Pittman aims for playoffs

Akron Buchtel RB Tony Pittman, who was the first running back to be offered by and commit to Ohio State this year, has been slowed a bit by an injury so far this season, but he still has a big goal in mind -- getting to the playoffs and winning.

Although he's not really having the type of season that would be expected from someone who was the first running back in the 2004 recruiting class for Ohio State, Tony Pittman of Akron Buchtel High School is aiming for the second season, the playoffs, and to help turn his team's and his own individual fortunes around.

"We're getting ready for (Akron) Garfield; we play them in two weeks and they're in Division II," Pittman said. "They're at the eighth spot right now, and if we beat them we'll be in for sure."

Positive thinking never hurts obviously, but being ranked 12th in Division III Region 9 after week eight, there's no guarantee that a win over the Rams in the final week of the regular season will indeed get the Griffins into the playoffs.

Regardless of however remote the chances of participating in the post-season may or may not be for Buchtel, Pittman said he likely will play just a limited amount of the game in week nine to make sure he's as healthy for Garfield as he's been since the Massillon game in week one when he rushed for 175 yards and two scores.

"Next week I probably won't even play that much," he said. "I'll probably play a quarter that's it, just so I can get ready."

Pittman hasn't been 100 percent healthy since he sustained a toe injury early in the season against Hoover.

"He had a turf toe in week two against North Canton, and he was on his way to a big game. He already had like 74 yards in six carries before he got the turf toe, and it's been slowing him down ever since." said Buchtel coach Claude Brown. "That turf toe is going to nag him all year long. It's going to take him a good off-season to get that toe to heal up, and then he'll be ready to go.

"He's got to have a brace in his shoe so he can't bend his toe, so he's running with a straight toe. But he'll be fine; it's just one of those nagging injuries that he's got to shake, and it's going to take an off-season for him to shake it. He's going to try to graduate in January so he'll be in Columbus in March, and hopefully by that time he'll be ready to go."

Pittman, who caught the attention of the Ohio State staff when he rushed for nearly 1,000 yards in just three playoff games last year, hasn't really had a chance to get any momentum going for himself this season. And although he won't admit it, it has to be somewhat of a disappointing campaign for someone who had thoughts of being the state's Mr. Football award winner going into the season.

"It's not really disappointing because the only week I've been healthy is week one," said Pittman who still managed to assult the 1,000-yard mark. "I got hurt the North Canton game, I didn't play against Warren and I didn't play versus Central. I really wasn't suppose to come back that Ellet game but I came back. I wasn't suppose to come back until the East game. When I came back that Ellet game I pulled my hamstring so I wasn't suppose to play the East game either, but I ended up just playing."

In the 45-6 rout over Akron North in week eight, Pittman, who wasn't on field for Buchtel's first offensive series, didn't really have his number called with any regularity throughout the game. Unofficially in the contest he rushed for 101 yards on 13 carries and he fumbled away the ball once.

"I didn't practice much this week," Pittman said. "That's why I didn't start because I didn't practice that much. And I really didn't get in any groove today because I didn't really get a chance to run the ball much, but I'll be ready for Garfield, and I'll get to run the ball then. "

Brown said there was no particular reason why Pittman had just six carries at the half and 13 total in the game.

"We've got a lot of weapons," the coach said. "It's something where we've only got one football and we've got like six guys that can do something with the football. Of course, we also got Stevie Walker at quarterback and Donte Swain or Bryan Williams running the ball. We've just got a lot of people and one football. It wasn't nothing, per se, of a game plan where we were freezing Tony out, it was a situation where we got a lot of kids that can do something with the football and that's what we try to do.

"Yeah we want Tony to get his stats, but we're trying to win the game regardless if he gets five yards or 10 yards. I don't even care about that. He's already going to Ohio State; all I care about is getting a ‘W' at Buchtel High School."

The Griffins will need a 'W' in week 10 as a lot will be at stake when Buchtel takes on Garfield in the Rubber Bowl.

"There's going to be a lot of computer points riding on that game for both teams. It's all going to come down to that," Brown said. "It's going to be for the City Series championship, and it's going to be for a playoff birth; the winner is going to go to the playoffs. So week 10 will be our first playoff game, and it's going to be theirs too. So we're looking forward to it."

After enduring an individual season marked mainly by injury, Pittman would certainly be happy to play a major part in extending Buchtel's season beyond week 10.

"Yeah I was looking at a big year but if we get into the playoffs that will be better than anything because that means that we get a chance at going for the state title," Pittman said. "That's my main focus right now."


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