Licking Valley High School football player Tyler Harble had dreamed of scoring a touchdown.
But the 5-foot-10 senior was pretty sure it would never happen, especially this season as he plays guard on offense as well as defensive end.
So Harble will always cherish what happened Friday, Oct. 21. He not only scored a touchdown, but the winner in overtime as the Panthers kept their faint hopes of a Division III, Region 11 playoff berth alive by beating host Bexley 23-17.
Harble recovered teammate Neil Bailey’s fumble into the end zone. Bailey took a handoff at the Bexley 8-yard line and fumbled inside the 1.
“This is my ball,” said Harble, as he squeezed the ball to his chest. “I saw it rolling in the end zone and had to run a little over five yards to get it. I never thought I’d score a touchdown, especially like this. But the celebration was painfully happy I guess. I got beat up; my helmet and everything was getting banged. It was wild.”
The ending was fitting for a strange game. The contest was delayed more than 50 minutes because the lights at Carlton Smith Field were not restored in time for kickoff after they went out during a power outage the night before.
It also was unusual because the Panthers couldn’t rely on junior running back Drew McArtor, who was injured against Columbus Academy on Oct. 14. McArtor, who had rushed for more than 1,500 yards, sustained an ankle injury but finished the Academy game. He later learned that he had a torn ACL and would miss the rest of the season. He had surgery Oct. 20.
“When you take 1,500 yards out of your offense, that’s a big hit,” Licking Valley coach Randy Baughman said. “But it’s ‘next guy up’ and I thought Neil Bailey and Mason Baker stepped up and did a good job. Then we showed a lot of guts in overtime.”
The Panthers, who improved to 6-3 overall and 5-1 in the MSL-Ohio Division, held Bexley on downs in the first possession of overtime after the Lions had tied the game at 17 on Will Gingery’s 38-yard field goal with 31 seconds remaining in regulation.
Tommy Wogan sacked Bexley quarterback Jalen Robinette on second down and a third-down pass left the Lions with a fourth-and-2 at the 12-yard line.
Robinette lost three yards on the fourth-down run.
“We made a few mistakes on offense in overtime,” Bexley coach John Smith said. “We felt with us having the best athlete in the league, we should be able to get three yards. We had a misalignment, poor execution and it cost us.”
Licking Valley powered up right at the Lions, who fell to 5-4 and 2-4.
“We weren’t going to do anything crazy there because we knew we were in field goal position to begin with,” Baughman said. “But when you see the ball bounce lose like that, your heart just stops. Fortunately, Tyler was hustling on the play and in position to recover it.”
Bailey ran for 88 yards on 19 carries and Baker added 52 on 17 carries to help fill in for McArtor. Quarterback Matt McClain threw for 151 yards.
“I saw a couple blocks and I kept on running and running and I think I was over the goal line, so thankfully Tyler was there to pick me up,” Bailey said. “I thought our line did a good job. It’s not extra pressure on us backs to replace Drew, but on the line to provide us with the same holes.”
Robinette ran for 92 yards on 12 carries, including an 83-yard touchdown in the second quarter. He also threw for 149 yards.
LICKING VALLEY 3 0 7 7 6 -- 23
BEXLEY 0 7 0 10 0 -- 17
LV--Wilson 28 FG
B--Robinette 83 run (Gingery kick)
LV--Baker 6 run (Wilson kick)
B--Cain 19 pass from Robinette (Gingery kick)
LV--Baker 6 run (Wilson kick)
B--Gingery 38 FG
LV--Harble recovered fumble in end zone