UTICA – Coach Charlie Smith did not see a team less than 24 hours from concluding a fourth consecutive losing season.
The Redskins certainly did not play like one either. They had a 6-0 halftime lead this past Saturday against Newark Catholic, and were competitive throughout in a 20-6 loss to the Green Wave to conclude the Licking County League-Small School Division season.
“We told the guys that it stings right now, but give it a week and go back and watch your old games,” Smith said. “It’s a rough 18 weeks since the middle of July. From that point on, they committed to our team and to everything we’ve done. I brought some of the guys in (Saturday morning) at 9 a.m. to go through a walkthrough right during hunting season. They have done everything we’ve asked.”
Unfortunately, the game turned late in the third quarter after NC took a 7-6 lead. Utica faced a third-and-7 at its 46-yard line when NC intercepted a pass.
The Redskins then allowed a 35-yard touchdown run on a fourth-and-1. The Green Wave’s next scoring drive was set up by an errant punt snap. They converted a third-and-12 to keep the drive alive and put the game away.
It was a recurring nightmare for Utica. The Redskins played competitively against a schedule that included six playoff teams, but too often a turnover or missed assignment on defense turned the tide.
“There are some great moral victories, but we want to get this program to a point that those are not good enough for us or for our community,” Smith said. “We want to get those wins, and we want to be a playoff team to have that extra week. That is what we are shooting for.”
Utica did make the big plays in the first half against NC. Crew Young, Garett Robberts and Mitch Marston each had sacks to help stop NC drives in Utica territory. Brock Moran recovered a fumble forced by Robberts’ sack.
“Anytime you can get a team in third-and-long, it makes defense a whole lot easier,” Smith said. “That is what they were doing the second half. They were just chunking away on first down, and we really didn’t get them behind the sticks.”
Late in the second quarter, Mitch Marston scrambled away from pressure and hit Austin Parmer for a 55-yard completion. The next play, Marston scored on 2-yard run to give the Redskins their only points.
Senior Zack Edmister eclipsed the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the season, gaining 72 yards on 24 carries in his final game.
The Redskins had a small senior class, which bodes well for the future as many of the juniors have two or even three years of varsity experience. The seniors, however, were a big part in adding a toughness that has Utica, which looks like the successful Big Walnut teams Smith played on.
“Having those types of seasons, I don’t know if I would have made it four years, but those kids stuck around and led by example,” Smith said. “Tate Evans grew up greatly through the two years that we saw both mentally and physically. Will Sherer played huge for us on the defensive line. You could go on about any one of our seniors.”
Aug. 29: Centerburg 23, Utica 0
Sept. 5: Utica 14, East Knox 0
Sept. 12: Fredericktown 48, Utica 32
Sept. 19: Watkins Memorial 25, Utica 8
Sept. 26: Granville 34, Utica 13
Oct. 3: Licking Valley 28, Utica 13
Oct. 10: Heath 27, Utica 0
Oct. 17: Johnstown 35, Utica 6
Oct. 24: Utica 38, Northridge 6
Nov. 1: New. Cath. 20, Utica 6