Just holding on to the football was the main objective last Friday at Licking Heights High School.
That battle clearly was won by West Jefferson, which somehow avoided any turnovers despite a steady rain that fell throughout much of the game and secured a berth in the Division V playoffs with a 28-0 win. The Roughriders improved to 8-2 overall and finished 6-1 in the MSL-Cardinal Division to share the title with Liberty Union."In these conditions it's crucial to run the ball and control the clock," West Jefferson coach Shawn Buescher said. "And when you take care of the football and play defense on a night like this, that's what it takes."
The Hornets, who turned the ball over six times, finished 7-3 overall and 5-2 in the league to tie for second place. The turnovers included four fumbles, one of which came on a mishandled punt snap in the end zone late in the second quarter. Cody Woodard recovered it for the Roughriders, who took a 14-0 lead with 4 minutes, 40 seconds remaining in the first half.
"Last year it seemed like when the ball bounced it bounced our way," said Licking Heights coach Darren Waters, whose team was bidding to win a league title for the first time since 1992 and won't be making a return trip to the Division IV postseason. "Tonight, every bounce went their way."
It didn't take long for the elements to show what kind of an impact they would have in the game. When the Hornets went to punt on their first possession, it also was mishandled and the Roughriders recovered. Shane Cahill scored on a 2-yard touchdown run seven plays later for a 7-0 lead. Cahill rushed for 123 yards on 23 carries.
The Roughriders scored 21 points off turnovers, which included an 11-yard touchdown run by D.J. Gray after Drew Underwood's interception late in the fourth quarter.
Another key Licking Heights mistake was an illegal motion penalty after quarterback Cody Bailey, playing in place of injured starter Shawn Smith, had run for a first down on third-and-9 deep in West Jefferson territory during the third quarter. The Hornets trailed only 14-0 at the time, but the Roughriders stuffed the next two plays and Eric Fisher later scored on a 15-yard run to make it 21-0.
Elsewhere last Friday, Heath might have been knocked out of the Division IV playoffs with a 40-27 loss at Bexley, finishing 7-3 and 4-3 in the MSL-Ohio won outright by playoff-bound Licking Valley. The Panthers improved to 9-1 and finished 7-0 in the league with a 41-0 win over Columbus Academy.
Granville defeated Lakewood 36-20 to move to 8-2 and finish 5-2 in the league, most likely securing a Division III playoff berth. The Lancers finished 1-9 and 1-6. Newark Catholic is 6-4 and 3-4 and kept alive its slim hopes to make the Division VI playoffs.
Johnstown defeated Northridge 28-0 to improve to 8-2 and win the MBC outright at 7-0 as the Vikings finished 4-6 and 3-4. Utica beat Centerburg 29-0 to improve to 7-3 and finish second in the MBC at 6-1, possibly qualifying for the Division IV playoffs.
Newark finished 1-9 and 0-7 in the OCC-Ohio with a 28-0 loss to Lancaster and Watkins Memorial finished 4-6 overall with a 23-7 setback against non-league St. Charles.
WEST JEFFERSON 7 7 7 7 - 28
LICKING HEIGHTS 0 0 0 0 _ 0
WJ-Cahill 2 run (Williams kick)
WJ-Woodard fumble recovery in end zone (Williams kick)
WJ-Fisher 15 run (Williams kick)
WJ-Gray 11 run (Williams kick)