HANOVER – As Licking Valley prepared to take the Randy Baughman Stadium turf for its first scrimmage Tuesday morning, the players chanted “Wallace! Wallace!” in the huddle.
Wallace, as in “Braveheart” hero William Wallace.
“We’ve been watching ‘Braveheart,’ and we’ve kind of been using that as our theme,” explained senior wideout/defensive back/kicker Elijah Brechbill. “Never quit, no matter what the odds, and keep fighting.”
The Panthers came out swinging against visiting Sheridan Tuesday, after what they perceived as a lackluster effort in last year’s scrimmage against the Generals. Mission accomplished.
“Last year, they smacked us pretty good, used their strength and aggressiveness,” senior lineman Jaqui VanMeter said. “This year, I thought we came out and smacked them and kept it coming. They got us pretty good on that first play, and after that it was mostly us.”
“We were more aggressive than last year,” Brechbill said. “We executed, and kept hitting.”
Both starting offenses got two 10-play series, with neither able to find the end zone. Sheridan did drive it down to Valley’s 6-yard line behind 6-foot-4, southpaw quarterback Dylan Dupler before running out of downs on its first series. Alec Baughman and Corey Ellis came up with interceptions for the Panthers.
Valley is searching for a new starting quarterback after the graduation of Tyler Nethers, and junior Zack Hatfield and sophomore Jake Lewis split time behind center. Both gave good accounts of themselves although they couldn’t find the end zone.
“We’re getting more chemistry with them,” Brechbill said. “They both throw a good ball.”
Senior tailback Bailey Hayden had a 13-yard pass reception on one drive, and Brechbill a 12-yarder on another. Speedy sophomore Gunnar Carpenter reversed field and broke loose for a 20-yard run.
“I feel like we would have scored, if we were playing an actual game,” VanMeter said.
Valley’s Randy Baughman and Sheridan’s Paul Culver Jr., with more than 500 career coaching wins between them, were glad to get their teams on the field in a competitive situation.
“With just 20 plays on offense and 20 plays on defense, it limits your ability to make good decisions,” said Culver, whose team opens the season at Granville. “We were fairly aggressive, but we have a long way to go. We have a whole new offensive line, and that takes time, and we’re rebuilding on both sides of the ball.”
Baughman and his staff stressed coming out aggressively, and he felt the Panthers answered the bell.
“First of all, we knew we were playing good competition,” he said. “Being aggressive was the biggest thing, because you know they (Sheridan) were going to be.
“I thought a lot of kids kind of stepped up, which should provide a lot of competition in practice. We’re a long way from a starting lineup, and I’m sure the film will show some good things.”
Valley scrimmages at Maysville Saturday, in a rematch of last year’s first-round playoff loss to the Muskingum County Panthers.
For a video from Dave Weidig, go to NewarkAdvocate.com.