An interception by Johnstown-Monroe High School’s Nick Sadinsky with 56 seconds left in the Licking County-Muskingum Valley All-Star Football Game capped a strong showing by the defensive back and his Johnnies teammates and ended a three-game losing streak for the local all-star contingent.
Licking County held on to beat Muskingum Valley 21-14 on June 28 at Zanesville’s Sulsberger Stadium, posting its first win in the series since 2009.
Muskingum Valley leads the series 17-15.
“The defensive line did a great job with the pressure and I was able to come down with the ball,” Sadinsky said of the game-clinching interception, which occurred at the Licking County 40-yard line on fourth-and-9. “It feels great to come down here and win.”
The previous time Sadinsky and his six Johnstown teammates on the Licking County roster — Daniel-Mark Almendinger (WR/LB), Adam Carter (RB/LB), Dakota Crawford (OL/DL), Justin Mooney (OL/DL), Tim Sayer (OL/DL) and Tyler Thompson (QB) — had played at Sulsberger Stadium was last fall, when the Johnnies lost to St. Clairsville 37-29 in a Division IV regional final.
“I came into this game with my (six) friends from my Johnstown team and my coaches from Johnstown,” said Sadinsky, who also saw time at wide receiver and caught a 25-yard pass from Thompson to set up a 3-yard touchdown run by Licking Valley running back Drew McArtor with 1:27 left in the second quarter, giving Licking County a 13-8 lead at halftime. “This game will be in the back of my mind for a long time.”
Muskingum Valley took a 14-13 lead with 8:53 remaining on a 62-yard pass from Zanesville quarterback Steele Gaumer to Zanesville Maysville wide receiver Justin Wilson, but Licking County answered with an 80-yard scoring drive capped by a 48-yard run by McArtor with 5:53 left.
“We knew we had to score there,” said McArtor, who finished with 110 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 16 carries. “I got great blocking, especially from (Johnstown fullback) Adam Carter. He got the big block. It was just a great way to finish things off.”
Thompson added the two-point conversion on an option run to close the scoring. He finished with 70 yards rushing on 16 carries and 55 yards passing and was named Most Valuable Player for Licking County.
“I was a little nervous (before the game),” Thompson said. “I was thinking about the loss here the last time and what we needed to do to redeem ourselves. We wanted to win it for Licking County and start a streak of our own.”
Watkins Memorial fullback and linebacker Jake Sanders scored the game’s first touchdown on a 1-yard run with 8:15 left in the first quarter.
“I was pretty excited to get in there,” he said. “It was my first (play) in the game, and it was my only time as fullback. It was great to get a chance to (score).”
Johnstown coach Mike Carter improved to 3-0 in the annual game. He coached Licking County in its previous win, 13-7 in 2009, and was the coach when Licking County pulled out a 20-14 overtime victory in 2003.
“Our No. 1 goal was to win and do it the right way and to play with a team attitude,” Carter said. “It’s not about winning or losing, but what (the players) remember, what they take from this game, their last high school game.”
Dresden Tri-Valley running back Austin Jones was named the MVP for Muskingum Valley, rushing for 110 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries. He scored on a 39-yard run in the first quarter.
Jones accumulated most of his yardage in the first half, as Muskingum Valley was limited to 9 yards rushing over the final two quarters. Leading the Licking County defense were linemen Steven Clum of Licking Heights and Tucker McKenzie of Granville and linebackers Adam Hunt of Heath, Clayton Plute of Granville and Sanders.
“Besides the one big pass play, we played very well on defense in the second half,” said Clum, one of 11 players selected for the game who will play for Otterbein University. “I had a couple of sacks and I know Tucker and Hunt made several big plays, too. It was a great way to finish high school and prepare for college for a lot of us.
“It was a great experience because I had a lot of fun and met a lot of new people. It was beneficial to play with new people just like we’ll be doing in college. Most of the kids on our team played against one another. I wish (the Licking County League, which starts this fall) would’ve begun last season because that was pretty cool.”
The Licking County roster also included Licking Heights' Willie Carter (OL/DL) and Taylor Curtiss (QB) and Northridge's Thomas Williams (RB/LB). Carter and Curtiss were unable to play in the contest because of other obligations.
“We had a good group of (Johnstown) kids, but the kids from the other schools came in and made a commitment to work hard and win this game,” coach Carter said. “It was a county-wide win. The thing we tried to promote from day one was that everyone will play a role, and that’s what happened. Everyone who played did their part and worked as one. They bought in and it was a special group of kids that can mold like that in a 10-day period.
“... Every school that had a player on the roster was represented well because every player made a meaningful contribution.”