UTICA — It was homecoming for Utica High School. So a fan might think the players would be excused if they had something other than football on their minds.
That fan would be wrong.
The Redskins (3-3) went out and made a statement, shutting down Loudonville 49-15 and erasing any doubt that this team has improved greatly throughout the season.
For Loudonville (1-5). the loss was hard to swallow.
“I think we’re a better football team than what we showed. We didn’t tackle very well. We didn’t do a lot of things well,” Loudonville head coach Don Wilson said.
Utica’s defense came out on fire, cutting off the passing lanes and forcing Redbird quarterback Nate Scarberry to throw the ball away.
Then it was the offense’s turn. Senior quarterback Jason Hoar found his favorite target, freshman Tyler Cline, early and often. On their third play from scrimmage Hoar found Cline on a hitch pass. Cline then turned upfield and scampered the rest of the way for a 57-yard touchdown.
“The defense gave our offense some great opportunities,” Utica head coach Randy Felumlee said.
It wasn’t all good on the play for Utica, however. Cline got penalized for celebrating, forcing the Redskins back on the kickoff and causing Felumlee’s blood pressure to skyrocket.
On the ensuing drive, Scarberry dropped a snap, and Utica recovered at the Loudonville 20. A minute later, senior Justin Newsome took the ball in from 7 yards out.
Nothing went right for the Redbirds in the first quarter. Another fumble on a snap led to another Utica touchdown on the following play. Hoar found Cline again for the 18-yard score. This time, Cline simply handed the ball to the official and went to the huddle.
Loudonville responded by going back to the basics. For them, that’s handing the ball to Christian Leitenberger. Again, and again, and again. Leitenberger pounded through the holes left by charging defenders, earning each yard through old fashioned smash-mouth football. Finally, he found the endzone on a 5-yard carry with 8:28 left in the first half. But by then, the Redbirds were down 28-7.
“We couldn’t adjust to their unbalanced formation. We allowed too many yards, allowed them back in the game,” Felumlee said.
Loudonville continued to move the ball throughout the second quarter. But a late drive stalled when senior Scott Cline picked off a Scarberry pass at the 1. Utica then ran out the clock.
“They zoned in on what we were doing, and they stopped us pretty good. They just played better than we did tonight,” Wilson said.
“Our defense got out of focus on what their job is. We told them to stay in place, plug up those holes. That’s something we talked about at halftime,” Felumlee said.