Thanks to a solid defense and “The Garrett Bennington Show,” the New Concord John Glenn handed the New Lexington its first setback of the season by posting a 14-7 Muskingum Valley League victory.
Heath Dawson has more from the game.
NEW CONCORD – John Glenn proved that the No. 13 doesn’t always prove to be so unlucky.
The Fighting Muskies entered Friday night’s clash against New Lexington ranked No. 13th in the Ohio High School Athletic Association Division III, Region 11 computer ratings. On the other side of the field, the Panthers were seventh in the D-IV, Region 15 rankings and sported an impressive 7-0 record.
However, thanks to a solid defense and “The Garrett Bennington Show,” the Muskies handed the Panthers their first setback of the season by posting a 14-7 Muskingum Valley League victory.
John Glenn (6-2, 5-2 MVL) took a 7-0 lead on the game’s first possession. Bennington polished off an 11-play, 68-yard drive by scampering 19 yards to paydirt. He then added the point-after, giving the Muskies a 7-0 cushion lead at the 7:32 juncture of the first frame.
The Muskies then halted a New Lexington drive near midfield as Ian McBurney pounced on a loose ball at the 45. The Muskies drove the ball down to the New Lex 28 before the drive stalled.
The Panthers (7-1, 5-1 MVL) then put together an impressive 13-play, 72-yard drive that chewed up 6:30. Key plays included: a 13-yard run by Drew Brown, a 10-yard run by R.J. Starkey, a 15-yard run by Brown and a 14-yard reception by Brett Wycinski from Clint Cannon, who then finished off the drive with a one-yard dive. Kyle Spring tacked on the PAT to tie the game at 7-all with 7:37 left until the half.
Disaster struck on John Glenn’s next series as a fumble was recovered by Brown at the Panthers’ 41. However, moments after runs of 12 and 16 yards by Will Hicks, Bennington scooped up a fumble a raced 52 yards to New Lexington’s one. On the next play, Justin Gidcumb plowed into the end zone from two yards out. Bennington tacked on the extra point for a 14-7 lead at the 3:17 mark.
A fumble on New Lexington’s first play in the second half, which was pounced on by Clayton Luburgh, gave JG the pigskin at the 31. The Muskies marched to the 10, but the drive stalled after the hosts failed to pick up a first down on fourth-and-one.
John Glenn’s defense then stepped up over the next several minutes by forcing the Panthers to consecutive three-and-outs. Neither team was able to mount much until New Lexington put together a 16-play drive in the fourth quarter that moved the Panthers from their own five to John Glenn’s nine.
However, the Muskies looked to Bennington once again and he delivered by stepping in front of a Cannon pass at the one-yard line and returning it to the 18 where the Muskies ran three plays from to seal the deal.
“He was the guy this game,” Kelley said while referring to Bennington. “He just made big plays for us all night. Giving us the lead early on…that’s always nice. Then, he made the play there at the end of the game.”
Kelley didn’t necessarily downplay the win, but he did say there is still a lot of work to do in the next 14 days.
“This will jump us up in the region, but we’ve got a tough one down at Martins Ferry next week,” Kelley noted. “We’ve still got some work to do. We have to get ready for them this week.”
Bennington led John Glenn with 94 yards and a score on 16 carries. Gidcumb added 67 yards and a touchdown on 20 attempts while Ben Geyer had 46 yards on 12 totes.
New Lex was led by Hicks’ 43 yards on 15 carries. Cannon was 12-of-23 for 110 yards and one interception. Wycinski had seven receptions for 54 yards.
When asked about failing to cash in on some golden opportunities, Kelley said it was hard not to think about what could have been. However, he praised his defense and offensive line for playing big on Friday night.
“We were a little concerned and it was in the back of our mind when we didn’t score when we had our opportunities,” Kelley noted. “The kids still kept playing hard.
“New Lexington did have a nice drive in the fourth quarter and we just couldn’t get the ball back from them,” he added. “They did a nice job with the spread offense. They executed it very well. I was pleased with our defense for most of the night. Defensively, we did a good job of shutting down Hicks and forcing them to go to something else.
“I’m also pleased with our offensive line. I’m happy with the way they played. We were concerned about our blocking and figuring out New Lexington. They fill the gaps well and are hard to figure out. You have to give New Lexington credit because they also played pretty well defensively,” Kelley added.