NEW PHILADELPHIA -- Newcomerstown High dropped a 21-2 road setback to Tuscarawas Central Catholic Saints in Inter-Valley Conference gridiron action on Saturday afternoon.
Despite several promising drives, the Trojans' offense failed to make it to the end zone to slip to 5-4 overall for the season and 4-2 in the IVC.
"It's very frustrating," Newcomerstown coach Josh Lahmers said. "They ran the ball a lot, which we hadn't seen before, and we weren't expecting it. There were numerous times where we got it rolling, but we just kept coming up short. Our defense did well, but you have to score points to win a ball game, and we just didn't execute when we needed to."
Newcomerstown started play on their 20 and drove to the TCC 30 before lost yards and a penalty forced a punt at the Saints' 36.
The Saints quickly covered ground, thanks in large part to 68 yard gain by Max Fragasse. TCC quarterback Hunter Striker ran the remaining five yards for a TCC touchdown with 2:10 remaining in the first quarter. Kicker Erik Dahmen completed the PAT kick to give the Saints an early 7-0 lead.
Newcomerstown senior Austin Zufelt grabbed an interception on the first play of the second quarter, giving NHS possession at midfield, but the Trojans were forced to punt again after a penalty left them at fourth and 15 on the Saints' 43.
The Trojans moved all the way to the 13 on their next possession before TCC regained possession after a turnover on downs.
Big passes to Fragasse and Alex Milleman took Saints to Newcomerstown's three yard line, where a three yard pass from Striker to Cade Cummings gave TCC its second touchdown with just over four seconds left in the half. Another successful kick from Dahmen put the Saints at a 14-0 lead.
The Saints made and recovered an onside kick before Newcomerstown junior Dylan Little snagged an interception on the final play of the half. With no time left to capitalize on the possession, the Trojans entered halftime at a 14-0 disadvantage.
The Saints took the first possession of the second half, but the Trojan defense held them to just two yards. While TCC's Adam Price managed two interceptions in the third quarter, the Newcomerstown defense gave up no points, and the score remained 14-0 at the start of the final quarter.
The Newcomerstown defense hit hard in the fourth quarter, bring Striker down in the backfield for a loss of 12 yards and a Newcomerstown safety. With 11:04 left in play, the Trojans were on the scoreboard at 14-2.
As time ran out, Newcomerstown attempted a risky play at fourth and 11 on their own 26 yard line. The Saints' defense held, and TCC took control at the 29. John Burley drove the ball steadily down the field before Price finished the drive with a four yard touchdown run with 0:58 left in the game. Dahmen's kick closed the afternoon's scoring at 21-2 for TCC.
Central Catholic surprised spectators with an uncharacteristically rushing-heavy game. The Saints carried 38 times for 174 total yards, led by Fragasse with four runs for 79 yards and Henry Vinci with eight runs for 41 yards. Milleman had three carries for 20 yards, and Burley had seven for 17.
Striker went nine for 16 in passing for a total of 132 yards and two interceptions. Fragasse led the receivers with 53 yards over three catches, and Milleman caught two for 42 yards.
Price had two interceptions for the Saints.
The Newcomerstown offense carried 40 times for 188 total yards, with senior Bril Dansby led the way with 21 carries for 100 yards and Zufelt ran nine times for 57 yards. Jarred Weaver had four rushes for 12 yards, and Jason Garland netted 10 yards over four attempts.
Zufelt attempted 18 passes and completed six for a gain of 42 yards with two interceptions. Garland caught three passes for 28 yards, and Little had three catches for a gain of 14.
Zufelt and Little both had one interception.
"We have Ridgewood next week," said Lahmers, "and we really need to work to get things together offensively. They have a big-play offense, so we're going to have to come in strong defensively, as well."