NEWARK, OH (WCMH) — Legendary Licking Valley head coach Randy Baughman has been with the Panthers for 44 years, but has yet to win a state championship. That could change Saturday in Canton as his Panthers are one win away from achieving the ultimate goal.
“I think some people thought this was going to be a down year for us,” Baughman said. “Our guys have taken that as a challenge, especially the seniors and kind of played with a chip on their shoulder.”
Licking Valley will take on Clyde for the Division VI state title, a game the Panthers have played in twice before. A win would not only give the school a state title but would also complete a perfect 15-0 season. In order to do so, the Panthers will have to get past a Clyde team that averages 33.5 points a game. But the blueprint on how to do it is there with the Fliers losing four games this season including three of their last four regular season games.
In all of those defeats, the Fliers gave up at least 34 points, which bodes well for a Licking Valley team that averages 35.4 points a game.
“This community is based around football and it’s going to mean a whole lot,” senior quarterback Logan Bragg said.
It seemed like a trip to Canton wasn’t in the cards for the Panthers who trailed Poland Seminary 24-10 entering the fourth quarter. But Bragg led his to the comeback victory by connecting with Bodee Creech for two touchdowns including a score with 3:40 left in the game. Instead of opting to tie the game, Baughman decided to go for two and it paid off as Bragg found Mitchell Ford to give the Panthers a 25-24 lead, which would end up being the final score.
“To grow up from being a little kid watching every night here, watching teams try and try but never get there … I would be extremely grateful for that,” senior wide receiver Carson Conley said.
And it’s meant a great deal to Coach Baughman who has meant a great deal to this small town.
“It’s been very rewarding,” Baughman said. “There’s only two teams in the state of Ohio playing right now so really count your blessings as to how lucky we are to be there, have a good time but we’re going there to win.”