LONDON, OH — In an exiting high school football contest Friday night, the Licking Valley Panthers hold on to defeat the London Red Raiders by a touchdown, 20-14.
The game started deadlocked 0-0 for the first quarter and a half. Neither team seemed to be able to find the end zone. The first drive for Valley ended in a turnover on downs after 7 plays. London would punt on 6 of their first 7 drives, and then fumble with 5:05 left in the 2nd quarter. That fumble set up the Panther first touchdown of the night from Sophomore quarterback Hayden Rodgers. Rodgers ran it 7 yards to the end zone getting the Panther on the score board first. The Panthers PAT would be blocked making it 6-0 with 4:24 left in the half.
However London wasn‘t ready to end the half scoreless. The Red Raiders offense still couldn’t find the end zone and they would be forced to punt on their next two possessions. It was London’s defense that would finally land them in the end zone. With :14 seconds left in the second quarter the Red Raiders defense pressured Rodgers into an interception by Isaiah Jones. Jones took it all the way to the house tying the score at 6. London would get the PAT and go into halftime ahead 7-6.
The third quarter was scoreless just like the first quarter. With only 4 possession changes and London missing a 35 yard field goal, it was still anybody's game when the 3rd quarter ended.
With 7:50 left in the 4th, the Panthers Alijah Stevens would intercept Jake Payne’s pass and give the Panthers the ball on the Red Raiders 34 yard line. 6 plays later Valley would hand the ball to Issac Barsotti who would pound it 1 yard into the end zone, putting the Panthers up 12-7. Matthew Labuda would run the 2 point conversion in making it 14-7 Panthers with 6:18 left in the game.
But the Red Raiders still weren’t done. On their next 7 play drive, and with just 4:21 left in the 4th quarter, the Red Raiders would answer the Panthers when Dylan Combs completed a 55 yard pass to Jake Payne scoring a touchdown making it 13-14 Valley. London would get the PAT tying it 14 all.
Defense would be a key factor in this game again, but this time it would be the Panthers defense that would put points on the board. With Valley going 5 and out and being forced to punt on their next possession and with only 2:48 left in the game, the Panthers defense would have to come up big. And they did.
After a Valley penalty gave London 5 yards, and only having 2:05 left on the game clock, Licking Valley’s defense forced a fumble from London's Elijah Mitchell. Isaac Barsotti would scoop it up and run it back 43 yards for the Panthers giving them a 20-14 lead. The Panthers would miss the PAT.
London would try to mount a comeback, but they just didn’t have enough gas in the tank to finish the job. The Red Raiders wouldn’t complete another pass, turning the ball over on downs and losing to the Panthers 20-14.
QB Hayden Rodgers had a great game for the Panthers. He was 5 for 19, passing for 25 yards and he carried the ball 23 times for 113 yards. Isaac Barsotti also had a great game. Barsotti completed his only pass on the night for the Panthers to Aidyn Stalnaker for 31 yards. Barsotti averaged 5.1 yards per carry, running the football 15 times for 76 yards.
London’s QB Dylan Combs went 5 for 12 for 87 yards, had 1 TD and no interceptions. Elijah Mitchell averaged 5.8 yards per carry running the football 5 times for London for 29 yards. Antwaun Burns had 7 carries for 23 yards , and Jake Payne had 2 catches for 68 yards and a TD for the Red Raiders.
Getting this victory puts Licking Valley at 1-1, after losing last week 30-35 to the Sheridan Generals. London is now 0-2 after losing to St. Mary’s Memorial last week 7-10.
Licking Valley will take on the Jackson Ironmen at Jackson High School next Friday night at 7:00pm. London will take on Marion-Franklin at home again next Friday at 7:00pm.