YORK TWP. — The Buckeye football team played a near-perfect game on what turned into an absolutely perfect Friday evening.
Senior running back Cody Fortney rushed for 180 yards and two touchdowns, helping the Bucks reach the end zone on all seven of their possessions in a 48-7 Patriot Athletic Conference Stars Division rout of winless Firelands.
With the victory, Buckeye (6-4, 6-1) claimed a share of the division championship with Black River and Keystone and qualified for the playoffs in Division III, Region 8.
“I couldn’t be more proud of our players, coaches or our entire school district tonight,” said Bucks coach Mark Pinzone, who shared the great news with his players before they left the field. “The kids really bought into everything we asked of them from our first practice and kept working toward our goals.
“We’ve come a long way since then, but the most important thing I’ll take from tonight is this: They believe they are winners now.”
One year removed from a three-win season, Buckeye erased all memories from its 0-3 start by locking up its first postseason berth since 2009.
The Bucks amassed 552 yards total offense and gained 33 first downs as senior quarterback Christian Petek and Fortney took advantage of a dominant performance by their offensive line.
Fortney only needed 23 carries to rush for his 180 yards, while Petek went 5-for-6 passing for 73 yards and two touchdowns to senior wide receiver Jeff Susalla.
Five of Buckeye’s seven touchdowns came on the ground as Petek, senior running back Matt Hritz and freshman quarterback Michael Doerge joined the fun.
“Our offense is really clicking at the right time because everyone on our line is playing great,” said Fortney, who topped the century mark on the first snap of the second quarter. “We know if we play hard, they’re going to give us an opportunity to make big plays. And if we continue making big plays, we can do something really special in the playoffs.”
The Bucks’ defense also was superb, especially in the first half when it limited Firelands to 40 yards on 17 plays. Buckeye’s offense netted 347 yards during the same span.
“It feels really good surprising people like we have all season,” Bucks senior guard/linebacker Alex Wilk said. “From the moment this coaching staff arrived, there was a complete change of attitude throughout the program.
“We have confidence, for sure, but it’s more of a sense of trust that has gotten us this far. We honestly believe that we’re going to achieve our goals together as a team.”
Seven Buckeye players averaged at least 5.0 yards per carry, as Petek (75 yards), Doerge (64), Trevor Thome (55), Nathan Scott (53), Hritz (32) and Nathan Polidori (20) ran through and past overmatched Firelands.
The Falcons (0-10, 0-7) got on the board on the opening drive of the second half when Aaron Stevanus scored on a 1-yard run, but it only cut the Bucks’ lead to 28-7. Firelands picked up nearly half of its 180 total yards on the 4:11 possession, but it proved to be its only highlight.
“Everybody on this team did their job tonight, which is why it’s so satisfying to our staff,” Pinzone said. “Look at seniors like Zach Diaz, who we moved from defensive end to linebacker to center to guard to long snapper throughout the year, and (defensive end/tight end) Sean Spence, a level-headed young man that played both ways and worked hard every week on a million special teams units.
“Those are the kids who might not get the publicity they deserve, but believe me, we recognize how dedicated they’ve been to one cause and to each other.”
And they’re not done yet, which former Holy Name coach Pinzone quickly added.
Buckeye will officially learn its first playoff foe Sunday, but odds are it will travel to higher-seeded Clyde or Sandusky Perkins.
“I don’t want to say we’re happy just to be in the playoffs because we’re going to prepare to win this football game,” Pinzone said. “Every Saturday morning, we come in early and go over the films together. We’re not going to change that even though we’re celebrating tonight. We’ll be ready for whoever we play.”
Contact Brian Dulik at email@example.com.
Buckeye 48, Firelands 7
FIRELANDS 0 0 7 0 — 7
BUCKEYE 7 21 7 13 — 48
B — Cody Fortney 4 run (George Rusinko kick), 6:41.
B — Christian Petek 5 run (Rusinko kick), 11:35.
B — Jeff Susalla 35 pass from Petek (Rusinko kick), 5:41.
B — Susalla 25 pass from Petek (Rusinko kick), 0:24.
F — Aaron Stevanus 1 run (Tristan Clark kick), 7:49.
B — Fortney 28 run (Rusinko kick), 4:01.
B — Matt Hritz 8 run (Rusinko kick), 5:06.
B — Michael Doerge 59 run (run failed), 0:57.