Buckeyes shooting for fourth straight

GREENFORD — With Ohio gunning for its fourth straight Penn-Ohio Stateline Classic victory, head coach Josh Ludwig made sure to strike the right balance between competitiveness and fun as his squad prepared for tonight’s 40th annual clash at Geneva College’s Reeves Field.

“The kids are definitely aware that we’re going for four in a row, it’s been brought up,” Ludwig said. “But the main thing we’ve concentrated on is having fun. “I didn’t want to come in here and be a jerk and run this like a boot camp. I wanted to make this a week-and-a-half that these kids will remember. We’ve run and hit a little, but we’re not going crazy. We’re making sure mental reps get installed and we’re trying to enjoy ourselves.”

Ludwig, who led East Liverpool to its best regular season in five years, said the Buckeyes will run the Potters’ spread offense with a few tweaks.

“Some of the terminology is different, but it’s very similar to what we ran during the regular season,” Ludwig said. “It’s a spread concept, but we’ll still run it with the big linemen we have. So far, things have been pretty smooth, we’re on track.”

That big line of South Range’s Tyler Dolak, Crestview’s Dominic Perry, Salem’s Matt Castles, West Branch’s Jacob Lyons, Indian Creek’s Trent Bolek and East Liverpool’s P.J. Morris is a major bright spot Ludwig pointed to.

“The offensive line looks really special,” Ludwig said. “Comparing Pennsylvania’s roster and ours, I think we could have an advantage up front.”

The action at quarterback will be split between East Palestine’s Parker Sherry, Indian Creek’s Brennon Norris and Springfield’s Brannon Brungard. Ludwig said each of the three signal callers at his disposal brings something unique to the table.

“Parker brings his speed, so we’ll probably do more zone-read with him,” Ludwig said. “Norris throws the best ball and Brungard is a nice mixture of both. All three have great attributes. We’ll sit down and see who should be the starter and how many series we’ll go before switching, but all three will get time.”

Should the game come down to a field goal, Ludwig has no problem sending United kicker Gunner McIntosh out there.

“He has a nice leg, he can really boot it,” Ludwig said. “That should really help us in crunch time.”

As the week-and-a-half of preparation wound to a close, Ludwig noted that one of the most fun parts of coaching an all-star team is getting to observe and interact with some of the other top players from around the area.

“The two Western Reserve kids (Ryan Slaven and Adam Gatrell) have really impressed me,” Ludwig said. “They’ve done an excellent job with their effort and intensity. The Indian Creek kids really know how to practice. Garrett Givens (Beaver Local) has given us a whole bunch. He’s been spectacular.”