Game of the Week

Knights find a way to stay alive with unbelievable 56-49 2-OT win over Arrows

Grady Hay's impressive evening helped the Knights earn a 2-OT win over the Arrows

The phrase 24/7 usually means 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

On Friday, Oct. 19 at West Holmes Knights Stadium, 24/7 took on a very different meaning, and the Ashland Arrows are going to be seeing 24/7 in their sleep.

On this evening in a must-win game for West Holmes to keep their playoff hopes alive, the 24 stood for senior wide-out Shane Jones, and the 7 was for the way he racked up touchdowns all night long in West Holmes’ stunning come-from-behind 56-49 double-overtime win that saw the Knights come back from the dead not once but twice at the ends of both halves.

Jones pulled down five touchdown passes and ran for another score as he posted 7s at an alarming clip throughout the entertaining evening’s events.

“No better feeling than what we just went through,” Jones said after the see-saw game finally settled on the side of the Knights. “We all just went out there and put it on the line because we had to. It was very special because this was our last home game as seniors. It was just an unbelievable feeling.”

“These guys went out and made plays all over the place,” said Zach Gardner, West Holmes second-year head coach, who has quickly turned a struggling program around that didn’t win a game two years ago and last year went 3-7. Now they are knocking on the door of the playoffs, and this win over a strong team that is in a higher division goes a long way toward making that happen. “These guys are putting this program back to where it belongs and where it deserves to be. These kids are creating memories for themselves.”

Jones got the scoring parade started when he went high over the top of a pair of Ashland defenders to haul in the first of Bridger Cline’s seven touchdown passes. A Nate Ginsburg PAT made it 7-0 in favor of the Knights, but Ashland was about to unleash a weapon of its own in Cade McQuate, who had a pretty stunning game himself for the Arrows. Quarterback Mitch Heilman got Ashland in position to tie the score, but on a fourth-down play, he needed something to happen. He got it from McQuate, who soared over Grady Hay and made a sensational one-handed grab for a score. After the Arrows got a stop, McQuate ripped off a 3-yard TD run to move the Arrows ahead 14-7.

The Knights rolled downfield and quickly knotted things at 14 apiece when Cline flipped a short screen to Cale Ogi, who worked his way into the end zone.

That tie lasted about one minute as Ashland quickly moved down into Knights territory and Heilman again found McQuate on a 23-yard score right up the seam. Ashland would move ahead 28-14 midway through the second period with another picture-perfect pass from Heilman of 27 yards, and Ashland got yet another stop and had the Knights reeling.

With the half winding down, Ashland was looking for a score that would have been huge, but instead Hay timed a Heilman pass perfectly and picked it off to thwart the drive that had gone deep into Knights territory.

That gave the Knights time to catch their breath at the half, and they definitely needed it. Gardner’s halftime speech must have been inspirational because a West Holmes team that was on the verge of looking defeated came storming back in the third quarter, and it would be Cline and Jones doing the damage.

“We were in this position a year ago against these guys, and they are a great program,” Gardner said. “It isn’t by accident that they have a great program, and for our kids to come out and respond in that second half the way they did, that was huge.”

The first of three lightning-quick scores came when Cline found Jones, who chewed up yardage for a 75-yard touchdown romp. Jones then proved himself on the other side of the ball, coming up with an interception, which set up another Cline-to-Jones touchdown pass, this one a lob from 1-yard out, to tie the score after Ginsburg’s extra point.

West Holmes came through with another score when Jones hauled in a Cline pass along the left sideline and simply overpowered several Ashland defenders and ignited the home crowd.

Leading 35-28, West Holmes’ defense held and set up a huge drive, but with the Knights driving deep into Ashland territory, Cline threw into a crowd, and Noah Ludwig came up with an interception that turned the tide back in favor of the Arrows. It wouldn’t be the last time Ludwig made a large impact.

Ashland wouldn’t score but changed field position, and after pinning the Knights deep in West Holmes territory and forcing a punt, Ludwig burst through the West Holmes line, blocked the punt and fell on it in the end zone for the game-tying score early in the fourth period.

