Buckeye Valley’s eighth grade football team is champion of the Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference.
A big deal for sure.
Then again, the same group of kids did the exact same thing a year ago. This time, the story is more about how they did it instead of that they did it.
You see, the Barons had their fair share of injuries this fall, none bigger than the one quarterback Brady Ridder — a 15-game starter over the course of the last two years — suffered in the finale a few weeks ago against visiting Marion Grant.
He was hit while diving into the end zone in the game’s opening quarter, injuring his leg on the play.
Unable to return, BV had to rely on its second-string quarterback to take the keys and steer the team to a perfect 8-0 campaign … something Alex Landis was able to do in style.
You see, Landis — who spent the other seven-plus games of the season as the squad’s starting cornerback — isn’t your typical back-up QB. For starters, she’s a she.
Physically, she was good to go. Mentally, though, without any in-game experience to lean on, was a bit of a different story.
“I was scared,” she said once realizing Ridder wasn’t going to be able to return. “It felt like all the pressure was on me. I couldn’t stop thinking of everything that could go wrong.”
Fortunately, not much did as the Barons rolled to a 52-0 win. Landis played with the poise her coaches knew she would and her teammates, well, her teammates had her back.
Running backs Ripley Szanati and Dylan Rosser were able to keep the chains moving and power into the end zone over and over again. Once they did, Landis punctuated the drives with two-point conversions … over and over again.
“They’re tough, physical runners, and they did a lot of scoring,” BV coach Eric Pettit said of the two-headed monster of Szanati and Rosser. “When they punched it in, we went for two every time … and Alex threw four two-point conversions to four different players. She really spread the wealth around.”
“It was crazy that, with all the injuries our team faced throughout the season, we came together and won the championship,” Landis said. “I couldn’t have done it without the support of my teammates and their ability to play football.
“I made so many memories with these boys and I love them to death.”
They couldn’t have done it without her, either. This year’s Barons were a team in every sense of the word.
“This is such a close-knit group,” Pettit said. “You hear the cliche all the time, but this is a family … it’s the closest family I’ve coached in my seven years. To that point, I think if Alex was aware we were having this conversation, she’d be mad because she’s all about the team. She doesn’t want to be treated any different than anyone else … and we didn’t.”