With the Bexley High School football team's chances of returning to the Division III playoffs and winning the MSL-Ohio gone, coach John Smith has found something to motivate his team for its season-finale against visiting Licking Valley on Friday.

With the Bexley High School football team's chances of returning to the Division III playoffs and winning the MSL-Ohio gone, coach John Smith has found something to motivate his team for its season-finale against visiting Licking Valley on Friday.

Bexley has not defeated the Panthers since a 47-21 win on Nov. 6, 1998. This year might be the Lions' best chance to knock off the MSL-Ohio powerhouse.

"The guys are looking to redeem themselves (after a 39-6 loss to Heath last Friday)," said Smith, whose team is 3-6 overall and 2-4 in the MSL-Ohio. "They still have a chance to do something that no Bexley team has done in a while and that's beat Licking Valley.

"We want to send our seniors out on a positive note and use it as a springboard for next season."

The Panthers, 4-5 overall and 3-3 in the league after losing to Columbus Academy 47-14 last Friday, have lost nearly as many games as they have in the last three years. During that span, Licking Valley went 34-6 overall, was the Division III state runner-up in 2007 and a state semifinalist in 2008.

"This is certainly not where we wanted to be," Licking Valley coach Randy Baughman said. "Usually, this time of year we're in the midst of a league championship drive and trying to make the playoffs. That's out of the picture now.

"Winning the last game will make the winter go better. You always remember your last game so winning Friday will give the seniors a good memory as well as motivate the team for next year."

Bexley is trying to shake off the loss to Heath. Playing most of the game without leading rusher Charles Gresham, who returned the opening kick but sat out the rest of the game, the Bulldogs scored on their first six possessions and held Bexley to (minus) -6 yards of offense in the first half. Nelson Scott filled in and ran for 164 yards and three touchdowns (1, 2, 1) on 30 carries.

"We were not the team we've seen the previous seven weeks," Smith said. "The biggest difference was the demeanor of the team. A lot of the kids weren't ready to go in the first half."

Likewise the Panthers stumbled against Academy. The loss snapped Licking Valley's six-game winning streak over the Vikings, excluding a forfeit in 2004.

Academy held Licking Valley to under 200 yards and forced four turnovers. The Panthers are led by running backs Eric Mitchell and Craig Hall. Both have rushed for over 500 yards.

"They may not be as big as they have been in the past, but Valley is still a very good football team," Smith said. "They're still a tough, hard-nosed team. They've played a lot of good football teams this year."


Next game

LICKING VALLEY at BEXLEY

•When: 7:30 p.m. Friday

•Last meeting: 2008, Licking Valley 34-0

•Licking Valley (4-5, 3-3 in MSL-Ohio) to date: Lost to Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit 21-0; lost to Zanesville 29-13, defeated Cambridge 6-0; def. Heath 21-19; def. Whitehall 27-7; lost to Granville 35-12; def. Lakewood 28-0; lost to Newark Catholic 34-21 and lost to Columbus Academy 47-14

•Bexley (3-6, 2-4 in MSL-Ohio) to date: Lost to Canal Winchester 43-0; def. Northridge 37-7; lost to Hartley 42-14; def. Whitehall 17-0; lost to Granville 21-7; def. Lakewood 45-6; lost to Newark Catholic 41-7; lost to Columbus Academy 31-10; and lost to Heath 39-6

•Top Panthers: Mitch Flowers (WR), Craig Hall (RB), Brock Mitchell (LB), Eric Mitchell (RB/LB), and Chase Redman (DL)

•Top Lions: Kyle Boddie (RB), Tommy Bolon (LB), Mike Edwards (RB), Josh Lake (LB), Adam Leeds (QB), Mikey Penn (RB), Jalen Robinette (QB) and Elijah Scott (WR)