Game of the Week

Knights cash in and deal Titans a 48-14 loss

Shane Jones and the Knights look strong in week one win over Titans

All summer long Zach Gardner’s West Holmes Knights have been working hard, hitting the weights, working techniques and earning their living to improve at the game of football.

On Friday, Aug. 24 the Knights got to cash their checks.

After a slow start the Knights offense kicked their high-powered offense in gear. The defense was stellar, and West Holmes found itself on the winning end of a 48-14 victory over Triway in week one of the high school football season.

“We’ve talked a lot about how all of the hard work is going to pay off, so we have kind of used the cashing the check idea all summer,” said All-Ohio linebacker Josh Baldridge, who was careening all over the field all night making tackles. “We have been working hard, and it was big for us to set a tone early. This is just the first step for us in setting the standards high.”

The game started out as a defensive battle, but once West Holmes got rolling after senior quarterback Bridger Cline found senior Grady Hay in the back of the end zone to open the scoring, the points came fast and furious for the Knights as Cline lit up Triway’s stadium for five touchdowns.

Cline picked up right where he left off last season as the then-junior took a monumental leap forward as the team’s offensive leader.

After connecting with Hay on a 12-yard scoring strike, the Knights got a nice play from Braden Allen, who picked off a Ty Durbin offering to give West Holmes the ball in great shape, but Triway’s defense stiffened and took over. Again West Holmes’ defense pressed the issue and forced a Titans’ punt from deep in its own territory, and Shane Jones caught it on the run at the 45, juked right, ran east to west across the field and tore down the right sideline to pay-dirt. However, a holding penalty brought it back, but it didn’t matter as Cline again found Hay in the back of the end zone after Cale Ogi and Gavin Sheldon moved the ball down to the six.

Triway had its best scoring opportunity when Tyler Davis soared high to make a sensational 31-yard grab. Then he hauled in a crossing route and broke a couple of tackles, but again the West Holmes defense stiffened, and Hay made a huge stick on a fourth-down pass play to stop the drive.

West Holmes seemed fired up by the play and began a drive that saw Ogi create space down the left sideline. His dive into the end zone was long enough, but he stepped out at the two. He took it upon himself to crush his way to a TD on the next play, and after Mark Biltz blasted another extra point, West Holmes had a 21-0 lead that it took into the locker room.

Now trailing by 21, The Titans needed to dig deep, especially since it had lost its team leader senior Drew Arko, who was ejected from the game for coming off the bench and garnering an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in the second quarter.

“When we went in at half-time, I told our guys that our body language looked like we were quitting, and we challenged them to come out and fight, and it might not look like it on the scoreboard, but I was happy with our effort in the second half. We had to deal with some adversity, and we aren’t very deep, and I thought our kids really fought hard. Hopefully this is something we can build on because this West Holmes team is probably one of the best teams we will see this season.”

Triway may have come out with great effort, but it did little to slow down the Knights’ juggernaut offense. Ogi came up with a monster 27-yard run on fourth down to keep the opening drive of the second half alive, and that allowed Cline an opportunity to hunt down Kaden Patterson in the end zone, where Patterson made a leaping catch for the 26-yard strike to make it 28-0.

When Hay bullied his way into the end zone off a flair pass from Cline, the Knights led 35-0, and the route was on, but nobody told Durbin, who broke out of the pocket on Triway’s ensuing drive, took off to the left, made a scintillating cutback and darted 40 yards into the end zone for Triway’s first score of the year.

“I liked what I saw of Ty tonight,” Brenner said. “The kid came out and fought in his first game on a Friday night field, and for him to come out in a big rivalry game like he did was really encouraging.”

It took West Holmes very little time to respond in kind, and Cline chucked his fifth scoring strike of the night by drilling a low bullet to a sliding Shane Jones in the end zone from nine yards out, pushing the lead back to 35.

Cline said he has so many weapons at his disposal it is almost difficult to utilize them all.

“It’s the best feeling in the world to have to come off the field and apologize to guys because I haven’t gotten them a field goal,” Cline said. “Our guys made plays, and I love my line. They deserve all the credit. They picked up everything tonight. I think I had pressure twice.”

It didn’t stay that way long because Triway’s Dylan Eshler took a hand-off on the first play of the next series and bolted down the field, outracing all of the pursuing Knights for a 65-yard score that made the count 42-14.

Gardner had already turned to his second-team defense, and now his second-string quarterback Peyton McKinney was about to get into the act. McKinney dropped back and found Jones across the middle. The athletic senior then turned on the jets to out-run the Titans and make it 48-14, which is where the final score would be as the scoreboard clock showed zeroes.

“Kudos to Triway. They came out and really gave us a lot of looks we weren’t expecting to see, and they confused us some early, but our kids persevered, stuck with the plan and made plays.”

 

BY THE NUMBERS

  • A passing fancy

Cline was very efficient with his passing, finding his target on 16-of-23 passes for 259 yards, but he utilized it well, accumulating five touchdowns.

 

  • Mirror images

Cale Ogi versus Dylan Eshler had almost identical rushing numbers on the night. Ogi led the West Holmes ground attack with 107 yards on 16 carries for a TD while Eshler paced the Titans’ ground game, racking up 105 yards on 17 carries for a score.

 

  • Two Knights receivers dominate a half

Cline utilized the talents of Grady Hay in the first half, and then West Holmes took advantage of the skill set of Shane Jones in the second half. It added up to strong games from both receivers.

Hay ended the night with six catches for 63 yards and three TDs while Jones’ night looked similar with five catches for 90 yards and a pair of scores.

 

INSIDE THE GAME

  • Dedicated to defense

Gardner said the knock on his team has been that it would struggle on defense, so it has been a focal point. After the game the Knights’ head coach gushed about his defensive unit and its overall effort.

“I am so proud of the way our defense came to play,” Gardner said. “They have worked so hard, and we had a game plan, and they went out and executed it. Offensively we weren’t clicking early, and it was such a great thing for our kids to come out and play defense like that.”

 

  • Cashing the check

Gardner continued to use the check-cashing analogy for his team after the game and was excited to see his team set the stage for the next nine weeks of regular-season football.

“Our kids have put the work in, like they have a job,” Gardner said. “They hit the weight room, they made a huge commitment, we had a tough camp and tonight it was time for them to go cash in the check, go make memories, because this is what they put in all the hard work for.”

 

•  The turn-around

Gardner finished by talking about the direction his team has taken. Last season his team went 3-7, and his Knights are determined to not let that happen again.

“This is a game we lost last year,” Gardner said of the Triway rivalry. “It was huge for us. We were a 3-7 football team last year, and our kids have taken a mentality that every time they take the field they want to show the complete 180-degree turnaround that our program has taken.”

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