to victory. Bailey had 212 yards and four touchdowns on 31 carries as
Licking Valley rallied from an early deficit and took a 42-21 win over Mid-State League Ohio Division rival Granville in a Division III, Region 11 quarterfinal.
Klein, Valley’s standout junior running back and linebacker who has already committed to Ohio State, missed Friday night’s Division III, Region 11 quarterfinal match-up against Mid-State League Ohio Division rival Granville.
With Klein on the shelf, the Panthers let senior Josh Bailey carry them to victory. Bailey had 212 yards and four touchdowns on 31 carries as Licking Valley rallied from an early deficit and took a 42-21 win over Granville.
Licking Valley (10-1) advances to meet Beloit West Branch (9-2) next Friday in a regional semifinal match-up at a site to be determined.
For most of the first half, it looked like Granville (7-4) would give Licking Valley quite a tussle. The Blue Aces scored the game’s first touchdown and still led 14-6 late in the first half. But Licking Valley scored two touchdowns in the final 6:33 of the first half to grab an 18-14 lead.
Valley then got some breathing room when Bailey rolled 74 yards for a touchdown on the first play from scrimmage in the second half to put the Panthers up 25-14.
“I thought we showed some composure,” said veteran Valley coach Randy Baughman, whose team plays on a field bearing his name. “I thought it was like we took a couple knockout punches and we were glassy-eyed. Then I thought the offense went out and got our feet on the ground with some nice drives. But Granville definitely hit us with some big plays.”
Klein, a three-year starter for Valley, was in uniform and warmed up but did not see action. He was Valley’s leading rusher in the regular season with 951 yards on 117 carries (8.1 average) and 21 touchdowns.
But Licking Valley had the 6-1, 180-pound Bailey on their side.
“I just told the line before the game to open some holes for me and I would get through them,” Bailey said. “I knew I had to pick up some slack for Storm, but he’ll be back in there.”
Baughman was glad to see his team advance without its leader.
“I think everybody else realized they had to step their game up,” Baughman said. “Offensively, I think we did. On the other side, Eric Mitchell, a sophomore, got in there and played some middle linebacker. I think he did a nice job of filling in for Storm, too. I give credit to all our kids for stepping up.
“Hopefully he’ll be back next week. But we don’t play next week unless we were able to move on this week. I was real proud of them.”
Speaking after the game, Klein believed he should be able to return for next week’s second-round match-up.
“I should be back next week,” Klein said. “That’s what I am hoping for. The coaches were just trying to rest me.”
This marked the seventh straight year that Licking Valley has hosted a first-round playoff game. The Panthers advanced to the state final four in 2001.
Licking Valley’s only loss of the year was a 45-40 defeat at the hands of Division I North Canton Hoover in week two. Baughman was concerned his team might let up after defeating Granville 28-0 in week seven of the regular season.
“Playing a team the second time around, you do worry about that,” Baughman said. “The thing that helped is it is such a rivalry game. It wouldn’t matter if we were out here in the street playing marbles. There’s just that rivalry there that the kids enjoy playing in and they get excited about it.”
Because of the earlier loss to Licking Valley, Granville coach Mike Hensley knew he and his staff had to shake things up a bit.
“We knew we were outmanned a little bit,” Hensley said. “But we had a plan. Our coaches had a great plan. We had a fake punt planned. We tried to block a punt all night. We had them believing. We had a plan and we thought we had prepared hard enough to get it done.”
Granville came out strong and scored the game’s first touchdown on quarterback Cory Becher’s 38-yard touchdown pass to senior standout Zac Lemmon.
Licking Valley answered with Bailey scoring on a 1-yard TD run. The Panthers missed the PAT, but had cut the lead to 7-6. Valley then drove down to the Granville 1-yard line, but lost a fumble.
Coming off its own goal line, Granville completed an amazing gimmick play for a touchdown. Becher threw the ball to Sam Mintos in the right flat. Mintos then flipped a lateral to Lemmon, who rolled all the way down the right sideline to complete the 99-yard touchdown that gave the Blue Aces a 14-6 advantage early in the second quarter.
But Valley answered with a big scoring drive, keyed by quarterback Nick Phillips’ 36-yard run. Drew Ryan capped the march with a 5-yard touchdown run on a reverse. The two-point conversion pass failed, but Valley had trimmed the gap to 14-12 with 6:33 left in the first half.
Valley dug in and got a defensive stop to get the ball back late in the half.
“It was a big game,” said Valley defensive end Vince German. “The playoff hype is always there. I give Granville a lot of credit. They were much more physical than the first time we played them. They played their hearts out.
“We just kept stressing that we had to stick together and we would come through. It’s a great feeling to come back like this. I think this will give us even more motivation going into next week’s game.”
Phillips again led the Panthers on a long scoring march, which included a 36-yard run by the quarterback. With time dwindling in the half, Phillips gave Licking Valley its first lead on a 1-yard plunge on a keeper with 42.5 seconds left. Again, the two-point PAT pass failed, but Valley had the lead at 18-14.
Licking Valley then got the ball to start the second half. The Panthers returned the kickoff to their own 26. On first down there, Bailey took a handoff and burst through a big hole. He was gone on the 74-yard touchdown that put Valley up 25-14 with 11:42 left in the third quarter.
“That felt really good,” Bailey said. “The line opened up some big holes and I was able to get through them.”
Baughman gave Bailey credit for that play and for gutting out this game without Klein.
“That swung the momentum a little bit more in our favor,” Baughman said. “I can’t say enough about Josh Bailey. He was basically playing on one leg out there. He’s got no ACL there in that knee.
“To do what he did tonight, that took a lot of courage.”
Hensley also commented on Bailey’s long run.
“That long run to start the second half just killed us,” he said. “We knew we had to stop them and put something on the board.”
Granville then took a safety in punt formation in its own end zone, giving the Panthers a 27-14 lead with 11:18 left in the game. But Valley was in business when Chase Houston returned the ensuing kickoff 30 yards. That set the stage for Bailey’s 16-yard touchdown on a great cutback, giving Valley a 35-14 lead with 10:03 left.
Becher, who ended up 16 of 30 passing for 204 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions, then tossed a 15-yard TD pass to Adam Green. That cut the lead to 35-21 with 6:30 left.
Valley’s Taylor Rakestraw then intercepted a Becher pass with 3:45 left. That set the stage for Bailey to offer the capper, which he did with a 5-yard TD run for a 42-21 lead with 1:26 left.
Hensley praised his team on a fine year.
“We played four freshmen and five sophomores tonight,” Hensley said. “We only had seven seniors on the field. We thought next year would be a good year because we have such a young team. We did some great things this year. Just two years ago, we were 1-9. We feel pretty good about that. The program is in good shape.
“This is a model program,” Hensley said, referring to Valley. “If you want to model a program, you want to come down to Licking Valley and take a look at it. They get it done year in and year out. We’re trying to close that gap a little bit.
“This Valley team is going to go a long way. They’ve got it all. They didn’t even have Storm Klein tonight and he makes a lot of things happen, too.”
But Valley’s Bailey, speaking like a guy ready to get back to work despite having a career night, had the last word.
“We have a lot of improving to do,” he said.