A similar thought seemed to be making the rounds throughout the host Newcomerstown High crowd following Friday night's annual Orange and Black Inter-Valley Conference gridiron battle with neighboring Ridgewood High: "It's a long time coming" after the Trojans ended a 12-year losing streak to the rival Generals with a 21-6 victory to capture the rotating Orange and Black Trophy.
"It's been 12 years since we beat them," Newcomerstown coach Eric Brock said. "That's a long time to go without a win in this rivalry. It's just a huge win for us to show the kids we are headed in the right direction as a program.
"I'm very proud of our seniors," Brock continued. "We had a lot of alumni come into the locker room tonight and talk to the kids about what this rivalry means to a lot of people."
A huge key to the victory was a stellar effort from the Trojans' defense which came up with a bend-but-don't-break effort by coming up with a total of four fourth down stops on the Generals, including a pair of fourth-and-goals from inside the five-yard line.
"Our defense came up with a real gutsy performance..they just kept battling," Brock explained. "They would move the ball and then we came up with the plays when we needed them. Holding them inside the five twice and to just give up six points says a lot. I'm very proud of the defensive effort tonight, the kids just really wanted this one."
Unfortunately, the Trojans (6-4, 4-3 IVC) fell just short in their bid for an OHSAA Division VI, Region 19 playoff berth as Brock's squad finished ninth in the region, one spot from qualifying for the second time in school history.
Newcomerstow started quickly off the opening kickoff when junior Jabril Dansby fielded the ball and came up with a huge 35-yard return to get the Trojans great field position at the RHS 45-yard line.
The Trojans then reeled off a seven-play drive to the end zone to open the scoring when junior QB Austin Zufelt called his own number with a 16-yard TD run at the 8:30 mark. Austin King booted the PAT to give the Trojans a 7-0 advantage.
NHS added to its lead in the early stage of the second stanza. Senior running back Cody Hall did the honors, ripping off a 38-yard scoring run with 8:07 left before the halftime break to widen the gap to 14-0. Hall's run capped a six-play, 50-yard series by the Trojans.
Desperately needing an offensive spark, the Generals were able to mount a scoring drive with time winding down in the half.
Taking over on its 16-yard line, RHS put together a 14-play, 84-yard march with just 33 seconds left on the clock.
On a fourth-and-goal from the five-yard line, junior Zach Donley was able to punch it in to get the Generals on the scoreboard, trailing 14-6 after a missed PAT kick at the intermission.
In the second half, the only scoring came from the Trojans' Zufelt to produce the final 21-6 margin.
Zufelt's second tally came on a five-yard run with 2:28 left in the third period.
While able to move the football effectively at times, Ridgewood head coach John Slusser lamented a season-long problem that once again reared its head for the Generals.
"Tonight's game was a microcosm of our season," a visibly-frustrated Slusser explained. "We have a good game going defensively, but give up some big plays that hurt us. Then on offensive we again just failed to finish drives with scores."
Slusser also gave credit to the Newcomerstown defense for part of the Generals' troubles.
"Their defense was nothing special, we were able to move the ball," Slusser added, "but give them credit, they made the plays when they needed to."
Hall finished with 98 yards on the ground in 16 carries to lead the Trojans, while Dansby was held in check with just 36 yards on 14 carries.
Dansby entered the night leading the local area with 1,670 yards rushing and 14 TDs.
"That's what nice is to have a pair of talented backs," Brock said. "We felt they might key on Jabril and that gave Cody his opportunity and he's a tough one to handle as well. With him being a senior, I think he wanted to get this win over Ridgewood pretty bad."
Slusser also pointed to the balanced Trojan offense as being a key to the contest.
"They have some nice weapons with Dansby and Hall," Slusser said, "but I felt Zufelt had a nice game and made some good reads...good decisions out there."
Ridgewood (5-5, 3-4 IVC) was paced by senior Garrett Bethel with 46 yards on 11 carries, with Donley adding 43 on 13 attempts.