A strong first half propelled the Licking County all-star football team to victory in its 33rd annual matchup with Muskingum Valley.
Licking County took a 23-6 lead into halftime en route to a 36-20 win June 27 at White Field in Newark, trimming Muskingum Valley's series lead to 17-16.
Utica High School running back Travis Baldwin broke several tackles on a 68-yard touchdown run midway through the first quarter to go ahead 6-0 and got a 23-yard field goal from Watkins Memorial's Jerrod Lyon to increase its lead to 9-0.
Muskingum Valley scored with 4 minutes, 52 seconds left in the first half to cut its deficit to 9-6, but Licking County responded with two touchdowns late in the second quarter to take a 17-point lead into halftime.
Newark running back Shawn Dillon scored on a 3-yard run that was set up by a 20-yard pass from Newark quarterback Grant Russell to Northridge running back Jacob Burke and a 15-yard run by Russell.
On Muskingum Valley's ensuing possession, Licking Heights defensive lineman Mike Hopewell, who has committed to Urbana University, deflected a pass by Zanesville quarterback Thomas Wibbeler that was intercepted by Watkins Memorial defensive back Zach Lescalleet. The turnover set up a 3-yard touchdown run by Russell.
In the second half, Licking Valley quarterback Grant Garber connected with Newark Catholic wide receiver Anthony Wing on a 22-yard touchdown pass to stretch Licking County's lead to 29-6.
Muskingum Valley, which also lost to Licking County last year after winning the previous three matchups, answered with two touchdowns to pull within two scores at 29-20 with 8:16 left, but it would get no closer.
Baldwin, who closed out the scoring with a 13-yard touchdown run with 3:19 left, rushed for 127 yards and two touchdowns on eight carries and was named Licking County's MVP.
Russell completed four of 10 passes for 73 yards and rushed 11 times for 57 yards, and Garber was 6-for-13 passing for 115 yards and a touchdown.
Wing (57 yards), Burke (44), Watkins Memorial wide receiver Hunter Holton (44) and Heath wide receiver Jaivon Gresham (38) each had two receptions for Licking County, which had 199 yards rushing and 188 yards passing.
Wibbeler, who was 20-for-37 passing for 289 yards and three touchdowns, was named Muskingum Valley's MVP.
Licking County was coached by former Lakewood coach Rex Sponhaltz.