CANTON ? Buckeye Central didn't earn the championship trophy in the Division VI state final against Maria Stein Marion Local, but the Bucks showed they have a championship heart.
Several times over the course of Marion Local's 61-21 victory, it would've been easy for anyone on Buckeye Central to simply accept the fact that the Flyers were the better team, and a sliver trophy is not a bad consolation prize. But that's not the attitude that this team has been known for.
The Bucks have proven themselves to be a team of great character, with a great fighting spirit.
It's a trait Buckeye Central has shown all season. When it has faced adversity, its fought back to overcome it. In the regular season finale against Colonel Crawford, after the Eagles rallied to force overtime, the Bucks fought back to win the game in the extra session, clinching a North Central Conference Silver Division title.
In last week's state semifinal against Western Reserve, when the Blue Devils were marching downfield for a potential winning score, the Buck defense never gave in and Buckeye Central advanced to its first state championship game since 1995.
Even though Marion Local was one obstacle the Bucks weren't able to overcome, their fighting spirit was on display until the very end.
Marion Local built a 34-0 halftime lead, but Buckeye Central came out of the locker room with just as much fire and intensity they had to begin the game.
Adam Paynter and Michael Adkins were running just as hard in the fourth quarter as in the first. Justin Herrnstein still was putting hard hits on any Flyer player that tried to challenge him.
Lineman Bryce Collins continued a trend he began in the first half, penetrating the Marion Local offensive line and getting into the backfield. When he wasn't in the Flyer backfield, Collins also could be seen making tackles 19-yards downfield.
"We just knew we had to come out and put some points on the board. We didn't want to leave this game knowing that we didn't give it our all," Collins said.
The Bucks received the second half kickoff, but were forced to punt. However, they picked up their first break of the afternoon when Marion Local's Dylan Thobe fumbled the punt. Lineman Chase Finney got downfield in a hurry and was right there to pounce on the loose ball for Buckeye Central.
From there, Paynter, who rushed for 92 of his 115 yards in the second half, used the lead blocking of Collins and the rest of the line to take the Bucks towards the end zone. His 17-yard touchdown run finally put Buckeye on the board.
"The line was blocking pretty good. I just tried to find the hole and then use my speed to outrun the defense," Paynter said.
However, Marion Local responded with three straight scores, including an 85-yard interception return by Trevor Homan that made the score 54-7.
Still, Buckeye Central wouldn't quit; it kept fighting.
Still going against the first team Marion Local defense, the Bucks marched 79 yards in 11 plays with the loyal Buck fanbase, complete with vuvuzelas and homemade deer decorated in duct tape, on its feet cheering the team on the whole way. Adkins plowed into the end zone from one yard out
"We talked about it halftime, we knew we were down but we wanted to come out and put some points on the board," Tyler Erwin said. "We don't get here a lot, so we had to make the best of it."
BC got one more score to close out the game on a 23-yard run by Paynter.
Buckeye Central had a very loyal following that stayed until the final whistle, showing support for a team that has given it so many memories over the past few seasons. One final memory was made in the shadows of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The Bucks may not have left Canton as state champions, but they showed everyone in attendance that they have the heart of champions.