John Bruce, Staff Writer
PIKETON — After being off the field for the final eight minutes of the third quarter, the Piketon Redstreaks’ offense was looking to break out when they got the ball early in the fourth quarter.
And when you have a quarterback like Levi Gullion, that’s exactly what can happen.
With their signal caller leading the way, the Redstreaks (10-0) scored 24 points in the final frame and turned an 8-8 tie into a 32-14 victory over the visiting Coshocton Redskins (5-5) in the first round of the OHSAA Playoffs.
“We really didn’t make that many adjustments,” Gullion said. “It was more mental, limiting our mistakes and just doing what we’ve been practicing all week. That was the key to the win.”
Each team took its turn at dodging bullets for the first three quarters. Piketon went first when the Redskins fumbled deep in the red zone, thus negating a scoring opportunity. The Redstreaks then put together a lengthy drive behind the legs of Gullion and Jayden Thacker, but it stalled out after a penalty knocked them out of position to score.
The Redstreaks’ defense flew around, laying out big hits and bottling up the Redskins’ attack.
Thacker, Alan Austin, Matthew Mustard and Braiden Dunham stymied the Coshocton offense, helping to force a three-and-out, setting their offense up at its own 36-yard line early in the second quarter.
That’s when Gullion connected with Camren Loar on a screen pass and the shifty senior made multiple defenders miss before rumbling 31 yards into the red zone.
Three plays later, Gullion plunged into the end zone to give the ‘Streaks a 6-0 lead. On the two-point try, Gullion rolled to his right and threw the ball to Kydan Potts, who scaled up the ladder to pull down the pass, making it 8-0.
Coshocton responded with its only scoring drive of the evening, driving 73 yards over 12 plays and nearly six minutes, before senior Isaac Shook leapt into the end zone from a yard out, cutting the deficit to 8-6.
A successful sweep on the ensuing two-point try tied the game at 8-8 late in the first half.
Piketon once again drove deep into Redskins territory, but came up inches short on a 4th and 4 at the 19-yard line. The Redskins responded by running out the clock and the teams headed into the locker room in an 8-8 deadlock.
The Redstreaks struggled to move the ball to start the second half, turning it over on downs at their own 44-yard line to set up the Redskins in excellent field position with 7:57 to play in the third.
What next ensued was a lengthy, penalty-filled drive that didn’t particularly go anywhere.
Coshocton ran 14 plays for 28 yards, eventually turning it over on downs at the Redstreaks’ 14-yard line. That doesn’t tell the whole story, as there were nine penalty flags, bringing the amount of snaps to 23 on the drive, which covered the stated 28 yards.
Both teams were dinged for penalties, including two face mask calls against the ‘Streaks that brought the Redskins much closer to the line to gain on 3rd and long. The key play of the drive came when Thacker timed his blitz perfectly and sacked Coshocton’s Kobe Rust for a seven-yard loss, pushing the Redskins back near the 30-yard line.
On the ensuing drive, it took the ‘Streaks exactly one play and only 15 seconds to break the lengthy stalemate.
From their own 14, Gullion dropped back to pass and hit Johnny Burton on a slant pass. Burton then showed why Piketon has been so explosive on offense all year long.
Burton burst past two defenders and sprinted 86 yards untouched for the go-ahead score. Gullion then powered into the end zone on the two-point try, giving the Redstreaks a 16-8 lead early in the fourth.
“I was a little nervous when I saw all that green grass. [Coshocton] has some athletes and they had some people chasing me” Burton said. “But before the play, the line looked at me and said, ‘Come on Johnny, we’re going to go to the house.’ We did just that.”
On the ensuing kickoff, Burton placed a perfect onside kick that the ‘Streaks recovered at midfield. Five plays later, Gullion found himself in the end zone for the second time, this time coming from 12 yards out. The quarterback then once again hit a hole on the two-point try and crossed the goal line, extending the lead to 24-8.
The Redskins flamed out again, giving Piketon the ball back at their own 40-yard line, where the ‘Streaks gave their opponent a steady diet of Gullion and Thacker. Thacker busted through multiple tackles for a 5-yard score with 4:37 left to play, making it 32-8 and putting a capper on a masterful fourth quarter.
A late Coshocton score rounded out the night’s final.
Saturday’s win marks the second straight season where Piketon has won a playoff game — the first occurrence in school history.
Gullion finished 13-of-19 passing for 204 yards and a score. He also ran 21 times for 107 yards and two additional touchdowns. Thacker ran 11 times for 65 yards with a touchdown while Burton reeled in seven catches for 133 yards and his explosive touchdown.
The ‘Streaks return to action on Saturday when they host Columbus Academy at 7 p.m.
10:22 – P – Levi Gullion 3 yard run (Gullion to Kydan Potts pass, 8-0)
4:57 – C – Isaac Shook 1 yard run (run successful, 8-8)
11:39 – P – Johnny Burton 86 yard pass from Gullion (Gullion run, 16-8)
10:07 – P – Gullion 12 yard run (Gullion run, 24-8)
4:57 – P – Jayden Thacker 5 yard run (Gullion to Burton pass, 32-8)
2:39 – C – Dalcin Smith 16 yard pass from Kobe Rust (pass failed, 32-14)
Total Plays – Piketon 54, Coshocton 56
Total Offense – Piketon 380, Coshocton 225
Rushing – Piketon 35-176, Coshocton 30-138
Passing – Piketon 13-19-204, Coshocton 6-16-63
Penalties – Piketon 10-115, Coshocton 10-88
Turnovers – Piketon 0, Coshocton 2