NEWARK — T-shirts, hats and sweatshirts are faded and out of style, but the Crimson was still unmistakable last Friday.
Former Newark football players on the sidelines and in the stands watched every play as the current Wildcats pulled off a thrilling 28-21 victory against Marion Harding. The Wildcats earned the program’s first consecutive wins since 2016.
Many of the alumni were members of the 1997 Ohio Capital Conference champion team. It was coach Bill Franks’ first season as head coach after replacing the legendary Hoss Starr, and he now speaks often of the connection from his first tenure that led the Wildcats to now second.
“We always talk about Newark, and our city is unique,” Franks said. “It’s wonderful to be able to link the past with the present because we have such a great athletic tradition in Newark. It’s special to train here.”
Alumni and fans were at the edge of their stands as the Wildcats rode a roller coaster of emotions against Harding, but they were at the top of the hill when the clock struck zero. A last-minute 62-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Steele Meister to senior receiver Trey Robinson gave the Wildcats a win that wasn’t sealed until the Presidents narrowly missed completing a Hail Mary on the final play. of the game.
Newark’s schedule now takes a turn from Friday’s trip to Thomas Worthington (2-1), who rallied from an early 21-0 deficit to take a 26-21 third-quarter lead before Grove City regained control as the Cardinals trailed 42-26 in Week 3. Will Cooper threw for a mind-blowing 475 yards and four touchdowns in the loss, a performance that followed a total of 393 yards and five touchdowns in a 38-0 win. against Worthington Kilbourne.
The Wildcats, however, now have the confidence of having a winning record at any point in the season for the first time in six seasons, and that can be a huge equalizer. The Wildcats trailed Harding 7-0 and 13-7 and then found themselves tied at 21 with less than a minute left. They never broke.
“It’s a great feeling, a change from what we’ve had the last few years,” senior wide receiver Brayden Tosi said. “We trust everyone. We have no weak links.”
Tosi made two catches and both converted third downs. The second came just before Max Durbin’s 63-yard touchdown run to give Newark a 14-13 lead midway through the third quarter.
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The defense rose to the occasion as much as it did all night. Senior Jared Sherrard made a solo tackle on the first down and assisted classmate Calvin Untied on the second down of the next drive, which became 3-and-out, and Meister hit sophomore Austin Rose for a 34-yard TD shortly after.
The offense racked up 456 total yards behind blocking by seniors Sean Lee and Reese Redman, junior Shane Seville and sophomores Adrian Taylor and Drake McAdams. The last 62 came to perhaps the widest wide receiver Meister will have all season when Robinson broke free to the left seam.
“Sometimes the toughest ones are wide open, and he just got into the end zone,” Franks said. “Our offensive line gave Steele a lot of time. We were very balanced. It’s a young offensive line. Kudos to those guys.”