The Federal Hocking Lancers were able to spend a holiday weekend basking in the joy of victory.
The Lancers are 1-0 on the season after traveling to Hundred, W.Va., and earning a hard-fought 28-20 victory last Friday.
The game was tied at 20-20 when Donnie McCain scored the go-ahead fourth-quarter touchdown. The Lancers’ defense then put forth a goal-line stand to turn away the Hornets, and take the program’s first win since week nine of the 2014 season.
The Lancers’ win was not only celebrated in Stewart but by surrounding communities, whose fans sent their congratulations to the team through social media.
“It’s been completely positive. I think it’s something that a lot of people in the district and the community have wanted for a while, including our team,” first-year Federal Hocking coach Jeff Ditty said. “I think that definitely going into the game Friday, it wasn’t necessarily expected. It was definitely desired. To come in and play a hard-fought game like that and to come out on top, I think it was a real fitting way to bring a victory back to the program.”
The win ended a 40-game losing streak for the program, and a 21-game road losing streak.
It was also the first chance for every player on the roster to play in a back-and-forth varsity game. The Lancers’ closest game of the last five years was a 31-15 defeat to Wahama during the 2015 season.
The current group of Lancers showed an ability to fight for four quarters and find a way to win.
“The biggest thing they showed was heart,” Ditty said. “They showed that they can deal and manage adversity because it was an up and down game. It wasn’t going our way for all four quarters and so I think from a character perspective that was the biggest thing we saw. We saw they were able to walk into a battle, deal with adversity and really have the heart to battle for all four quarters.”
McCain is one of the Lancers’ seniors who has been through the battles of the past few seasons. He did a little bit of everything in the season-opening victory. He had two rushing touchdowns and 100 yards on the ground as well as a 22-yard touchdown pass to Noah Robinson. He also led the defense from his linebacker position.
The Lancers will now face another task for the first time — turning the page after a big win.
Federal Hocking welcomes Southern to Stewart on Friday for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff in the Tri-Valley Conference Hocking Division opener.
Ditty said it was back to business for the coaching staff and the team on Monday.
“We really didn’t do anything different,” he said. “The only thing that we did was talk with the team and acknowledge the accomplishment, but remind them that it’s one of 10 stops on the train journey. We’ve got a tough competitor coming up this Friday with Southern. We gave them the weekend to really enjoy the win, but now it’s back to business as usual and getting prepared for Southern on Friday.”
Southern is also 1-0 after traveling to Portsmouth and winning 34-6 over Notre Dame.
The Tornadoes had a balanced attack in the win. Quarterback Gage Shuler completed 8 of 16 passes for 142 yards and a touchdown.
Trey McNickle had a huge night with four touchdowns. He had 151 yards on 22 carries and three touchdowns, also catching a 42-yard touchdown pass.
Ditty said the Tornadoes looked impressive across the board on film.
“They are definitely a sound, fundamental team,” Ditty said. “When reviewing them, in our opinion there wasn’t those one or two guys that were stand-out players. They all stood out. They had good discipline. We know they’re well coached. We’re expecting to have a competitor that is sound in all the fundamentals of the game and we are looking forward to the challenge.”
Southern finished with 335 yards of total offense in the win, as Gage Barrett also caught five passes for 82 yards.
Southern led 8-0 at halftime, and 14-6 going to the fourth quarter.
The Tornadoes won the final frame 20-0 to win going away. Cole Steele added a 100-yard interception return for a touchdown for the finishing touches on the win.
Southern’s defense held Notre Dame to 212 yards of offense, all coming on the ground.
The matchup with Hundred was the first meeting between the two schools, but Southern will represent a familiar TVC-Hocking foe.
Federal Hocking’s last win in the series came in 2012, a 14-7 triumph in Racine.
Southern won a 57-6 decision in Racine over the Lancers a season ago.
Ditty has put building blocks in place to try and point Federal Hocking’s program in the right direction. Now he gets to lead the Lancers onto their home field for the first time as head coach.
“Playing at home for the first time definitely has a heightened element that we’re taking into consideration,” he said. “We’re hoping it’s not a distraction, but I know everyone’s excited for it. Especially this year. We only have four home games. We’ve got six away. Coming back off the win, having our opener at home, there’s a lot of excitement and I think our guys will play up as a result.
“There’s been a lot of energy, a lot of buzz. A lot of positive energy out there. Hopefully we’re just looking to carry it forward into week 2.”