The Watkins Memorial High School football team is trying to get over the sting of losing to Licking Heights 13-12 in the opener Aug. 24.

The Watkins Memorial High School football team is trying to get over the sting of losing to Licking Heights 13-12 in the opener Aug. 24.

After playing Aug. 31 against an Athens team that finished 10-1 last season, the Warriors will play host to Mifflin on Friday, Sept. 7, in their final non-league contest before beginning their final round of OCC-Capital Division play Sept. 14 as host to Delaware.

The Warriors lost to Licking Heights when junior running back-defensive back Ron Carruthers-Kimball scored on a 1-yard run on a fourth-and-goal play with 14 seconds remaining.

Carruthers-Kimball played for Watkins Memorial last season before moving in December. The Warriors won last year's opener 51-21.

"It's very disappointing to lose any game like that to anyone, let alone to your backyard rival," coach Jeff Severino said. "They had field position the whole second half and we couldn't flip it. We stopped them three times on fourth downs, but we just couldn't stop that last one. They wore us down on the line of scrimmage."

Last season, the Warriors started 2-0 before losing to Mifflin 18-7. That began a stretch of six losses in eight games.

The Punchers, who finished 8-2 last season, opened by losing to Independence 32-19 on Aug. 24 and played Westland on Aug. 31.

Against Independence, the Punchers fell behind 32-0 at halftime.

Derrick Pope, a senior running back who rushed for 1,369 yards last season and was first-team all-district in Division II, scored all three touchdowns for Mifflin. The Punchers also rely on quarterback Javonte Bing and receiver Kamaron Green.

The Punchers don't have much size on the line, where Carlos Luna (5-foot-11, 240 pounds) and Michael Gause (6-2, 220) lead the way. With about 35 players on its roster, Mifflin has many players who see time on both sides of the ball.

"We're going from facing a ball-control offense in Licking Heights to a spread offense in Athens then we're not sure what Mifflin will give us," Severino said. "They usually have great size and run power, but the scouts said they were trying to spread it out in their final scrimmage."

Watkins Memorial led Licking Heights 12-0 in the fourth quarter when Jake Foley delivered a 54-yard punt return for the Hornets. He was stripped of the ball by Brenden Kemp at the goal line, but Carruthers-Kimball recovered in the end zone and C.R. Hall's extra point made it 12-7.

The Hornets started the winning drive on the Warriors' 32-yard line. Carruthers-Kimball had 84 yards on 15 carries.

Kemp rushed for 132 yards on 17 carries, but was limited to 31 yards after the first two possessions.

"We have to get Brenden the ball more, but we only had 40 plays and we're used to getting around 60 plays a game," Severino said. "Our linemen are inexperienced, but they at least have to produce a stalemate and not get knocked off the ball. They rocked us and put us on our heels. That's why we only got 40 plays. They held the ball and we didn't."

In addition to Kemp, Severino said he was pleased with the play of linebacker Jake Sanders (12 tackles) as well as cornerbacks Michael Ford and Connor Severino. Collin Cruikshank added eight tackles.

Boys soccer team struggling on offense

The boys soccer team has struggled on offense for first-year coach Scott Spangler.

The Warriors have scored just one goal through three games, and that was in a 2-1 loss to Hartley in the opener Aug. 21. They fell to 0-2-1 overall by losing the OCC-Capital opener to visiting Delaware 4-0 on Aug. 28.

Watkins Memorial, which played a scoreless tie with Granville on Aug. 23, returns to action Tuesday, Sept. 4, at league-foe Mount Vernon.

"Our biggest problem right now is we can't find the back of the net," Spangler said. "Scoring goals makes everything easier. It builds confidence and we were just flat.

"I am confident we'll bounce back (this) week and be stronger. It'll be good to get away from home after this disappointing loss on our home field. Now we've got to go take it to someone else on their home turf."

Against Delaware, the Warriors had the better of play in the first 10 minutes. After that, the Pacers used their speed and aggressive midfield marking to their advantage.

Nate Spahr scored on a penalty kick at 22:49 in the first half and converted an assist from Phoenix Neitzelt early in the second half for a 2-0 lead.

The Warriors stayed within striking distance until junior forward Patrick Murphy was injured when he was hit in the head with the ball with 15:40 left.

"They kept bringing the heat in the second half and we kind of sat there and let them come at us," Spangler said. "Our midfield wasn't taking control. It was almost like we were asleep out there. They dominated the middle third.

"They're big and physical and they took it to us in every facet after the first 10 minutes. Still, we were in it until around the last 12 minutes. Then we got tired and they poured it on."

Delaware added two goals in the final 3:03. Neitzelt scored the first and Jordan Carlson's direct kick from the top of the box was good in the final second.

Girls tennis team winning close matches

Katie Miller (7-6, 6-4) and Danielle Pond (6-1, 7-5) won at first and second singles, respectively, and Molly Schell and Shelby Giffin won at first doubles (6-4, 6-2) as the girls tennis team improved to 5-2 overall and 1-1 in the OCC-Capital by beating Mount Vernon 3-2 on Aug. 28.

"We've won five matches and four of them have been by 3-2 scores," coach Tom Dyer said. "We only won five matches all of last season, so I'm extremely proud of these girls. They keep fighting and we're winning the close ones this year."

The Warriors, who finished 5-10 overall and 2-5 in the league last season, play host to Big Walnut in an OCC-Capital match Tuesday, Sept. 4.