UTICA – Both the Utica and Northridge football teams go into Friday night’s backyard rivalry game battered. And both are hoping for better.
The Licking County League game is set for 7 p.m.
Redskins’ coach Charley Rowley has reason to hope. After a blowout in the season’s opening week, his team came back last Friday and put three touchdowns on the board against visiting Johnstown.
“This past week, I thought we got a lot better than we were in the first week,” Rowley said. “We just have to hone in the little details and clean up some of the mistakes that we’ve seen. We feel like we’re really close to executing our scheme at a high level.”
After two weeks, the Redskins and the Vikings have a common opponent, but the news there hasn’t been good. Last week, the Heath Bulldogs rolled up 311 total yards on the Vikings, defeating them 55-7. It’s surpassed, however, by the 474 yards the Redskins allowed when Heath defeated them, 60-6 in Week One.
“We grew a little tighter as a group after that Heath game,” Redskins’ quarterback Collin McCollough said. “We decided that it’s time to get our ducks in a row here, and get ready to play ball.”
Although the Vikings could muster no passing yards against Heath, they did manage to rush for 117 yards, including 60 yards from junior running back J.D. Miller, along with some important gains from senior running back Will Holt. On the other hand, the Vikings coughed up the ball three times, and that’s too many fumbles for a team that relies on the run.
“We’ve got to stop the run,” said Rowley. “That’s been the theme in the first two weeks as well. We’ve got to be physical. We’ve got to be sound. We keep telling the kids, ‘You don’t have to do too much. Just do your job.’”
Positive news for Utica, however, is that McCullough was able to get some passing yards (43) against the Bulldogs’ defense. Redskins’ receivers Clayton Cummons, along with Lincoln Valentine, Seth Cooper and Kai Humphrey give Utica a dimension that the Vikings don’t have.
“Northridge is a run-heavy team that we are capable of defending well,” McCullough said. “We have two dimensions and we were able to put up three touchdowns against (Johnstown), who can defend just about anybody. I believe that our offense is going to come together stronger this week.”
Rowley will rely on Utica junior running back Brock Wygle, along with seniors Shane Weakly and 220-pound Valyn Dague, to control the ball and move it downfield in order to keep it out of Miller’s hands.