West Holmes Football

Gardner praises Knights seniors for a willingness to sacrifice and lead

Knights senior Ethan Kinsey proved sometimes you can lead without playing

Sean Hoxworth photos

All season long West Holmes head coach Zac Gardner has talked about how this year’s team has poured itself into committing to the work ethic, game planning and growth of the Knights’ program. He has talked about how this team has taken on a huge task in creating a new identity, a new feel and a belief that prosperous times are just around the corner.

On Friday, Oct. 27 the Knights hosted Ohio Cardinal Conference foe Mt. Vernon in week 10, the final week of the season.

Although West Holmes didn’t play its best and the Knights didn’t get the result they wanted to end the year on with the 41-21 loss, they showed the same spirit, desire and heart fans have witnessed all season.

For seniors Brayden Chaney, Ethan Kinsey, Bryce Myers, Michael Taylor, Jarrett Snow and Brayden Vess, the show won’t go on.

For those six seniors, all of the hard work, sweat equity and dedication they have put themselves through this season has come to an end. They will not be a further part of the ongoing building and the success Gardner believes will come and come soon for the Knights’ program, at least on the field.

But the role they played in this year’s inaugural campaign under Gardner will not be forgotten and could well have ramifications as to the success of the program in the long run.

Anytime a team gets a new coach, faces an uphill battle and hears talk about a rebuilding process, it seems like it might be a forgotten season for the seniors. That was not the case for the Knights, and all year long Gardner has talked about making sure his seniors know that their input, effort, leadership and willingness to help a young team grow were invaluable.

At the end of a 3-7 season, Gardner wants his seniors to understand exactly what they have meant to him and to their young teammates.

“We told our seniors at the start of the year that their goal was to build a foundation for success for years to come with all the changes that come with a new head coach and a new system. These kids’ job was to set the culture for that change, and we are excited about where the program is heading,” Gardner said.

What Gardner enjoyed the most about this group of seniors was how they led by example on and off the field.

“All six of these kids have committed completely to the program and have invested wholeheartedly, knowing that they only have the one year,” Gardner said. “The legacy they are leaving behind is that they are the carpenters of this program. They are showing kids how to practice, how to watch film, how to work and even how to deal with injuries. Their attitude has been amazing, and they have been instrumental in us taking some huge steps in this program. They are being very selfless, and they are setting a tone that is going to reverberate throughout this program for years to come.”

Perhaps nobody has set a better example than Kinsey. The senior wide-out/defensive back was off to a sensational start to the year before breaking his collarbone in the New Philadelphia game. Despite knowing he would not play again in his career, Kinsey has been present each and every day and has continued to be a huge part of this year’s team.

“I think Ethan was the first guy who really got the spread offense,” Gardner said. “When we lost him, that was a tough blow to take. But he has been at every practice. He has been a wonderful motivator, and he has been a tremendous example of the commitment that we need to show. These younger kids can learn a lot from that.”

Each season brings with it challenges, learning opportunities and chances for a program to grow. This year was a step in a very new direction for the West Holmes program, and its six seniors knew coming in that they would not be the ones to reap the benefits of where Gardner hopes to take the Knights’ program.

But they will leave knowing that when that success does come, they were the foundation of what made it the success that it will have become.

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