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Football Lookahead: Huskies, Panthers Play for VALES

October 24, 2012
By SETH STASKEY , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

When Harrison Central and Buckeye Local get together, there's no added incentive required.

But, there's plenty of extras on the line outside of just border-line bragging rights when the two clash in Cadiz on Friday night.

On top of the VALES Trophy, which is in its second year, the Huskies (6-3) need a victory against the Panthers if they wish to extend their season into Week 11 for the second time in school history.

"You really can't focus on anything except winning this game," Huskies coach Justin Kropka said. "It's so important for our seniors to go out with a win in their final regular-season game."

On top of all the above, the Panthers have never lost to the Huskies in their four meetings, which doesn't sit too well with the folks of Harrison County.

"We've never beaten them; we've never had the VALES Trophy, so a lot of firsts can happen if we take care of business Friday night," Kropka said. "We're really just focused on Buckeye Local."

The Panthers have been mathematically eliminated from the playoff chase at 4-5, but rookie coach Phil Pest is looking to send his senior class out with a victory, retain VALES and finish with a .500 record.

"It's been an interesting, but good year," Pest said. "We'd love to finish the season at .500 and historically, we've played Harrison Central very well in very good games that have come down to the last few plays the last couple of meetings. This is it for our seniors, and it'll be important to them and we're going to come looking to win."

In today's society, it's extremely tough to keep the playoff scenarios out of the limelight. The Huskies are sitting in seventh in the Division IV, Region 15 computer ratings and if the tournament started this week it would mean a lengthy road trip to Ironton.

"If the kids want to talk about (the playoffs), I'm fine with it," Kropka said. "I don't think it adds any pressure or anything. These kids want to win regardless. If it's talked about, I don't shy away from it. Reaching the playoffs has been our goal, and I don't think you should be shy about your goals."

Don't think for a minute that Buckeye Local doesn't know what's on the line for Harrison Central.

"This is our playoff game," Pest continued. "It's an important game and we want to get another win. It's important for our seniors to end with another win."

For Harrison Central, it starts with the ground attack and more specifically senior tailback Maurtice Hython, who leads the Ohio Valley in rushing with 1,647 yards and 17 touchdowns on 208 carries. Hython has more than 4,600 yards in his career for the Huskies.

Senior quarterback Ra'shaen Mitchell has been superb. He's completed 71-of-1,320 yards and 13 touchdowns, while throwing just five interceptions.

The Panthers' offense is triggered by Nathan Kirk, who has passed for 775 yards and six touchdowns. The Buckeye Local ground game is led by Austin Marshall with 417 yards and three scores. Andy Stock has added 259 yards.

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