Game of the Week

Knights play a complete game in shutting out Black Bears 49-0

Grady Hay and company have a thirst for victory

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For the West Holmes Knights, this season keeps getting better and better after a slow start. For the River View Black Bears, high hopes of pulling off an upset were quickly dashed, and it all washed out in favor of the Knights in a 49-0 shut-out victory during week eight of the high school football season.

West Holmes got going early during the showdown in Warsaw on Friday, Oct. 13, and after a muffed punt early on, West Holmes did little wrong in dismantling the Black Bears.

The Knights piled up nearly 500 yards of total offense, and some of the scores they produced were monsters, including the opening drive that resulted in a 4-yard touchdown strike from Bridger Cline to Shane Jones, who would tie a school record by hauling in three touchdown passes on the night.

Cael Ogi scored after the Knights got a big stop, and Gavin Sheldon hammered his way to pay dirt to make it 21-0.

West Holmes simply continued making plays in this game from start to finish with very few things going wrong for the Knights, who improved to 3-5.

River View failed to gain any kind of traction against a quickly improving West Holmes defense, and whether through the air or on the ground, the Black Bears couldn’t stop the Knights’ attack.

“I’m loving this,” Cline said of the offensive proficiency that saw West Holmes score on every possession until they basically took a knee to end the game. “Our offensive line is making big plays and giving me tons of time, and our receivers are making plays. I have so many weapons to throw to, and our running game has been so solid all season. It makes my job a lot easier. I trust all of these guys to make plays for us.”

The protection has been so good that Cline said he feels extremely confident in standing back in the pocket to go through his reads.

As for the huge lead, that came courtesy of a defense that pitched its first shut-out of the season, and Cline said that freed up the entire offense to go out and do its thing.

Carrick Miller, who heads up that defense from his linebacker spot, said the defense understands the vital role it plays on setting up the offense to be successful.

“We feed off of each other, and that gives our entire team so much momentum,” Miller said of the give-and-take between the offense and the defense. “When our offense is clicking like that, we as a defense know that we can just go out there, pin our ears back and go for it.”

Miller said the attitude of the entire team, as they learn the new system under Gardner and his staff, has been an exciting time to be part of a Knights program that has struggled the past couple of seasons but appears to be trending upward.

“We are all excited, and we have made a commitment to learning this system, and we’re working hard and making plays, and it has been a blast.”

The Big Zero

All season long the West Holmes coaching staff has encouraged and inspired the Knights’ defense to put a shut-out on the board. In week eight the Knights delivered on that effort.

West Holmes did it by stumping the Black Bears’ running game. River View managed less than 2 yards per carry, and time after time the Knights stretched out the field and went sideline to sideline to thwart River View’s ground attack.

Following the game, Gardner was excited about the energy and effort his defense played with, and it was more than just the starting crew. When the second and third team defense went in, they too played that same inspirational defense the starters put forth.

“It’s a credit to our entire defensive coaching staff and to our kids,” Gardner said. “This is such a huge boost for our kids. It is great that our varsity shut them out, but I was really excited too about our young guys coming out and showing some toughness in the end to secure the shutout. That continues the development of our program. They went out and took pride in keeping that zero on the scoreboard.”

Big play No. 1

West Holmes took the opening kick-off and wheeled down the field to open up with a 7-0 lead. The Knights then stuffed the Black Bears, forcing a punt, but Shane Jones muffed it, and Austin Kline jumped on it to give River View a huge boost. That lasted all of two plays.

Grady Hay stepped in front of a pass near the Knights’ 10-yard line with the Bears threatening, returning it to the 26. The play proved to be a momentum swing of monumental magnitude, and after West Holmes scored, it took what could have been a 7-7 tie and made it 14-0 Knights.

Big play No. 2

Leading 21-0 with under one minute to play, the Knights looked content to take a knee and take that lead into the locker room. On third and 11, Cael Ogi pounded his way from the 13 to the 25-yard line and gave the Knights a first down with 20 seconds to play.

Now Gardner opened it up, and Cline stepped back in the pocket and delivered an absolute perfect ball to Jones as he flew down the left sideline.

The ball nestled into his waiting hands, and he tore down the sideline, scoring with seven seconds left in the half, providing a back-breaking, soul-crushing score for the Knights.

Large-type numbers all around

Cline and Jones’ highlight reel 75-yard showcase right before the half was far from the lone spectacularly long play West Holmes put forth in the game.

After Hay’s interception, Cline hit him for a 41-yard strike that set up West Holmes’ second score. Then after West Holmes got the initial stop on defense to open the third quarter, Cline wasted little time in doubling up on the deep ball. The QB found Gavin Sheldon roaring right up the gut. Cline’s 20-yard pass turned into a 90-yard monster score when Sheldon made a sensational one-handed grab in stride and was off to the races when he shook his defender.

Then in the closing quarter, back-up QB Bryce Myers connected with Kaden Patterson on a beautiful catch-and-run down the left sideline for another 75-yard scoring strike.

Living in the backfield

For most of the evening it appeared as though several of the Knights’ defensive players were in the Black Bears huddle. West Holmes racked up five sacks and recorded two interceptions.

Linebacker Josh Baldridge was in on nine tackles and added a pair of sacks. Carrick Miller roamed the line of scrimmage like a man on a mission. He forced plays deep into the Black Bears backfield, where the Knights swarmed all over ball carriers.  The same went for Jake Hendershott and Ryan O’Donnell. Hendershott collecting a pair of sacks. That forced River View into a number of third-and-long plays, and the Knights pinned back their ears and came storming in to make big play after big play.

Two straight ends a long run

The last time West Holmes won a pair of games on consecutive weeks was in 2014. That year the Knights won five straight from weeks four to eight. That means the lack of any kind of winning streak has been absent for West Holmes for 30 games. That is all ancient history now with the Knights putting this one in the books following last week’s 55-21 win over Lexington.

“We have talked a lot about stringing wins together, and we have to start with two,” Gardner said. “That is another step in the progression for us. We are thrilled about where the commitment these kids have given our program has taken us. Every time we challenge them, they seem to answer the bell, and we are really proud of them.”

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