Lima Central Catholic showed a little resiliency and a whole lot grit down the stretch to rally past Licking Valley, 30-26 Friday night.
The T-Birds win their third consecutive game to improve to 5-3 on the year. Licking Valley falls to 4-4 on the year.
Twice in the fourth quarter, the Thunderbirds fell behind the Panthers and both times LCC responded with touchdowns.
“I am really proud of our guys with their growth and leadership and especially our seniors,” LCC head coach Scott Palte said. “We had plenty of chances to hang our heads or quit and each time we answered with a touchdowns and then on the last drive we stopped them and then ate the last five minutes. It was a great effort by our guys.”
LCC quarterback Parker continues to be the main spark plug for the the T-Bird offense as he utilized both his running and passing abilities to effectively move the ball against the Panthers. Parker finished with 26 carries for 195 yards and four touchdowns.
The senior signal caller had scoring runs of 7, 11, 12 and 12 yards. The first two touchdowns capped off two big drives to help the T-Birds to a 16-6 advantage by halftime and his third visit to the end zone pushed LCC back on top after they watched a 10-point advantage evaporate.
Parker’s fourth and final score capped off a 12 play, 80 yard drive that saw the T-Birds’ quarterback skills on full display as he rallied the offense to overcome the fourth quarter, three-point deficit with 11:01 left in the game. In what turned out to be the winning drive, the Parker, along with Gabe Cira, did the damage on the ground and Parker had two clutch passes to continue the drives.
Throughout the night Parker made some big plays with the pass as he finished with 163 yards on 10 of 20 passing with one interception.
Cira proved instrumental for the T-Birds on the final drive as he bulled his way for valuable yardage and helped salt away the clock as he finished with 130 yards on 22 carries. The bulk of those yards came on the final drive.
“Gabe Cira has done that all year when he gets his chance,” Palte said. “He finishes runs and he runs hard and he is a pretty, gritty football player. Our offensive line did a great job coming off the ball tonight.”
Licking Valley quarterback Hayden Rogers, who was limited to 77 passing yards in the first half, finished the game 10 of 18 for 231 yards and two touchdowns.
Defensively, the T-Birds were solid in the first half yielding no points, but after the Panthers made some changes, LCC had its hands full trying to contain the potent Panther attack and while they did give up 20 points in the second half the T-Bird made some big plays when they had to including two big fourth down stops in the fourth quarter including stopping the Panthers on their final drive to allow the T-Birds to secure the win.
“We knew offensively they had some weapons,” Palte said. “They had a good quarterback, a good running back and a couple of good receivers so we knew were going to have to score some points tonight. We did enough to win and that is what counts.”
Licking Valley went up 19-16 left with 4:31 left in the first quarter but the Panthers’ lead did not last long as LCC responded with a three-play, 80 yard drive that saw Parker account for all but nine of the yards as he scampered for 60 yards on the first play and then had a 12-yard jaunt on the third play to give the T-Birds the lead.
LCC went up early, 3-0, when the Thunderbirds marched their opening drive down to the Licking Valley 10 yard line but the drive stalled and Michael Tafflinger booted a 22-yard field goal at the 7:04 mark of the first quarter.
Licking Valley gained the lead with 3:08 left in the first quarter when the Panthers’ Kam Walker intercepted a pass at the T-Bird 30 and raced into the end zone for the score. After the failed extra point, Licking Valley led 6-3.
The T-Birds regained the lead in the second quarter when Parker scampered in from 11-yards out to cap off a 75-yard, six play drive. The big play in the drive was a Parker to Sal Guagenti for 50 yards to set up the score.
Parker helped extend the T-Birds lead when he once again finished off a drive with a 10 yard run that completed a 11 play 88 yard drive with a big pass from Parker to Guagenti for 43 yards being the highlight of the drive. After the missed extra point, LCC led 16-6 with 30 seconds left in the first half.
Reach Jose Nogueras at 567-242-0468.