What we learned from Buckeye Central's season-opening shellacking of Crestline

·5 min read
Buckeye Central's Manny Mullins powers his way toward the endzone.
Buckeye Central's Manny Mullins powers his way toward the endzone.

NEW WASHINGTON — The tone was set when Buckeye Central's Manny Mullins returned the opening kickoff 84 yards for a touchdown.

It was one of seven first-half touchdowns for the Bucks, who steamrolled Crestline 53-8 Friday night to win consecutive home openers for the first time since 2014-15.

The Bulldogs avoided the shutout with a late touchdown but showed there's still plenty of room for improvement in the new offense.

Here's what we learned about both teams in Week 1.

Buckeye Central shows its versatility

The Bucks scored five different ways in the first half.

After Mullins' long kickoff return, Derex Dean found Tyler Sanderson on back-to-back scores of 25 yards and 64 yards, Mullins rushed in from 6 yards out, Sanderson returned a punt 71 yards and Max Aichholz snagged an interception and returned it 37 yards. Dean also hit Trevor Kirgis from 12 yards out for a 47-0 halftime lead before a 19-yard strike to Alec Phillips midway through the third quarter capped off Buckeye Central's scoring.

"It helps when you get a couple special teams touchdowns and a defensive touchdown," Buckeye Central coach Chad Jensen said. "We want to get the ball to our playmakers in space, but there were a lot of things we did well tonight. Our line was great up front, we ran the ball well — there were just a lot of things that went well for us."

It was the perfect start to the season, and Jensen praised his team's cohesiveness in the opener.

"We challenged our kids," Jensen said. "We wanted to make sure we executed, that was the thing — and we did. We were focused, we were locked in and the biggest thing was executing.

Buckeye Central's Tyler Sanderson slips through the Crestline defense for a big gain.
Buckeye Central's Tyler Sanderson slips through the Crestline defense for a big gain.

"This being the first game, you want to make sure things work out well and go smoothly, people do their assignments. I was pleased with that. I thought our defensive coaches came up with a great game plan, and they really executed."

Dean finished 8-of-9 passing for 169 yards and four touchdowns, Sanderson had three catches for 102 yards and two touchdowns along with his punt return score, and Mullins rushed eight times for 89 yards and a touchdown to go with his opening kickoff return.

One of the biggest things that helped the Bucks prepare for Crestline was simply having numbers this season. It makes everything easier leading up to Friday nights.

"It's unbelievable," Jensen said. "We have 35 kids and we can get a legitimate scout team together on the other side, and our JV team has nine games. It helps in practice, it's such an advantage. We've been on both sides — a few years ago we had 35 and last year we had 25. It's much easier when you have people to practice against in practice."

It's still very early in the season, but Buckeye Central showed its ability to score in virtually every way. And as one of the smallest schools around, confidence is sometimes all you need going into games. Talented athletes like Mullins, Dean and Sanderson certainly don't hurt either.

There will be some growing pains in Crestline

Mike Winland coached his first game since taking over the program in the summer, and one of the biggest takeaways he had was his team's resilience.

"I loved that the guys didn't give up," Winland said. "We made some improvements from last year and they fought until the end. We have some young guys, [and] it's a new system offensively and defensively. You take your growing pains, that's what I learned tonight — the guys didn't give up."

Crestline's Parker Bowman is snagged by Buckeye Central's JR Martin.
Crestline's Parker Bowman is snagged by Buckeye Central's JR Martin.

Crestline's new-look offense, the triple option, showed glimpses of its potential. Carter Jones busted out an 80-yard run, breaking out of several tackles along the way before Buckeye Central's JR Martin chased him down — one of several plays Martin made in the game. Jones finished with 115 yards on 12 carries and a two-point conversion.

Prior to the Bulldogs' touchdown drive — 10 plays, 66 yards ending in a Trevor Shade 1-yard TD — their longest was seven plays and on six occasions they had four or fewer plays on possessions. Part of that is adjusting to the new offense, while a lot of it had to do with Buckeye Central's tenacity on the defensive end.

"It's (a) slow (process), but that's normal," Winland said of the change. "It's a new system, not having the numbers to practice 11-on-11, we're at a disadvantage there. But all in all the kids have bought in, they're locked in and working as hard as they can.

"(Buckeye Central) did everything (we thought). They came out physical; I didn't think we were ready for their physicality. That's a great, great team that will win some football games. You hate to get your rival Week 1 — you'd rather have time to prepare — but you're dealt your cards and have to roll with it."

Jake Bruce, Parker Bowman, Derrick McCunn and Jones gave the Bulldogs options when it came to putting the ball in someone's hands. And Shade made some plays when he could at quarterback, and the group will only continue to grow together and get better as the season progresses.

zholden@gannett.com

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Twitter: @Zachary_Holden

This article originally appeared on Bucyrus Telegraph-Forum: Buckeye Central topples Crestline in season opener