WASHINGTON COURTHOUSE — The London Red Raiders football team continued its quest to reach the mountaintop as they beat former league rival Clinton-Massie 28-7 in the Division IV Regional Semi-Final, held Saturday at Miami Trace High School.
The victory allows London to move on to face Wyoming High School Nov. 17 at Centerville High School. The Red Raiders were defeated by Wyoming the opening round of last year’s playoffs, giving London an opportunity to even the score.
London broke the spirit of Clinton-Massie from the opening bell as the Red Raiders started the game with a textbook, time-chewing, physical opening possession. The 15-play, 66-yard drive – that consumed the first 7:22 of the contest — featured the grueling running of duo KJ Price and Brennon Spiess. Price eventually made it into the endzone with a speedy burst around the right side from four yards out.
“We were pleased with the execution on the opening drive,” said LHS coach Kyle Cutler. “Everyone did their job and it set the tone for the night.”
For countless years as part of the South Central Ohio League (SCOL), the Falcons had the Red Raiders’ number, often defeating London by implementing a bruising, physical ground game.
On this night, London gave Clinton-Massie a taste of its own medicine by dominating on both lines of scrimmage. The Red Raiders swarmed Falcon running backs Brendan Lamb and Robby Frederick, and when quarterback Corey Stulz decided to pass, his fate was not much better.
After holding Clinton-Massie on their first offensive series, the Red Raiders struck quickly. Price went through the line from a yard out for his second TD to cap off a four-play, 62-yard drive. It was highlighted by a 56-yard Spiess jaunt that appeared to reach pay dirt, but the officials marked it at the one.
Falcon Stulz felt the mental and physical pain inflicted by London on the next series as the signal-caller could not escape Red Raiders Nate Wells, Brandon Leach and Jayvion Stevens as they combined to throw him for a 16-yard loss on a sack. Stulz tried to get the yardage back just two plays later, but Red Raider Isaiah Jones continued is fine rookie campaign and came down with the interception.
Taking the ball from the 27 yard line, London looked to deliver the knockout punch, although the game was still only in the second quarter. Once again, the Red Raiders methodically worked their way down the field, this time taking 13 plays to accomplish their goal. Twelve of the plays came courtesy of Price/Spiess carrying the ball. The one yard TD run came from Bricker Theil; fittingly a reward for his near-flawless game he had on defense.
Theil, Price and Spiess are just three members of an outstanding senior class – one that has provided stalwart leadership, according to the coach.
“They are the heartbeat of the program, and I could not be more proud of them,” Cutler said of the collective group of twelfth graders. “Each and every one of them has committed to something bigger than themselves and we are seeing the results of their work ethic.”
The only blemish on the night came as the first half was winding down. Stulz completed three passes to drive the Falcons down the field, and Lamb took it in from close range in the final seconds prior to the intermission.
In the second half, both teams adopted the bend-but-don’t-break mentality, but by the number of plays London was running, it appeared as though they were ahead on physicality meter. According to the coach, that was definitely by design.
“I think we just played London football,” Cutler said. “We were able to sustain drives and get some stops.”
London’s Spiess accentuated the lopsided contest by turning in a nifty 25-yard run in the game’s final quarter.
Now it is on to Wyoming for the Red Raiders, as they travel to Centerville as the next battle ground. Cutler and his squad know a large contingent of fans will follow them there, the same way the support has been there the entirety of his tenure. Even the long-planned student fall drama at LHS was rescheduled from Saturday evening in support of the gridiron schoolmates.
“I think the best part about the game was not the success we had on the field but rather the unwavering support we have received from our school and community,” Cutler said. “We are truly grateful.”