YORKVILLE — Buckeye Local’s new head coach, Jim Hoover, has been around football for a while. People might think that with his long list of experience in the game that they would be looking at some old man, but he’s not an old man, just a coach who has spent a lot of time on the football field.
Hoover replaced Roger Herbert who had been head coach of the Panthers over the past four years, last year finishing at 3-7. It was a transition period for Herbert and will now be the same for Hoover as the school’s 10th coach since the early 90s.
Buckeye’s new coach is no stranger to the school district. He graduated from Buckeye North in 1989 before playing four years at Eastern Michigan. He spent a year at Edison, two at Union Local and a stint at Martins Ferry from ’05-’18.
Now, it is time for Hoover to return to the Buckeye school system and build on his own program, starting with a team that has a few holes to fill, but has a solid nucleus back. That nucleus includes a strong front and a backfield that includes last season’s top rusher in Trey Hoover, the coach’s son.
Coach Jim Hoover on the upcoming campaign
Buckeye’s roster will be void of a good group of graduated players that include record-setting receiver Brian Palmer, Hayden Taylor, Danny Nation, Austin Langford, Andrew Wharton, Jacob Zanes, Tyler Donahue and Alexio Morales.
Hoover’s 44-player squad is comprised of 15 seniors, eight juniors, five sophomores and 16 freshmen.
“Our numbers are up, but we still have to work on our depth,” Hoover said heading into the 2021 season. “We have a good nucleus, but we still can’t afford injuries.”
“We are going to try to stay balanced with our offense,” the Panther coach said. “We have a young quarterback in Skyler Ebright, but he has been looking real good in practice and scrimmage. Noah Kourim will add a lot to our offense. He is the fastest player on the team and we have a couple good wideouts.”
Of course, the Panther attack will rely heavily on Trey Hoover, who will be the starter at tailback after splitting time between tailback and QB a year ago.
“We are hoping to have a balanced attack with some different weapons that will take some of the attention by defenses away from Trey.”
Buckeye’s large and veteran senior contingent include tight end-linebacker Jacob Anderson (5-10, 190), wide receiver-defensive back Johnny Leput (5- 9, 165), quarterback-defensive back Ethan McHugh (6-1, 210), wide receiver-defensive back Seth Lewis (5- 9, 170), tight end-defensive line Hunter Roush (6-0, 205), wide receiver-linebacker Trevor Herbert (5-8, 145), wide receiver-defensive back Erik Bailey (6-0. 170), tight end-linebacker Luke Darrah (6-4, 220) and two-way lineman Hunter Darrah (6-6, 250). Both Darrahs are mainstays on both sides of the ball and have been receiving notice from coaches at the next level.
Other seniors include two-way linemen Ayden Krupinski (6-0, 175), Corey Olinski (5-9, 180), Justin Driscoll (6-0, 260), Hayden Mort (5-10, 230), Kolby Keyoski (6- 1, 220) and Mariah Pelkey (5-10, 195).
Heading the list of juniors is running back-linebacker Trey Hoover (6-0, 215) who returns after a strong sophomore season that produced just under 1,300 yards rushing, scored 17 touchdowns and had well over 100 tackles on defense that earned him All-Ohio honors.
Juniors also include wide receiver-defensive back Dylan Palmer (5-10, 170), running back-defensive back Jeremy Anspach (5-5, 140) and two-way linemen Wyatt Kalman (5-9, 180), Tucker Martin (6-1, 190), Randy Wade (5-10, 195), Isaac Chandler (6-2, 265) and Michael Kuzmicki (6 ft. 2, 275).
Sophomores include running basck-linebacker Noah Kourim (5-10, 175), quarterback-defensive back Skyler Ebright (5-9, 165), tight end-linebacker Carson Basich (5-11, 165), two-way linemen Blake Miller (5-10, 200) and Zane Cunningham (6-5, 335).
Hoover’s large freshmen group includes quarterback-wide receiver Alex McDiffitt (5- 9, 140), two wide receiver-defensive backs James Hess (6-1, 140) and Brennin Takach (5-6, 130), tight end-defensive lineman Andrew Jones (6- 1, 145), wide receiver-linebacker Shane Griffith (5-8, 150), running back-linebacker Landon Durbin (5- 6, 135), wide receiver-linebacker Gavin Edgell (5-9, 140).
Also, running back-linebacker Kolton Roush (5- 9, 215), running back-linebacker Wyatt Luyster (5- 9, 195), tight end-linebacker Ayden Luyster (5-11, 200) and two-way linemen Marek Hickman (5-10, 190), Hayden Lockwood (6-1, 215), Kalen Stang (5 ft. 10, 195), Gary Jones (5- 9, 185), Chris Ebright (6-0, 260) and Austin Knight (5-10, 245).
With his attention on his probable starters for the opener with Barnesville, Hoover mentioned that his offensive line will open with Hunter Darrah at left tackle, Driscoll at left guard, Keyoski at center, Chandler at right tackle and Kuzmicki at right tackle. Hunter Roush or Anderson will open at tight end.
His wideouts will be Palmer and Leput. In the backfield will bed Kourim at fullback, Ebright at QB and Trey Hoover at tailback.
Defensively, the Panthers with have Hunter Darrah and Martin at the ends and Driscoll and Chandler at the tackles. In the linebacker spots will Herbert, Hoover and Anderson. The corners are Leput and Palmer, Kourim will be at strong safety and McHugh, at free safety.
Kalman will handle kickoffs and PATs and Anderson is the punter.
“I will take a good line with an average backfield over an average line and a good backfield any day,” Hoover said adding, “Up front we have a good nucleus with size, quickness and some very athletic linemen.”
“We seem to be picking up where we left off last year.
“We ended the season well. The terminology is the same and the younger players are picking thing up pretty good. A lot of what we did last year is the same.”
Hoover has with him a new-look coaching staff that includes a few Buckeye alumni.
His varsity staff has Troy Fetty, Chris Heaton, Jack Otto, Dylan Strickler, Denny Taylor and Dom Vinci. His junior high staff includes Gino Cesario, Butch Keyoski, Jeff Patrick and Kyle Solar.
Buckeye’s schedule has gone through some dramatic changes over the past couple years and added a few more this year. After opening the season at Barnesville on August 19, the Panthers open at home on August 27 against Union Local. Over the next five weeks they play a schedule that includes OVAC foes Shadyside (new), Toronto, Shenandoah, Monroe Central and Caldwell (new). After a facing Tiffin Calvert in a non-conference game, Buckeye closes the season with Edison and Harrison Central.
“We are trying to build a program and winning will have a lot to do with that,” the grid boss said. “My goal is to have a winning season, but every week we are going to be in a dogfight.”