Terry Fetsko sat down before the season, looked at the Chartiers-Houston football schedule and saw teams he felt confident the Bucs could beat.
That confidence might have caught some by surprise, given the Bucs won only three games in the past two years.
The positive results, however, have added up for Chartiers-Houston (5-1, 6-2), which enters tonight’s Tri-County South Conference game at California (4-1, 5-3) with the opportunity to clinch its first playoff berth since 2016.
Kickoff for the two teams fighting for second place is 7 p.m.
“It’s been a few years since we’ve been in this situation,” said Fetsko, the Bucs’ veteran head coach. “We knew we had a lot of seniors and were hoping to get to this point. We’ve had a few tough tests but have passed them to put us in this spot.”
The “situation” Fetsko was referring to was playing in a game that mattered in the playoff race. A winless season by the Bucs in 2017 was followed by a 3-7 record last year. With the smaller Class A playoffs this season, the Bucs making the playoff was a longshot back in August.
The keys to C-H’s success have been an offense that spreads the wealth and a stifling defense that has even given Class A’s best teams trouble. The two losses for the Bucs came against one-loss TCS champion West Greene and undefeated Sto-Rox. Much of West Greene’s success against C-H came from converting turnovers into points, while Sto-Rox led by only 14-7 at the half.
“Even in those two games we did not feel too disappointed,” Fetsko said. “We thought we played well in the first half and our defense kept us in those games. What we need to do against California is make it a full, four-quarter game.”
The defensive success has hinged on a dynamic defensive line with Julian Miller, Zach David, Josh Cavallo, Austin Kuslock, Cole Pawich and Joey Christy. Lane Camden and Shawn Wheeler are a one-two punch at inside linebacker.
“Coming in, we thought our strength would be on defense,” Fetsko said. “Our defensive line has a lot of veterans and we have a good core at linebacker.”
That has been supported by a balanced offense. Nine different players have scored a rushing touchdown, including four from running back Sam DeWalt, who leads the team in carries (79) and yards (437). Quarterback Anthony Lento has 680 passing yards and 12 scores. Wide receiver Tyler Blumen has 20 receptions for 327 yards and five touchdowns.
“Our players have earned that right to be here,” Fetsko said. “Our kids haven’t been in a game of this magnitude. These seniors were freshman in our last playoff game against Laurel. It hasn’t been too big for us. There has been no backing down. Someone has to win and someone will lose. I know our team will go out and play our best.”