UTICA — Coach Brian Gastin knew Utica would be tested by Fredericktown’s power football, and it was.
Still, despite the 21-12 loss to the Freddies, the Redskins’ defense remains a work in progress and continues to get better. The unit allowed only one second-half touchdown and even scored one in the first half.
“We tend to match up better with teams that spread us out, and we knew it will be a real test with their power,” Gastin said. “We’ve been working at trying to prevent the big plays. We want to make teams have long drives. If you’re running 12-15 plays, you tend to make more mistakes.”
Unfortunately, the Freddies had two such drives without mistakes. But on another one, Utica made them pay. Junior defensive tackle Matt Moore scooped up a fumble and rumbled 58 yards for a touchdown that pushed the Redskins ahead 12-7 in the second quarter.
“I looked up and saw Mitch (Marston) and he gave me that get away block,” the 270-pound Moore said. “From there, I tucked it down tight and hoped for the best.”
The players continue to buy into the system, as they enter Licking County League play with a 1-2 record. They host Lakewood (1-2) and its explosive spread offense on Friday in a crossover game.
Utica is strong in the middle of the 4-2-5 scheme, with senior nose guard Brock Moran and senior inside linebacker Brad Keener.
“I’m able to read the play faster,” Keener said. “I think we’re more of a physical team than we ever have been.”
Moran prides himself on getting into the backfield and making plays.
“We all just have to do our 1/11th,” he said. “If everyone does their job, it will all come together for us.”
“It’s assignment football,” said junior outside linebacker Tony Hoover. “The scheme is a little more aggressive. We just have to keep our assignments and keep our heads.”
That’s especially important when facing a team like Lakewood. The Lancers trailed 20-6 with 7:47 left in the game at Berne Union, but exploded for four quick touchdowns and the 34-26 win.
After Lakewood, Utica faces two more Buckeye Division (big school) teams in Watkins Memorial and Granville, before finishing up against the four teams in the Cardinal division.
Aug. 28: @Centerburg 35, Utica 20
Sept. 4: Utica 32, @East Knox 27
Sept. 11: Fredericktown 21, Utica 12
Sept. 18: Lakewood, 7 p.m.
Sept. 25: @Watkins Memorial, 7 p.m.
Oct. 2: Granville, 7 p.m.
Oct. 9: @Heath, 7 p.m.
Oct. 16: Newark Catholic, 7 p.m.
Oct. 23: Johnstown, 7 p.m.
Oct. 30: @Northridge, 7 p.m.