In the first half of their Senior Night game, the Buckeye Valley football team could have been called the ‘Barns’ because the ‘O’ was non-existent, but the second half, at least, gave the fans some hope.
The Barons scored 21 points in a strong second half, but had negative total yardage in the first, and the rival North Union Wildcats finished the night with a 35-21 Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference victory Friday at Baron Field.
Buckeye Valley (5-4, 4-4 MOAC Red) could not get out of its own end in the first half, finishing with minus-49 yards of offense and never advancing past their own 45-yard line.
“It’s the story of football: Football is a game of field position,” Buckeye Valley coach Mike Marshall said. “I know how things ended up on the scoreboard, but we had no field position in the first half.”
The Barons surrendered eight points in the first 27 seconds of the game on a safety off a bad snap and a North Union (8-1, 7-1) touchdown, a 30-yard run by Kam Smith on the Wildcats’ first play from scrimmage after the ensuing free kick, and their only positive first half yardage came through the air, on a 10-yard pass from senior Kevan Green to junior receiver Will Crecelius.
Mistakes hurt the Barons plenty in the first half, but the Wildcat defense hurt more. North Union allowed the Barons only five rushing plays for positive yardage of their 22 rushing attempts in the half, and Buckeye Valley finished with minus-59 yards of rushing offense in the first 24 minutes.
“They played very well defensively in the first half,” Marshall said. “We created some of those situations for ourselves, but (North Union coach) Jesse (Miller) has a great program and they’re an outstanding football team.”
But while North Union was able to get points, the Baron defense made them work for every one. The Wildcats scored four touchdowns in the first half, including two more Kam Smith touchdown runs in the second quarter, for a 22-0 halftime lead, but the Buckeye Valley defense held the visitors to a respectable 143 yards of offense and 130 yards rushing.
The Barons started the second half with a successful onside kick, kicked and recovered by senior kicker Mason Long, but could do nothing with the possession. After a punt, North Union pushed the lead to 28-0, when Josh Smith capped a four-minute drive with a two-yard run.
“I wish they wouldn’t have gotten that score,” Marshall said. “We would have ended up making it 21-14 when we scored late in the third, and it would have been interesting.”
But the Barons got on the board in the final two minutes of the third quarter, driving 70 yards on 10 plays in 5:35, and capping the march with an 11-yard pass from Green to junior Jack Kelly with 1:17 left in the period.
Not long after that, senior free safety Ethan Harsh intercepted a Josh Sowder pass and took it to the Wildcat one-yard line, and junior tailback Caleb Green scored on the next play to put the Barons within 14 points, 28-14, with 38 seconds left in the third.
“We came out and played pretty well in the second half,” Marshall said. “North Union’s a good team, but our kids came to play, and at times we played very well. We threw the ball a lot, but I thought we had more time to throw the ball in the second half than we did in the first. That will be interesting to watch tape and find out why that was.”
But North Union took the ball on the next drive and almost ran out the rest of the game clock, going 68 yards on 18 plays and eating up 10:49 off the scoreboard timepiece before Brandon Mercer scored from a yard out.
“That was the killer,” Marshall said. “They took up nearly 11 minutes, nearly killed the entire fourth quarter and left us very little time to do anything.”
The Barons had one final moment on the home field, however, going 67 yards on four plays and scoring the final touchdown, a 22-yard pass with 53 seconds left from Kevan Green to Kelly, who caught the pass one-handed with his back to the end zone.
“Our receivers did a nice job tonight,” Marshall said. “Will caught the ball well, (senior) Ben (Stakely) caught the ball well, Jack caught the ball well, and Kevan mixed some things up, got the ball to different kids and threw the ball well.”
Kevan Green finished the night 8 of 18 through the air for 121 yards with two touchdowns and an interception, going 7 of 8 for 111 yards in the second half. Kelly led the receivers with three catches for 49 yards and two touchdowns, Crecelius had two catches for 25 yards, while Stakely and juniors Shawn Free and Mark Firkins had one catch apiece for 17, 15 and five yards, respectively.
Mercer led all rushers with 96 yards on 23 carries plus his touchdown, while Smith had 67 yards on nine carries with three scores for North Union.