After a heartbreaking loss to Bellevue last season that saw the Knights fumble away a chance for a game-tying score just a few feet out of the end zone on the final play of the game, West Holmes felt it owed the Redmen.
For the majority of their Friday, Sept. 7 game at Bellevue, it didn’t look possible, but a defensive stand, an 82-yard drive in less than one minute with 32 seconds to play and a Ruyan O’Donnell sack on Bellevue’s final last-ditch play form the Knights’ 25 helped West Holmes earn its revenge with a 31-27 win that was thrilling and improbable, considering the way things played out late in the game.
West Holmes opened the scoring on its first possession, carving up the Redmen defense to produce a touchdown and gain the early momentum.
The Knights did a good job of mixing some short passes in with their running game, and Cale Ogi reeled off a 17-yard rushing touchdown, bullying his way in over the final yard for the score.
Bellevue got back to even on their first possession. They completed a pair of third-down conversions, and then on fourth and goal from the four, they connected on a screen pass to tie the score at 7-7.
Bellevue then forced an Ogi fumble and immediately connected on a long pass play that was brought back on an offensive interference penalty.
Facing a first-and-25 situation, the Redmen were forced to punt, and a bad snap paved the way for Knights junior Major Mackey to pour through the line and tackle the punter before he could get off a kick.
However, Bellevue’s defense stiffened, and the Knights had to settle for a 36-yard Mark Biltz field goal and a 10-7 lead just before the end of the first quarter.
Bellevue quarterback Keegan Ray quickly found Hunter Martin on a long 46-yard pass play to the West Holmes 20-yard line, but the Knights defense toughened up, led by linebacker Carrick Miller, and forced a fourth-down pass attempt that was perfectly covered by Braden Allen, so the Knights took over.
West Holmes’ offense actually went backward 7 yards and was forced to punt, and the Redmen took the ball on the West Holmes 44. A 20-yard run and a 23-yard pass to Dalton Ray led to a 2-yard scoring run by Jake Holmer. Bellevue led 14-10.
The Knights took over possession on their own 35 and quickly began methodically moving the ball down the field. Some hard running on a pair of third downs from Ogi and Gavin Sheldon gave West Holmes a pair of first downs, and on fourth down and five, Bridger Cline found Shane Jones for 9 yards and a first down. The Knights moved the ball inside the Bellevue 20, but on fourth and one from the 16, the Redmen stuffed Sheldon for no gain and took over possession.
The Knights dug in and forced a punt, taking over with just over one minute to go in the half, and West Holmes was content in running out the clock to end the half.
Jake Holmer then ripped off a huge 45-yard run on the first play of the second half. Ogi made a shoestring tackle to prevent a score.
The Knights stiffened and forced a fourth-and-seven, and a toss to Gavin Sparling went off of his hands and fell incomplete to end the threat.
Cline quickly hit Grady Hay with an 18-yard catch-and-throw, then found Hay again for a 29-yard catch to get down to Bellevue’s 41. Cline and Hay connected again on an 8-yard connection, and on third and one, Ogi pushed forward to the 28 for a first-down.
Hay came up big again after a Knights offside penalty. He grabbed a fumble by Jones and helped West Holmes keep possession. However, another West Holmes offside penalty made it second and 21. After an incomplete pass, Cline went to Sheldon, who went for 13 yards, and on fourth down Cline dropped back and found Hay, but it was short of the first down marker, so Redmen took over on downs on their own 22.
Redmen quarterback Keegan Ray quickly got the Redmen going, finding Martin on a long pass down the middle of the field for 40 yards. Several plays later Colten Ray burst through the line and broke free untouched for a 20-yard touchdown to push the Redmen lead to 21-10 with 2:21 to play in the third period.
Cline connected with Jones for a 12-yard catch to the Knights’ 45, and moments later the Knights faced a fourth-and-seven from the Bellevue 48, where Cline pooch-punted down to the Redmen’s 6-yard line.
Needing a big stop, the Knights got one when Allen made a great play defending a long pass to force a punt. The Knights took over after a short punt, taking the ball on Bellevue’s 31.
With a short field, head coach Zach Gardner went to his bag of tricks with Cline lateraling to Sheldon, who swept right and then pulled up and hoisted a touchdown pass to Jones with one second to play in the quarter. The Knights trimmed their deficit to 21-17 heading to the fourth period.
Unfortunately for the Knights, Keegan Ray cracked off a 46-yard run to begin the fourth period to the Knights’ 35. He then burst through for 11 more yards, but a holding penalty on first down moved the Redmen back, and after Ryan O’Donnell forced a bad pass on second down, Dalton Ray grabbed a Keegan Ray offering on a slant pass for a 22-yard touchdown to take the air out of the Knights. When the extra point was missed, West Holmes trailed 27-17.
Shane Jones reinserted some life into West Holmes by returning the kick to the 45-yard line, and an Ogi carry and a Sheldon catch took West Holmes into Bellevue territory.
On third and nine Cline found Grady Hay, who water-bugged his way to the 31 for a first-down with just over eight minutes to play.
Two plays later on third and four, Hay made a leaping grab at the 20 for another West Holmes first down. Bellevue’s defense buckled down and forced a fourth-and-14, and Cline scrambled left and found Allen for 14 yards for the first-down on the six. Cline quickly struck, finding Jones for a leaping grab in the back of the end zone, and the Knights were back to within three at 27-24 with 6:26 to play.
The Knights continued to struggle to stop Keegan Ray, who bolted for a 20-yard run on third down to the 50. The Knights forced a third-and-five from their own 33, and on a key play with less than three minutes to play, O’Donnell burst through to make a stop 3 yards behind the line of scrimmage, setting the stage for a huge fourth-down play.
Hay then stepped in front of a Keegan Ray pass and picked it off, but the Knights committed a roughing the quarterback penalty to wipe it away and give Bellevue a first down with 2:20 to play. It appeared as though all hope was lost, but the defense was about to come up huge a second time.
A big hit by Josh Baldridge again created a fourth-down play for the Redmen, and from the Knights’ 13-yard line, Evan Snyder came flying through the line and stuffed the run to give the Knights a last-gasp chance from their own 18 with 1:24 to play.
Sheldon grabbed a quick-hitter and took it out to the 30. Then Cline connected with Jones on a long pass to the Redmen 38.
Hay caught a pass and got out of bounds at the 27-yard line with 55 seconds to play.
Cline found Jones on another long connection down to the 2-yard line as Jones simply out-jumped everyone for the catch.
Ogi capped off the lightning-quick touchdown drive with a 2-yard plunge to retake the lead at 31-27 with 32 seconds to play, and West Holmes found itself in a very improbable spot.
The Knights then squib-kicked to the Bellevue 44, and the Redmen moved to the Knights’ 25 on an incredible connection. On third and 10 with 11 seconds to play, Keegan Ray had his pass batted away by Hay, and on its last-gasp play, the littlest lineman, Ryan O’Donnell, burst through the line and hauled down Keegan Ray to end any chance for the Redmen.
All that was left was for the Knights to take a knee, and a most improbably victory advanced West Holmes’ record to 3-0.