Ethan Summer
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Carson Francis

Carson is an aspiring journalist and a student at Ohio University's E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. He's a lifelong fan of all things Reds, Bengals and Buckeyes, and has seen the game through the eyes of a player, fan and reporter.

Unioto gets revenge, stays undefeated in SVC play with win over Zane Trace

Unioto is now 4-0 in the SVC.

Carson Francis, Staff Writer

Southern Ohio Sports Authority is presented by OhioHealth.

CHILLICOTHE — For 371 days, Unioto had Zane Trace on its mind.

After a heartbreaking defeat in Kinnikinnick last season — one that ended Unioto’s hopes of winning a Gold Ball — the Shermans wanted to make sure history didn’t repeat itself in 2023. 

“We’ve waited 371 days,” Unioto senior Newton Hoops said. “This is what we’ve been wanting for that long, and I’m just so proud of our guys who showed up, played the right way, fought through adversity, and did what we know how to do.”

Unioto’s Newton Hoops threw for 172 yards in Friday’s win.
CREDIT: Marissa Spradlin/SOSA

Fight is exactly what the Shermans (7-1, 4-0 SVC) did.

With the game on the line, Hoops threw a late touchdown pass that lifted his team to desperately coveted revenge, sealing a 27-14 win over Zane Trace and keeping the Shermans’ Gold Ball hopes alive and well.

“Our focus all week was being tough, focusing on ourselves, handling adversity, and not looking at the scoreboard,” Unioto coach Matt Hoops said. “We have just really started trusting each other to make plays.”

If Unioto wanted to make a statement in this game, it needed to get off to a fast start, and it did just that. 

Ashton Crace fielded the opening kickoff at the 10-yard line and blew right past each and every Pioneer for a 90-yard kickoff return touchdown to make it a 7-0 score 13 seconds in.

Despite that blow, Zane Trace (5-3, 3-1 SVC) hung tough and still had something to say about the night’s outcome.

After embarking on a long, methodical drive to the Shermans’ one-yard line, Carter Langley finished it off with a touchdown carry, tying the score at 7-7 with 3:50 left in the quarter.

After the offensive fireworks in the first quarter, things cooled down from there. Neither team scored throughout the remainder of the first half, bringing the 7-7 tie into the break. 

But, as coach Hoops said, the Shermans would have to rely on each other if they wanted to shift the momentum in their direction. 

And, lo and behold, Unioto’s defense forced a Zane Trace punt on the opening drive of the second half. The offense returned the favor when Ethan Summar found the end zone from three yards out, breaking the tie and putting Unioto up 14-7 at the 8:21 mark in the third.

PHOTOS: Images from Unioto’s win over Zane Trace

“I feel like the offensive line doesn’t get enough credit,” Summar said. “It starts with them. They tell us what they think we should do, and we do what they’re saying.”

However, just like the first time Unioto had scored, the Pioneers didn’t hesitate to answer. Another long drive was, again, capped by a touchdown carry from Langley from three yards out, forcing a 14-14 tie going into the fourth. 

The final 12 minutes of the game came down to who wanted it more.

And, after Zane Trace forced a turnover on downs with 11:11 to play, the Shermans had to look themselves in the mirror and ask how much they really did want it.

“We had to trust that your teammate is going to do his job, so you’re going to do your job,” Matt Hoops said. “I really believe that that’s what happened tonight.”

After starting a drive at their own 41-yard line, the Pioneers were only able to muster eight yards and punted to the Shermans with 8:35 left in the game.

That was plenty of time for Newton Hoops to go to work.

After leading his team into Pioneer territory, his Shermans faced a 3rd and 14 play at the 35-yard line. Hoops evaded pressure and stepped up into the pocket before finding his brother, Blake, on the sideline for a big first down.

Two plays later, Unioto was faced with a 2nd and 17. This time, with 3:10 left in the game, Hoops rolled out to his left and fired through double coverage to Caden Cutright, who made the catch in the back corner of the end zone to give the Shermans a 21-14 lead.

“Newton made a play, and Caden made a play, too,” Matt Hoops said. “It was just two guys coming together to make a great play.”

Zane Trace had one final chance to even things up, and Langley led the Pioneers to the Shermans’ 24-yard line. But on the final play of the game, Langley tried to escape pressure and fired one final pass.

That’s when Cutright called game.

The junior stepped in front of Langley’s pass for an interception and put the icing on the cake by returning it 85 yards for a score as time expired, capping off a victory.

“The job’s not finished, but this is the one we really wanted,” Summar said. “We were so hungry to get this win. All week, we talked about handling adversity, and that’s what we knew we had to come out here and do.”

Statistically, Unioto was led in passing by Hoops, who completed 20-of-31 attempts for 172 yards and a score.

Cutright led the Shermans in receiving with 49 yards and a touchdown catch. Summar led the ground game with 107 yards on 22 carries to go along with a touchdown.

For Zane Trace, Langley had 77 rushing yards and two touchdowns.

Zane Trace looks to rebound on Friday with a trip to Southeastern.

Unioto, meanwhile, will make the trip to Bainbridge for a showdown with Paint Valley. Both teams will enter that matchup undefeated in conference play. The winner earns at least a share of the SVC title.

“Obviously, we’re going to have to come down off of this to refocus,” Matt Hoops said. “We know it will be a tough task when we go on the road, but we’ll be ready.”

“We have to feed off of this momentum,” Newton Hoops added. “We know it’s going to be a great game, but we know we have to play the way we know how to play.”


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