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Football Lookahead: Buckeye Hopes to Limit Martins Ferry

October 10, 2013
By RICK THORP , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

Phil Pest is well-aware of the task at hand.

If his winless Buckeye Local squad is going to upset state-ranked Martins Ferry on Friday night, it's going to take a near-flawless performance.

"We have to play mistake-free football, and when we have opportunities to score, we have to take advantage of them,'' Pest said. "We have to limit them offensively and we need to maintain possession to limit their opportunities to score.''

To say that is one thing, but to actually do it is another. And Pest is aware of that, too.

"They are simply a very good football team," he said. ''They do what they do and they do it well. They are well-coached and well-disciplined."

The Panthers (0-6) and Purple Riders (5-1) meet at 7 p.m. in what is the final regular-season game of 2013 at Purple Rider Stadium.

Martins Ferry remains in the hunt for a home playoff game as it stands in fifth in the latest regional computer rankings, one spot behind the team that gave it its only loss - St. Clairsville.

The chase for a home playoff game, the Buckeye 8 title, along with other preseason goals remains intact for the Purple Riders and that makes Friday's game so important, according to Bruney.

"The only way to achieve those is to look at this week's game and not the next three weeks," Coach Dave Bruney said.

While, on paper, Friday night's game looks like a gimme for the Purple Riders, Bruney has been around the game long enough to know that if you don't do your due diligence the result you seek might not come.

"They've been improving the past two or three weeks and it's a rivalry game," Bruney said. "You just have to be ready to play hard and win the turnover and penalty battle."

So, just like every week, his team is following its normal routine. It's a routine that's resulted in plenty of success during the past 30-plus years. With the success his program's had, it's hard to argue to do it any other way.

That hard work has paid off, especially in challenging victories against Linsly and Wickliffe.

Last week, the Purple Riders went on the road for the first time and topped Union Local, 35-7.

Ferry continued to play well on both sides of the ball, according to Pest.

"(Quarterback Brian) Styles has played well, and I have been impressed with their tight end," he said.

Marcus Sutton leads the Ferry ground game with 516 yards, with Arjay Burress close behind with 497. Styles has completed 12 of 18 passes for 199 yards.

"We're just continuing to work on fundamentals each week and getting better," Bruney said.

The Panthers are coming off a 26-22 loss against Edison in what was there closest game so far this season.

"We're getting better as a team," Pest pointed out. "I feel like the kids are buying into what we're trying to do.

"We've been able to pass the ball. Chase (Hopkins) has throw the ball very well. That's something we weren't able to do at the start of the season."

Injuries have been a thorn in the side of the Panthers. Now, it seems as though things are starting to come together for Pest's squad. He said the players' resolve has never wavered.

"I told them after the game last week that I was so proud of their effort," he said. "They played like they were 5-0 and not 0-5. They haven't given up and they just seem to keep improving and keep plugging along."

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