lineman Austin Farmer (5-10, 230).
While the sophomore class may be small in number, it does supply the lineup with some young starters. That group includes running back-defensive back Jacob Zanes (5-8, 154), the likely starter at tailback; tight end-linebacker Tyler Donahue, (5-9, 165); receiver-defensive back Andrew Wharton (6-3, 155); receiver-defensive back Bob Palmer (5-6, 140); and receiver-linebacker Mark Bailey, (5-10, 140). Wharton and Palmer are two receiver expected to see plenty of action.
Herbert’s freshmen group features height and a large number with 15 players. Looking at the group, those players are fullback-linebacker Trevor Herbert, (5-3, 100); two-way lineman Justin Driscoll (5-8, 200) and Mariah Pelkey (5-7, 173); receiver-defensive back Erik Bailey (5-9, 155) and Tucker Martin (5-8, 130); receiver-linebackers Hunter Darrah (6-6, 140) and Luke Darrah (6-4, 170); two-way linemen Xavier Loscano (5-7, 183), Casey Bailey (5-6, 190) and Kolby Keyoski (5-10, 179); running back-linebacker Colin Lucas, (5 11, 193); running back-defensive back Jonathan Leput, (5-6, 135); two-way lineman Logan Neilly, (5-11, 225); quarterback-linebacker Jacob Anderson (5-8, 145), and two-way lineman Ian Roe (5-8, 174).
“The numbers are OK. it’s just a matter of getting the right players on the field,” Herbert pointed out.
“We will open with Zanes at tailback, He is only a sophomore, but he saw a lot of action as a freshman last year. The one big change is that we will be going with Seth Richardson at quarterback and Shayne Christian will be moved out to wide receiver. Of course, we have some packages for Shayne to get him into the offense. They both played about five games at QB last year. Christian will handle the kicking duties.”
“Our offensive line will have Mayle, Zac Cesario, Kornetti our starting center, and Sabo, who are returning starters. The one new body on the line is Garrett Cesario,” Herbert added. “Our offensive line is leaps and bounds ahead of last year. We are really excited with our tight end, Jack Reese”.
“I see Westfall as a starter at wide receiver, but I also like Barber, Wharton, Herbert, Palmer and a couple freshmen. We are really deep there. At fullback, we have Charles Smith and Ethan Powell will play fullback, tailback; he’s going to be our hybrid back. “
Defensively, Herbert is looking at Bailey and Reese at defensive end, Kornetti, Zac Cesario and Kendjorsky returning and at linebacker, Christian, Powell, Hunter Darrah and a long list of capable players to fill in. Zanes will start at safety.