XENIA — Starting a high school football season at 0-3 can be tough on anyone. So when the winless Xenia Buccaneers went into Friday night’s game against undefeated Vandalia Butler, the Bucs’ spirits weren’t very high.
“When you go 0-and-3 like that, it’s really hard on a kid’s confidence level. And rightfully so, it was tough on the coaching staff, too. For three weeks, you worked hard and prepared your best … only to realize that it wasn’t good enough, and sometimes by a good margin. That was hard for all of us,” Xenia High coach Bob DeLong said on Monday.
“I think our kids went into Friday’s game with some semblance of doubt. But after they started to play the game, they started to realize ‘Hey! I think we can do this!’ ” he said.
Butler scored on its second possession of the game on a Nic Martin 12-yard run. The Aviators missed the extra-point try, but held an early 6-0 lead.
That may have been a wake-up call for the Buccaneers, because Xenia quarterback Danny Naylor connected with Ray James for a 61-yard touchdown pass on Xenia’s next possession. A Blake Bond extra point moments later gave the Bucs the lead for good.
Naylor connected on 26 of 41 passing attempts for 382 yards and five touchdowns. Mechi Harris hauled in two of the TD passes, Montel Hurst, Ray and Rocky James each caught one score. Naylor’s 382 passing yards set a new school single-game record. DeLong said Naylor either set or tied a few other passing marks, but his staff was still busy poring through the record books.
Other Bucs stepped up as well.
TeAndre Adams had gained one yard in six carries in losses against Beavercreek, Kings Mills Kings and Cincinnati Moeller, but exploded for 93 yards on 17 carries against Butler.
The offensive line’s efforts from Tayon Howell, Daniel Beam, Andrew Jones, Cody Smith, Devin Hatfield, Peyton Bartley and Andrew Davis gave Naylor all the time he needed to find his speedy receivers, and DeLong liked how the line was able to take some of the pressure off the passing game by opening up some holes for his running backs.
Xenia’s defense continued to play well, especially senior cornerback Ryan Johnson who led he team with nine tackles and had two interceptions late in the game.
With the losses to Division I schools Beavercreek and Moeller, and D-II powerhouse Kings behind them, DeLong said he’s feeling pretty good about where his team stands at this point in the season.
“I knew those first three games would be tough, but I was hoping we were going to win one or two of them,” he said. “But I feel like we played on Friday like I had thought we would play all year. I guess I’m not completely satisfied with where we were on Friday — (for instance, the team amassed 13 penalties for 116 yards) — but I think we can build off of that and continue to improve.”
Xenia plays Friday at Troy, then they’ll begin Greater Western Ohio Conference Divisional play Oct. 2 on the road against South foe West Carrollton. Both games kickoff at 7 p.m.
John Bombatch can be reached at (937) 372-4444, Ext. 2123.