Buckeye's Dom Kriz sacks Cloverleaf's Brody Stallings during the first quarter. (NICK CAMMETT / GAZETTE)
WESTFIELD TWP. — The Buckeye football team played its worst game of the season and Cloverleaf played its best.
Despite that, the more-talented Bucks held a huge statistical advantage and were never in serious danger of losing Friday night en route to a 28-14 non-league win over the Colts.
Buckeye is now 3-0 and has won 30 of its last 31 regular-season games, while Cloverleaf, which has lost 21 straight and 40 of its last 41, fell to 0-3.
“We have a lot to work on for next week,” said Bucks tailback Dominic Monaco, who finished with 127 yards on 18 carries and put the game out of reach with a 27-yard touchdown with 1:09 to play. “The sky’s the limit, but there’s no doubt we have to get better.”
The Bucks finished with a 423-189 edge in total yards and never punted, but the Colts were down just 21-14 after sophomore Brody Stallings, who split time at quarterback with senior Travis Hissom, scored on a 12-yard run with 5:06 left in the game.
Buckeye’s Collin Graham, however, did a nice job recovering a great onside kick that bounced over the first level of the return team, and the Bucks covered 69 yards on eight rushing plays to ice things against the gritty Colts.
“That’s the team I’ve been expecting to see all year,” Cloverleaf coach Justin Vorhies said. “We executed, we made some plays and our line did a good job of getting some things done.”
Unfortunately for the Colts, they had no answer for the Bucks’ big-play ability.
Buckeye’s first touchdown came on a 23-yard pass from Adam Fauver (7-for-11, 121 yards) to Anthony Watkins, who was wide open in the left corner of the end zone on fourth-and-9. That score, which came with 3:43 left in the opening quarter, was set up by a bad snap that went over the head of Cloverleaf punter Cory Stallings, who was in shotgun formation on fourth-and-1 from the Buckeye 48, and resulted in a 28-yard loss.
Fauver, who finished with 107 yards on 27 carries, hit Jonathan Neel (3 catches, 75 yards) for a 27-yard TD on second-and-21 in the second period and sprinted 83 yards to the end zone on third-and-7 in the third quarter.
Add Monaco’s game-clincher and Buckeye’s TDs covered 23, 27, 83 and 27 yards, with the first three coming in situations that usually favor the defense.
“We have so many weapons,” Monaco said. “Teams can focus on one guy, but we can go to another. It’s pretty cool that we had four touchdowns and all four came from different people.”
The Bucks’ would have had a fifth, but Austin Bir fumbled on the opening possession of the second half as he was about to go in from 3 yards out, with Cloverleaf’s Jacob Haschak recovering in the end zone.
It was one of four times Buckeye put the ball on the ground, with Fauver losing one that was recovered by Logan Henderson at the Cloverleaf 33-yard line. The Bucks were also penalized six times for 59 yards.
“We did things well at times, but we just made too many mistakes,” Buckeye coach Greg Dennison said. “We’re fortunate we were able to get out with a win. That’s a credit to our kids. It’s nice to have playmakers that can get you out of difficult situations.”
Cloverleaf got a huge boost from the return of Hissom, who was suspended for the first two games. The 6-foot-1, 185-pounder rushed 17 times for 48 yards while in the shotgun at quarterback, including a 1-yard TD for the Colts’ first points, and completed 2-of-4 passes for 17 yards. Hissom also caught three passes for 71 yards from Brody Stallings (6-for-10, 82 yards; 12 carries, 53 yards).
“He’s a difference-maker,” Vorhies said. “He’s a threat to run at quarterback and he made big plays at wide receiver. He’s a big help to us. It’s nice to have him back.”
The Colts also got two sacks and a tackle for loss from Nate Clingan and two tackles for loss from Cory Stallings, but their inability to prevent big plays hurt them.
So did a few mental mistakes, like a false start by a receiver on fourth-and-1 from the Buckeye 12. The Colts went for it on fourth-and-6, but a middle screen to Al Kozma netted only 3 yards.
“We don’t have a big margin for error,” Vorhies said. “That’s why we keep talking to our guys about executing and not making mistakes.
“But I saw a lot of growth. I think our record is different if we play like that our first two games. We’re 0-0 going into the Portage Trail Conference. If we play the way we did tonight, we’re going to win some games.”
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him @RickNoland on Twitter.
Buckeye 28, Cloverleaf 14
BUCKEYE 7 7 7 7 — 28
CLOVERLEAF 0 7 0 7 — 14
B — Anthony Watkins 23 pass from Adam Fauver (Clay Gunkelman kick), 3:43.
B — Jonathan Neel 27 pass from Fauver (Gunkelman kick), 5:46.
C — Travis Hissom 1 run (Logan Tierney kick), 0:34.9.
B — Fauver 83 run (Gunkelman kick), 2:32.
C — Brody Stallings 12 run (Tierney kick), 5:06.
B — Dominic Monaco 27 run (Gunkelman kick), 1:09.