Hornets, Warriors set for matchup
Since resuming in 2006, the "Battle for Broad Street" rivalry between the Licking Heights and Watkins Memorial high school football teams has produced only one contest that featured any late-game drama.
That drama occurred last season, when Licking Heights running back Ron Carruthers-Kimball scored on a 1-yard run with 14 seconds left to give the Hornets a 13-12 win over the visiting Warriors.
Licking Heights plays host to Watkins Memorial on Friday, Oct. 25. Unlike the past seven matchups, this meeting carries league implications, as both teams are members of the revived LCL, which had disbanded after the 1990-91 school year.
The Hornets were 7-0 overall and 2-0 in the LCL-Big School Division before playing Licking Valley on Oct. 18. The Warriors were 3-4 overall before playing Heath in a non-league game Oct. 18 and are 0-2 in the league.
"Last year was very exciting, the closest game in the (renewed) series," Licking Heights coach Darren Waters said. "I think it'll be an interesting game this year because of the timing. We've always played it in week one or week two and it kind of set the tone for the rest of the season. I wish, since it's a league game, we could play it in week 10 instead of week nine. Maybe we'll look into that with the LCL."
Licking Heights leads the series 4-3 since its renewal. In addition to last year, the Hornets won in 2007 (40-7), 2008 (41-14) and 2009 (30-17). Watkins Memorial won in 2006 (35-0), 2010 (41-32) and 2011 (51-21).
"We've always played Heights tough," Watkins Memorial coach Jeff Severino said. "But they're the real deal this year. Offensively, they've got a number of backs with great vision and speed and they're stacked now with (Carruthers-Kimball) back. They've got a talented quarterback (Martell Davis) and good size across the (offensive) line. Defensively, (6-foot-1, 240-pound end Aaron Tiller) is a man among boys and we had trouble with him last year."
Carruthers-Kimball (105) and running backs Kendall Bradley (99) and Robbie Moore (132) combined to rush for 336 yards in the Hornets' 27-26 overtime win against Granville on Oct. 11, and fullback John Neary added 64 yards on the ground. The Hornets' defense held Granville -- the area's top passing team -- to just under 200 yards through the air.
Watkins Memorial trailed Licking Valley 14-7 at halftime Oct. 11 but had three second-half turnovers that helped the Panthers pull away for a 34-7 win. The loss was the Warriors' third in a row.
"We threw three interceptions and lost a fumble and Valley just went to their power running game in the second half," Severino said. "When they started pounding the ball at us, we struggled. But part of that is our offense didn't keep our defense off the field long enough."
Against Licking Valley, quarterback Ben Shroyer completed 13 of 33 passes for 180 yards and wide receiver Hunter Holton had seven receptions for 82 yards. The two connected on a 17-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter.
"They do a good job with misdirection running and play-action passing," Waters said of the Warriors. "You have to maintain lanes, read keys and execute. They have a good receiver (Holton) who has made some nice plays. Defensively, they seem to have a strong secondary and they crowd the line of scrimmage and pride themselves in stopping the run."
The Hornets were ranked 12th in the Division II state poll last week and entered their matchup against Licking Valley fifth in the Region 5 computer ratings. The top eight teams in the region qualify for the playoffs.
"We try to focus on one game at a time, but there's no doubt we know where we are and what we need to do weekly to reach our season goals," Waters said. "But this game is always special because there are two teams in Pataskala and this will always be a rivalry game, with or without league or playoff possibilities. These are kids who know and see each other on and off the field all year long."