Ashland was invigorated by the play and shut down West Holmes, forcing another punt. Ashland took over possession, and Heilman connected on a 55-yard pass that set up his own 9-yard touchdown run on the next play to give the Arrows a 42-35 lead.

With time winding down, Ashland had a chance to clinch a win by getting a first down near the Knights’ 38-yard line. A short run set up a fourth-and-inches situation, but West Holmes senior lineman Ike Gilt made the single biggest play of his career when he breached the Arrows’ line and stuffed the runner behind the line of scrimmage, giving West Holmes hope with two minutes to play.

“I just went out and got to the hip of the runner and did my job, just like coach Golec teaches us,” said Gilt, who provided maybe his best present on his birthday. “I am just happy that we won, and this was a total team effort. I am so proud of all of these guys.”

A nice pass to Hay put the Knights on the 22-yard line, and rather than throw it to Jones, Cline simply handed him the ball. The burly senior soared around the right edge and into the end zone, and Ginsburg’s extra point brought the game back to even at 42.

Ashland had time to move down the field and at least attempt a field goal, but on third down senior lineman Ryan O’Donnell worked his way into the backfield and sent the game into overtime.

Heilman quickly stunned the Knights on the first play of overtime when he found Tim Flint wide open across the middle for a score. Forced to score a touchdown to send it into double-OT, the Knights also produced a score on their first play, coming from none other than Jones, who hauled in his fifth receiving touchdown on a 20-yard pass from Cline.

Now it would be the Knights who would take the ball first, and Cline would provide the Knights with the lead when he fired a perfect pass into the front corner of the end zone, where Hay hauled it in.

Now it was the Arrows who had to score to keep the game going, but on third down Heilman saw his receiver with a step lead on his defender across the middle but didn’t see Ogi, who had shadowed the play from his linebacker spot. The senior stepped in front of the Heilman offering, pulled it down, took three steps and hit the deck, securing a wild 56-49 double-overtime victory for West Holmes that kept their playoff hopes alive.

“That was crazy. I am just speechless right now,” Ogi said following the game. “This was such an emotional game, and to come out on top the way we did was incredible.”

On the sideline Cline watched as his defense stepped up, made a stop and clinched the game on Ogi’s interception. A teary-eyed Cline spoke emotionally after the game and said the roller coaster of emotions that come with a game like this in a senior’s final home game makes it something special. Cline said he couldn’t yell when Ogi rose to the occasion on that final play.

“I saw him catch it and just dropped to my knee,” Cline said. “It was exhausting but thrilling, and what a way to end our career here at home. We would make a big play, go ahead, then they would come right back and we’d be down. Kudos to Ashland. That is one terrific football team. They made a bunch of big plays and so did we. They fought all the way through and so did we.”

“I’m speechless,” Gardner said. “I don’t think there is anything this group can’t accomplish. They believe in each other. These seniors have been through a lot, and for them to come out here and rectify the program and right the ship is amazing.”

The staggering numbers

Big stats were everywhere in this high-scoring affair. Here are a few meaningful statistics that shaped the game:

4 – That is the number of interceptions West Holmes produced including two from Jones and one apiece from Hay and Ogi.

435 and 337 – The first is the total passing yards for Heilman; the latter is the impressive total passing yards from Cline, a total that is closing in on half a mile.

6 – The number of times Jones was celebrating in the end zone, five through the air and one on the ground. “He was a dude out there tonight,” Gardner said of Jones.

7 – The total touchdown passes Cline threw.

193 and 179 – The receiving yardage totals of Jones and Hay, respectively. Jones hauled in 10 catches while Hay made 12.

168/3 – McQuate’s impressive receiving yardage and touchdowns on the night.

15 – The number of extra points made by the field goal kickers. Carson Hubler and Nate Ginsburg’s perfect PAT on the night, a huge factor because any single miss could have spelled defeat for their respective teams.

0 – The number of points the Arrows scored in the third period, the only period in which both teams didn’t produce at least one touchdown apiece and also the period in which the Knights came back from the dead.

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