UTICA – The Johnstown Northridge running attack was just a little too much for host Utica to handle. The visiting Vikings rolled up 336 yards on the ground, scoring a fourth-quarter touchdown, to defeat the Redskins, 20-15, in Licking County League football action on Friday.
It was an emotional roller coaster of a game that ended as a disappointing loss for the winless Redskins, who had led for much of the second half.
The Vikings (1-2) got a short touchdown run by J.D. Miller (15 carries, 112 yards) in the opening quarter. Then, they took a 14-0 lead when Lane Hess (eight carries, 56 yards) capped a Vikings’ 65-yard drive with a one-yard scoring run.
With 2:54 to go in the first half, the Redskins (0-3) got a much-needed lift when senior Lincoln Valentine took the ensuing kickoff and ran it down the left sideline for 92 yards and a Utica touchdown. Teammate Zach Heckman (six carries, 13 yards) followed up by running in the 2-point conversion to make it a 14-8 game.
The Redskins got the ball to start the second half and senior quarterback Collin McCullough (8-for-12 passing, 111 yards) found Valentine (two receptions, 84 yards) on a 35-yard catch and run, down the left sideline, for a touchdown to give the Vikings a 15-14 lead with more than 10 minutes remaining in the third quarter. Utica senior Tanner Parsons recovered a pair of fumbles in the second half, but the Redskins, who ran the ball for a total of 18 yards could not take advantage.
Finally, it was the Vikings, who broke through in the final quarter, moving the ball down to the Utica 2-yard line and getting a touchdown run from Will Holt (20 carries, 110 yards) with a little over 10 minutes to go in the game.
It was a mistake-filled game on both sides of the ball. Both teams racked up eight penalties and each had three fumbles.
“It’s tough,” Utica coach Charlie Rowley said. “I wanted it so badly for these kids. I know they wanted it. These kids played hard and tough. We made some mistakes. A couple of turnovers didn’t help us. We’ve got to learn to finish.”
When you have 14 seniors on your roster, a loss on Senior Night is especially disappointing. The Redskins’ players hope that a win, next Friday’s game at Lakewood will soothe the sting of Senior Night.
“It was, obviously, an emotional game,” Valentine said. “It was Senior Night and the Northridge rivalry, so we wanted it badly, but there are things that we definitely need to clean up. We have a good chance next week, so we’ll try to bounce back.”