The Licking Heights High School football team secured its second consecutive playoff berth by taking a different route to a 21-7 win over visiting Johnstown on Nov. 1.
The Hornets improved to 9-1 overall with the non-league victory and ended up sharing the LCL-Big School championship when Granville upended Licking Valley 30-23 in the final week of the regular season.
Johnstown, which finished 5-5 overall, held a 66-40 margin in total plays and controlled the time of possession — areas in which Licking Heights has held an advantage against most opponents this season.
Instead, the Hornets relied on big plays and a short field.
“I am so proud of our seniors because they played so great tonight and they never lost a home game these past two years,” said coach Darren Waters, who will await the official call from the OHSAA to see where his team will begin the Division II, Region 5 playoffs on Friday, Nov. 8. “They all played tremendous and made big and meaningful plays.”
The Hornets took a 7-0 lead in the second quarter as senior running back Ron Carruthers-Kimball scored on a 9-yard run that was set up when senior linebacker Blake Beaver returned a Johnstown fumble 48 yards to the Johnstown 10-yard line.
The Johnnies drove to Licking Heights’ 40 on 10 plays after receiving the second-half kickoff, but the Hornets forced a punt that was shanked for 5 yards.
Facing a third-and-12 midway through the third quarter, senior quarterback Martell Davis found senior receiver Adrian Myrthil on a 51-yard scoring pass.
“We don’t throw often, but I was open and (Davis) hit me with a good pass and I could see my path to the end zone and just split (the defenders),” Myrthil said. “We all just want to contribute and win and I’m glad I got the chance. It was a great feeling. We had a couple big (offensive) plays tonight.”
The Johnnies pulled within 14-7 when Cody Farley capped an eight-play, 55-yard drive with a 2-yard scoring run. Farley finished with 119 yards on 37 carries.
But Carruthers-Kimball took the next play from scrimmage 56 yards to the Johnstown 4 and scored on the next snap as the Hornets answered in 21 seconds to make it 21-7. Carruthers-Kimball rushed for 95 yards on 14 carries for Licking Heights, which played without tailback Kendall Bradley and fullback John Neary because of injuries.
Defensive end Aaron Tiller ended Johnstown’s final drive on the 11th play, as he sacked Josh Kirkpatrick on fourth down.
“I was so pumped up,” Tiller said. “I didn’t care if I had to carry the defense or not. But I’m happy guys like (Beaver) and (linebacker) D.D. Kelso stepped up and made big plays, too. It was a great team effort.”
“I was just reading my keys and trying to be in the right positions,” said Kelso, a 5-foot-9, 180-pound senior linebacker, who had an interception and around 10 tackles. “I know I have to read keys and be in the right spot because I’m undersized. I use that as motivation though.”
LH – Carruthers-Kimball 9 run (Christian kick)
LH – Adrian Myrthil 51 pass from Davis (Christian kick)
J – Farley 2 run (Benton kick)
LH – Carruthers-Kimball 4 run (Christian kick)