HENRIETTA TWP. — Call it “The Red Zone Wrecking Crew.”
The Buckeye football team allowed Firelands to penetrate the Bucks 20-yard line four times in the first half Friday. Each time, the Falcons went back to the sideline empty handed, and that’s not counting another drive that stalled at the 28.
It was as simple as that, as Buckeye had four interceptions overall, came up with a pair of fourth-down stops and completely dominated the second half in a 35-14 Patriot Athletic Conference Stars Division victory.
Don’t look now, but the suddenly surging Bucks (3-5, 3-2) trail only Black River (4-4, 4-1) in the division standings.
“Our seniors really get on us because after this, they’re not going to get to play football,” junior linebacker Zak Diaz said. “This is really for them, and we have to win it out for them.”
The red-zone madness began after Buckeye went up 7-0 on a textbook 12-play, 70-yard drive capped by a 1-yard plunge by quarterback Alex Green (17 carries, 94 yards, 3 TDs).
Led by QB Joe Hyster (10-for-26, 119 yards, 4 INTs), the Falcons (2-6, 2-3) marched to the Buckeye 9 before Christian Petek picked off Hyster in the end zone.
Nick Prest intercepted Hyster in the end zone 5 minutes later after a clutch Trevor Thome sack put Firelands in third-and-long. On the Falcons’ next drive, Hyster lost 7 yards on a fumble at the Buckeye 23, and a fourth-down wheel route was incomplete with just over a minute left.
Soon thereafter, things got borderline unbelievable.
With 51 seconds left in the half, Green rolled right, threw under heavy pressure and was intercepted on the Buckeye 28. On the next play from scrimmage, the Bucks’ Shawn Spence intercepted Hyster on the 2, but Matt Hritz fumbled the ball away on the next snap.
Surely, Firelands was poised to score with a 1st-and-goal on the 4 and 36 seconds remaining.
A false start killed momentum, and Thome and Petek teamed up to sack Hyster for a 9-yard loss. As time expired, Hyster’s post attempt to Dakota Dodge fell incomplete, and Buckeye went into halftime unscathed.
To recap, that’s three turnovers, a failed fourth down and an incomplete pass in the end zone in the final 1ﾽ minutes of the first half.
“Our defense plays hard,” said Thome, an undersized outside linebacker who finished with 2ﾽ tackles for loss and added 39 yards from his wingback position. “We don’t take plays off.”
The second half was all Bucks, as the three-pronged rushing attack of Green, Rick Monroe (15 carries, 64 yards, 2 TDs) and Hritz (13, 86) took over.
Buckeye scored on four consecutive drives. Diaz’s interception in the fourth quarter set up the final score, as Monroe carried the ball four straight times until he reached paydirt.
Until Falcons freshmen Aaron Stevanus (team-high 43 rushing yards, TD) and Brad Trasher combined for 66 yards in garbage time — Firelands’ other score was an 89-yard kickoff return by Dodge — the Bucks were outgaining the Falcons 229-9 in the second half.
Green and Monroe were at the forefront, combining for 157 yards total offense and two scores, while wideout Alex Stanley (3 receptions, 51 yards) and Hritz came up with clutch third-down conversions.
“We just came out firing off (the ball),” Green said. “We were more emotional than they were.”
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Buckeye 35, Firelands 14
BUCKEYE 7 0 14 14 — 35
FIRELANDS 0 0 7 7 — 14
B — Alex Green 1 run (Ryan Grauel kick), 3:29.
B — Rick Monroe 4 run (Grauel kick), 5:43.
B — Green 5 run (Grauel kick), 1:39.
F — Dakota Dodge 89 kickoff return (Tristan Clark kick), 1:22.
B — Green 4 run (Grauel kick), 9:04.
B — Monroe 1 run (Grauel kick), 5:56.
F — Aaron Stevanus 7 run (Clark kick), 1:17.