UTICA — For a while, the game measured up to its billing: two top teams slugging it out for the top spot in the Mid-Buckeye Conference.
Then Fredericktown woke up.
The Freddies (8-0, 5-0) took advantage of two second-half turnovers by Utica, then ran away with a 48-20 win on the road.
“We did everything we could to try to slow them down, and we weren’t able to,” Utica head coach Randy Felumlee said.
Coming off a huge come-from-behind win against Johnstown last Friday, Utica (4-4, 3-2) had momentum. Felumlee had spent all week scouting Fredericktown’s swarming defense. He figured the Redskins could move the ball with short, quick passes. He was right –– when they had the ball.
Fredericktown made sure that wasn’t happening. After stopping Utica on the first set of downs, the Freddies began their march. Virtually every play was a handoff up the middle to Matt Smith or Austin Hoeflich. By the end of the night, they totalled 202 yards on the ground between them. About 80 came on this drive.
By the time Hoeflich pounded through the line for the game’s first score, the Freddies had run off more than 10 minutes from the clock.
“We knew they had athletes (on offense),” Fredericktown head coach Brian Baum said. “We wanted to run the ball, take as much time off the clock as possible.”
The Redskins took over. Using a variation of the spread offense, Utica marched to the goal line themselves. Jason Hoar led the air attack that culminated with an 8-yard touchdown pass to Ryan Combs.
When Fredericktown got the ball back, the march went on. And on. And on. Grinding it out on the ground, the Freddies ran an offense that would have made Woody Hayes proud. Matt Smith’s 6-yard run to the endzone capped another successful drive.
“The offensive line blocked well. They opened up some nice holes for the runners,” Baum said.
Fredericktown missed the 2-point conversion. Cody McGuire had taken over kicking duties, and Baum wasn’t confident in the junior’s ability.
“He talked to me at halftime. He said ‘Coach, I got it!’ so I let him kick PATs in the second half. He did a nice job, really,” Baum said.
Falling behind quickly and unable to stop the Fredericktown offense, Utica took to the air. With under a minute left, they attempted a hook-and-lateral play. Hoar’s pass was complete to Artie Douglas, who immediately pitched it back to Scott Cline. The play netted 33 yards.
Before the Freddies could recover, Hoar fired a 37-yard bomb to Austin Brown, to tore away from a defender and dove into the endzone.
“They have a lot of nice athletes. It’s fun to watch them. We were fortunate to be able to hold them down,” Baum said.
If the 20-12 halftime score gave fans a reason to think this game was headed for a big finish, those thoughts were quickly dispelled in the third quarter.
After giving up a touchdown on the opening drive, Utica tried to answer. But Hoar’s pass was picked off by Austin Hoeflich at the Fredericktown 26.
The Freddies marched again. This time, following five more plays and a cloud of dust, they pulled an end around to Tony Lybarger. The surprise move netted 21 yards. Then Tyler Hathaway aired it out to Nathan Cubbage, who was waiting in the endzone all alone.
“Lybarger’s an athlete,” Baum said. “He’s a guy teams focus on, so we can’t ignore him. He’s capable of beating them in the passing game, the running game and as a returner. He’s a triple threat.”
Utica’s next drive ended in a turnover as well. Combs was tackled by Hoeflich near midfield, but Hoeflich came up with the ball.
Everyone in the stadium knew what was next. Another end around to Lybarger. More runs up the middle. A touchdown pass from Ryan Logan to Hathaway.
Suddenly, what was once a solid performance by the Redskins had turned into a nightmare. Fredericktown now led, 41-12, and showed no signs of being tired.
“There’s no way we can afford turnovers in a game like this, and keep it close,” Felumlee said.
Felumlee was right. Utica had only two turnovers. They committed no penalties. They punted just three times. But they still came away with a loss, 48-20.
For Fredericktown, the win keeps their quest for an unbeaten season going. Two more wins means an outright MBC title, and a trip to the postseason. For Utica, the loss is a reminder that the playoffs are at least a year away.