By Garth Shanklin
A win is a win.
Sometimes, teams execute perfectly and the film is a thing of beauty. Other times, not so much. Goshen’s 41-0 victory over Blanchester in the King of the Road game on Friday, Sept. 22 falls into the latter category, according to head coach Ryan George.
“It feels good, but it was ugly,” George said. “It wasn’t very clean. Offensively, we weren’t very clean.”
If Goshen’s play was not clean, Blanchesters was no better. Twice in the first quarter Blanchester advanced the ball deep into Goshen territory, only to come away with no points after a fumble and an interception on a ball that went right through the hands of a Wildcat receiver.
Goshen took advantage of those mistakes, quickly.
After the fumble, Adam Slusher picked up huge yards on the ground for the Warriors, setting up a 32-yard touchdown run by Jimmy Strunk. Strunk barrelled over three Wildcat defenders on his way to the endzone, something that would become a theme for the Warriors as the game continued.
After Blanchester’s next drive resulted in an interception, it appeared they had the Warriors in a bit of trouble, facing a third down. The Wildcats jumped offside, and Goshen marched down the field only to have a pass go off the hands of a Goshen receiver for an interception.
It didn’t matter, as the Warriors defense held again, forcing a punt. The kick was blocked, and Goshen took over with excellent field position at the six yard-line. The Warriors added a field goal for a 10-0 lead at the 4:28 mark of the second quarter.
Blanchester immediately fumbled the ball on their next possession, setting Goshen up deep in Wildcat territory. They converted on a 14-yard run by Peyton Leugers, good for a 17-0 lead with 4:07 left in the half.
The teams traded the ball from there, with Goshen failing on fourth down and Blanchester throwing another interception. Goshen got the ball back late in the quarter and moved quickly down the field, setting up another Gerardo Espinosa-Ley field goal and a 20-0 lead at halftime.
The Warriors were kept quiet offensively until late in the third quarter. After the Goshen defense forced a turnover on downs, the Warriors went 36 yards downfield to score on a three-yard run by Kyle Proffitt, good for a 27-0 lead.
Blanchester tried to fake a punt on their next possession, only to have the pass attempt batted down. Goshen took over at the 21 yard-line and scored on a 10-yard pass from Proffitt to Deonte Bailey.
On the next Blanchester drive, Peyton Leugers stepped in front of a quick out route, returning it for Goshen’s final touchdown, giving the Warriors five straight games with an interception returned for a defensive touchdown.
“We’ve had a pick-six every game,” George said. “We’ve got about 10 of those now, and that’s pretty amazing. In a season, you don’t usually get that. We’re five games in and we’ve got that and a safety.”
The interception by Leugers was his third, all three of which he has returned for a touchdown. Sebastian Abshire and Hunter Slusher have one interception and one touchdown each, while Deonte Bailey has four interceptions on the season and two touchdowns. Two Warriors, Leugers and Jake Tatman, have returned fumbles for touchdowns. Goshen has forced 19 turnovers so far this season, with five coming against Blanchester. George said the Wildcats are lacking experience, which led to their mistakes. He noted the experienced Warriors also made several mistakes throughout the game.
“They’re young,” George said. “We made a lot of mistakes too and we’re more of a veteran team. We have to keep grinding away at it and get better, because we’re going to have to be a better team next week if we’re going to be on the field with Western Brown.”
George credited the defense for the high-level of play in the game. Goshen has allowed a total of 48 points through five games, with two of those points coming on a safety in the team’s first game against Holy Cross.
“Defensively, we’re playing really well,” George said. “We just have to clean up some things offensively. We tackled better tonight, so that’s always better than the last week.”
Offensively, Proffitt finished the game with nine completions in 14 attempts for 94 yards and a touchdown. He also threw an interception.
Strunk led the team in carries but not yards, finishing with 17 touches for 105 yards and a touchdown. Slusher’s 115 yards on eight carries led the Warriors. Proffitt finished with 17 yards on five attempts.
Strunk’s three receptions for 56 yards were good for tops on the Warriors’ team. Logan Mantz had a pair of catches for 16 yards, with Bailey adding two receptions for 15 yards, including his touchdown. Josh Ulrey had the two remaining receptions and collected seven yards.
George said the Warriors have weapons all over the field, the problem is mistakes on the offensive line erased some big plays and set the team back further than he would have preferred.
“We’ve got some guys who can do some stuff,” George said. “We just have to be more consistent with it, cut down on the holding penalties and move our feet so we don’t hold.”
The Warriors find themselves in a tie for fourth place in the newest Ohio High School Athletic Association computer polls, released on Sept. 26. The team is tied with Bellbrook, with the top eight squads advancing to the postsesaon.
The Warriors have a chance to add to their computer point total this week against a Division II squad as the team travels to Mt. Orab to take on the Western Brown Broncos in both team’s Southern Buckeye Athletic and Academic Conference American Division opener. The game is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.