Zane Trace played against Unioto at Zane Trace on Friday. Zane Trace won 24-10.
KINNIKINNICK – When you’re able to control the line of scrimmage, good things start to happen.
On a cold and dreary Halloween night, Zane Trace (7-3, 6-1) was able to do just that and, in the process, clinch a share of the Scioto Valley Conference title with a 24-10 win against archrival Unioto on senior night.
“All the credit goes to our boys,” Zane Trace head coach Gary Peters said. “They’ve worked for this all year long and this has been one of their goals. They played their hearts out (Friday). Unioto played a heck of a game as well and you have to give them credit, too. But it’s a great feeling for our seniors to go out like this.”
Peters also is going out on top; he planned to retire after the season.
“Honestly, it hasn’t hit me yet,” Peters said. “I’ve just been focused on the next task at hand all year. But everything has been the same this year in the sense of every time I do something, it’s the ‘last’ time. I haven’t thought about any of that yet.”
In Friday’s victory, Zane Trace was able to consistently run the ball through the tackles. The Pioneers racked up 290 yards, 223 of which came on the ground.
On the flip side, the Pioneers’ defense limited Unioto to 196 total yards, constantly wreaking havoc in the backfield.
“It was a team effort (Friday night),” Peters said. “We played great on both sides of the ball. (Zane Trace tailbacks) Truman (Love) and Trey (Rittenhouse) are great players and they ran hard (Friday). But without an offensive line, they couldn’t have done that. We played well as a team and, when you do that, your chances at success go up.”
The Pioneers’ chances of success also went up when Unioto’s star quarterback, Erique Hosley, exited the game minutes before halftime with a concussion.
His absence was evident in the second half as the Shermans only were able to manage three points in the final two quarters.
Unioto (8-2, 5-2) lit up the scoreboard first on a 5-yard touchdown run on the opening drive. Hosley took it into the end zone just 3:50 into the game for his 24th score of the season.
The Pioneers answered with an eight-play, 65-yard drive that ended with a 32-yard field goal from Nathan Nesser to make it 7-3 with 3:56 left in the first quarter.
The scoring stalled until Zane Trace received the ball with 1:40 left in the second quarter and quickly put together a touchdown drive, which ended with Love finding the end zone from 7 yards out. The score gave the Pioneers a 10-7 lead at halftime.
With Hosley sidelined, backup quarterback Clay Edler stepped under center. He led the Shermans on a game-tying drive, which ended with another 32-yard field goal — this one by Nick Cozad — with 5:46 left in the third.
From there, it was all Zane Trace.
With 8:11 left in the fourth, Love ripped off a 43-yard run that put the ball in Unioto territory. The Pioneers would capitalize on the opportunity, taking a 17-10 lead via Love’s 7-yard score with 6:25 to go.
Edler and the Shermans then faced a fourth-and-6 play at the Pioneer’s 42-yard line when Trey Rittenhouse came up with the biggest play of the night.
As Edler dropped back to pass, he found an open man and delivered a strike that ricocheted off his receiver’s hands and into the arms of Rittenhouse, who returned the interception 58 yards for a touchdown with 2:50 left.
The interception iced the game and secured a share of the SVC title for the Pioneers.
“That play was huge,” Peters said. “Trey was at the right place at the right time and had the ability to take it back all the way. We played great on defense (Friday), and that was the exclamation point.”
Although he left the field early, Hosley led the Shermans in rushing with 58 yards and a touchdown on eight carries. Dillon Bingar added 36 yards on 11 carries, while Edler finished the night 4-of-8 passing for 41 yards. He also had 42 rushing yards on 13 attempts.
For Zane Trace, Love carried the ball 17 times for 149 yards and two scores, while adding two receptions for 38 yards. Rittenhouse finished with 70 yards on 16 rushes.