Evolution in the Buckeye 8 has spurned some new rivalries and extended some old ones. Matching Martins Ferry and Buckeye Local has always been a ticket seller's dream. Big crowds, exciting football and most always an unpredictable finish.
Friday night at Memorial Stadium in Yorkville it was an unpredictable start that resulted in an unexpected finish.
Three pass interceptions by the Purple Riders' Damon Outward, an offense that churned out 274 yards on the ground and a defense that limited a usually potent Panther offense to just 64 total yards led the way to a 40-0 Martins Ferry win that spoiled Buckeye Local's Homecoming activities Friday night.
MARTINS?FERRY’S Marcus Sutton fights for additional yards as a Buckeye Local defender hangs on and Brian Zeroski (31) closes in on the play. The Riders prevailed, 40-0. Additional images may be found at cu.timesleaderonline.com
With the win, coach Dave Bruney's Riders boosted their record to 5-1 on the season and prepped for a tough match up with Indian Creek on the Martins Ferry turf next Friday. The win also marked the 12th in 19 games opposite the Panthers.
Coach Phil Pest's Panthers, playing without the services of two-way standouts Austin Marshall and Devon Pyciak, saw their record dip to an even 3-3. Buckeye is back in action on Friday traveling to Union Local.
"We know what it is like to play short-handed like that," Bruney remarked after the game. "We have a couple guys hurt, but I think we have a little more depth than Buckeye does. They play hard though. I give them a lot of credit. It's tough to practice all week to do certain things and then at the last minute to find you won't have a couple of your good players available. You still have to play what you practiced. That's a tough deal.
"We are happy with the way our kids played tonight," the Rider coach added. "They defended well against whatever they tried to do. We have 10 sophomores playing and at times seven of them are on the field.
"The kids are showing progress. I just hope they continue to progress and get better. We have some pretty tough opponents coming up."
Ten different players ran the ball for the Riders and Bruney had five different receivers haul in passes.
"We have a lot of kids with the same talent so we like to get them all as much action as we can. I'm hoping we can keep getting better."
Buckeye struggled offensively early despite getting a quick start on the heels of the first punt. Christian Hopkins' punt was fumbled by the Riders at the 9:18 mark in the first and covered by Nathan Kirk, but the Panthers' opportunity was short-lived.
Starting on their own 27, the Riders put together a 73-yard, 11-play drive that featured five carries by quarterback Eric Flowers that covered 29 yards and set up Brandon Laughman's 17-yard run off the right side for the score with 3:32 on the board. The pass for the PAT was off the mark as the Riders led 6-0.
A fumble on the ensuing kickoff that was collected by the Riders' alert Kyle Rine set up the next Martins Ferry score. A 25-yard Flowers to Sean McGee pushed the ball to the Buckeye 10. Laughman then swept the left side to score from the 10 with 2:23 on the first-quarter clock. Flowers went up the middle to tack on the PAT for a 14-0 lead.
Outward picked off one Buckeye Local pass late in the first frame and added another with 4:20 on the clock in the second to set up the third Rider score. Starting from the Panthers' 42, the Riders followed the running of Flowers, Marcus Sutton and Laughman to inch the ball to the two on six plays. Bruce Burger then plowed off left tackle to added another Ferry six-pointer with 1:12 on the first half clock. Flowers' pass to sure-handed Cody Schau added the PAT and pushed the margin to 22-0 at the intermission.
Buckeye Local fans had to reason to cheer during the intermission with the crowning of Marlee Piergallini as the 2012 Panthers' Homecoming Queen.
Ferry wasted little time adding another score in the third as Flowers connected with Schau for 29 yards on the half's second play, then two plays later the pair hooked up again for 28 yards and a score with 10:15 on the board. The PAT attempt failed.
In the fourth, a Burger fumble recovery set up another tally as Sutton carried 15 yards to the one and Sean McGee added the last yard to push the lead to 34-0 with 11:20 remaining.
Ferry put together another good drive in the third sparked by a 24-yard run by Jack Fitch. Bryce Coleman ran 12 yards for a score with 5:08 showing to ice the win.
"We got beat in every phase of the game," Pest said after the loss. "With those two guys out, we had four positions to fill and that's not easy. We played flat. We couldn't get started and we couldn't stop them."
"Best thing for us to do is regroup and try to salvage the season," Pest added.