CENTERBURG — The Fredericktown Freddies proved that even when they aren’t playing their best, they are still good enough to pull out a victory.
The Freddie train pulled into Centerburg on Friday night, and thanks to a strong second half defensively, Fredericktown pulled out with a 34-6 victory over the Trojans. After allowing 100 yards of offense and a touchdown in the first half, the Freddies limited the Trojans to minus 5 yards of offense and four sacks in the second half.
“I was pleased with the way we came out in the second half and took control of the game,” said Fredericktown coach Luke Beal. “We were inconsistent in the first half, and we were disappointed at halftime. When you look at it overall, take away a few plays, we played pretty solid. (Centerburg’s) got some pretty good athletes and is a team that can score at any point. It was a good defensive effort, especially in the second half.”
In a sloppy game, Fredericktown got on the scoreboard first after Austin Hoeflich intercepted Drew Osborne’s pass at the 13-yard line. Hoeflich returned it 10 yards to setup a 3-yard scoring pass from Thomas Hinkle to Austin Updike. The kick failed, leaving Fredericktown up 6-0 with 4:43 to play in the first quarter. Centerburg, however, came right back and answered with a score of its own. On the seventh play of the drive, Osborne broke free down the left side of the field for a 48-yard score. The kick failed, leaving the game tied at 6 at the end of the first quarter.
When the quarter ended, though, Fredericktown was in the midst of an 11-play drive, which ended with a pass from Hinkle to C.J. Ruhl in the right corner of the end zone. The 5-yard grab made it 12-6.
Fredericktown then began to pile it on as Steven Wagner recovered a Centerburg fumble on the proceeding kickoff. That gave the Freddies a short field as they started at the Centerburg 26-yard line. Three incomplete passes left a fourth-and-10 play, which Hinkle converted. He found Tyler Hathaway on the right sideline for a 14-yard gain to keep the drive going. Three plays later, Hinkle hooked up with Ruhl again, this time from 12 yards out. The conversion pass to Hathaway was good making it a 20-6 ballgame, which is where it stood entering the half.
“There were two things we said we couldn’t do against this football team — make mistakes in our kicking game and give them a short field,” said Centerburg coach Ken Kish. “We made a big mistake in the kicking game and, over and over, we seemed to give them a short field. That’s what hurt us.”
In all, there were three fumbles and two interceptions in the first half, and both teams battled through crummy weather conditions. Just prior to halftime, a downpour drenched the teams and made an already muddy field worse to start the second half.
“We knew going in that the conditions weren’t going to be good, but they weren’t good for both teams,” said Beal. “That’s not an excuse to play as sloppy as we did in the first half. We just didn’t seem to have the type of energy we typically have. It was good at least, with the field conditions, to be able to take in a lead at halftime. That took a little bit of the pressure off.”
The rains ended, however, and the Freddies came out of the locker rooms with a fire not seen in the first half. The defense went right after Osborne and the Trojan offense, which resulted in more good field position. A bumbled snap on a Centerburg punt resulted with Fredericktown getting the ball at the 9-yard line for its first drive. Two plays later, Hoeflich crossed the threshold into the end zone. Ruhl converted on a two-point run to make it a 28-6 game less than two minutes into the third quarter.
“Field position was really key too,” said Beal. “We wanted to make sure we capitalized on it. In a game like this where the field is a mess, you have to take advantage of those type of breaks.”
Centerburg put together an 11-play drive of its own, but strong defensive pressure from the Freddies stalled it at midfield. Fredericktown got the ball back at its own 43, and using its running game, marched 57 yards on seven carries. Tony Lybarger capped the drive with a 15-yard touchdown run with 49 seconds left to make it a 34-6 game. The kick failed, leaving the Freddies comfortably ahead to start the fourth quarter.
The Trojans continued to try and put something together offensively, but the Freddies seemed to have an answer at every turn. The final quarter featured seven different possessions as neither team could hold onto the football for long. For the Freddies, it was an opportunity to get some much-needed playing time for the younger players.
“Defensively, our game plan was good and we executed it pretty well,” said Kish. “They got some big plays, but their a big-play offense. Overall, it was just a few mistakes that hurt us. We’re playing a lot of sophomores and juniors, and I guess you are going to make mistakes. ... I hope this is a learning experience for our kids. In the future, when we get five turnovers, we expect to win.”
With the win, Fredericktown has put itself in the position it wanted to be when the season started — playing for an undefeated season and a Mid-Buckeye Conference championship. The Freddies could achieve both with a win over Loudonville next Friday night. It won’t be easy, however.
“We’ve just got to be sound in our approach mentally,” said Beal. “This last game, we have to do the same things we’ve done all season. The next game is the most important game. We’ve got to focus on controlling the things we can control and not worry about everything else. Loudonville is going to be a big challenge. It is the next step as we try to finish what we started.”
Centerburg will close out the season with one last home game against Utica on Friday night.