Beavers hitting their stride

CALCUTTA — In spite of an inexperienced roster, a midseason rash of injuries and an offense that has had trouble finding a rhythm, the Beaver Local football team refused to stop working.

Now, as the season rounds into its home stretch, the Beavers are starting to show some improvement.

“Even though we’ve had some adversity this year, nobody has given up,” Beaver Local senior tight end/linebacker Christian Lerussi said. “We’re still playing together.”

Last Friday, Beaver Local (3-4) snapped out of a three-game funk, during which it mustered just one touchdown per game, to rout winless Buckeye Local 33-8. As they prepare for this weeks senior-night clash against playoff contender Indian Creek (5-2) the Beavers are confident they are heading in the right direction.

“We’ve really started to come together more in the last couple of weeks,” senior running back/linebacker Garrett Givens said. “It’s late in the season, but I feel that we’re starting to reach our peak as a football team and as a brotherhood. Towards the beginning of the year, we kind of had some doubts because we had such an inexperienced team, now we’re finding our identity. We’re bonding a lot more and starting to have more confidence in each other.”

The Beavers began the season having to find 10 new starters on offense and six starters on defense. Progress has been slowed by the fact that a handful of key players– including Givens, Lerussi, Donovan Garcia and Nick Wukotich–have all missed some time with injuries.

After a 2-1 start, Beaver Local hit a speed bump with a blowout 48-7 loss to rival East Liverpool and a 14-7 loss to Edison.

“We had a little bit of a lull there in the middle of the season where we didn’t improve for a couple of weeks,” Beaver Local head coach Mike McKenzie said. “I thought against East Liverpool, we got caught up in the moment a little too much and it carried over to Edison. We’ve also had a lot of guys miss time. But the last two weeks we’ve started to find a little bit more of a rhythm and we’ve started to improve. The guys have been fun to be around and they’ve kept working hard.”

McKenzie sensed things getting back on track in week six when the Beavers fought 6-1 Bellaire tooth-and-nail before losing 23-7 in a game that was tied at 7 after three quarters.

“Even though we lost that game, I thought we played really well against a good team,” Lerussi said. “The way we battled in that game gave us confidence going forward.”

The momentum continued last week against Buckeye as the offense finally broke loose.

“We had a rough few weeks, so it felt really good to see us move the ball and put some points up last week,” Garcia said. “The communication in general has been better the last couple of weeks. Guys are out there playing more for each other now.”

“Everyone was really happy and excited after that game,” senior linebacker Jared Wright said. “I think that feeling is going to carry over into senior night this week.

Since being lit up by East Liverpool in week four, the Beaver Local defense has tightened things up, allowing an average of 15 points per game the last three weeks.

Wright attributed some of the turnaround to a greater attention to detail.

“We’ve watched way more film as a team and individually,” Wright said. “Everyone is just reading their keys and doing their job now. We’re playing much better team defense.”

The Beaver seniors are hoping to channel the improvement the team has shown the last couple of weeks into a memorable last three weeks, starting with their final home game this week.

“It’s hard as a senior knowing that there are only a few games left,” Garcia said. “I’m hoping that we can keep building on what we’ve done and go out on a high note.”

Game notes

¯ A very wet September has left the Beaver Local field a muddy mess, something McKenzie doesn’t anticipate changing this week.

“I hope it improves this week, but I think that ship has sailed,” McKenzie said. “It is what it is at this point, both teams have to play on it. Our guys seem to like it.

“I think a muddy field makes the game a lot more exciting,” Wright said. “It’s obviously a lot tougher to move around, but its a lot more fun.”

¯ With the final home game approaching, the Beavers reminisced on some of the favorite memories from their careers.

“Last year when we snapped our (16-game) losing streak to West Branch was one of my favorite games that I’ve ever been a part of,” Garcia said. “That’s probably the one that sticks out most.

“I just remember last year after one of our wins, everyone on the whole team joining in a circle and dancing in the locker room after the game,” Wright said. “Seeing that camaraderie was probably one of my favorite memories in football.”

¯ Givens was nursing a high ankle sprain suffered last week, but said that it wasn’t going to keep him out of senior night.

“It’s not going to keep me out,” Givens said. “The chance to take the field one last time in front of family and friends is pretty special. Hopefully we can keep getting better and put on a good show for our fans.”