Photos by Sean Hoxworth
Imagine running as hard as you can in one direction, then stopping and running as hard as you can the other way. That is a telling analogy for what happened to the West Holmes Knights, who experienced the very worst, followed by the very best of what high school football can entail.
After struggling through a horrifying half of football in a week six loss to Wooster, the Knights turned the tables on Lex and played a scintillating half of football themselves in building a monstrous lead that eventually led to a fun 55-21 victory over the Minutemen at West Holmes Stadium on Friday, Oct. 6.
The first quarter was a 180-degree turnaround from what the Knights experienced the previous week versus Wooster when they found themselves trailing by three scores in the first quarter and could do nothing right.
It all kicked off with a couple of Knights, who by the end of the evening would find themselves in the midst of plenty of big plays throughout the night when sophomore quarterback Bridger Cline connected with senior wide-out Brayden Chaney on a 20-yard touchdown.
By evening’s end the Minutemen would experience far too much of that combination. After the defense got a stop, Cline and Chaney went back to work, this time teaming up for a 44-yard touchdown play to make it 14-0 after Brendan Yoder tacked on the PAT.
Another quick stop led to the play of the night. After West Holmes took possession, the snap sailed away from Cline, who raced after it. He picked it up and twirled a strike to Shane Jones, who was off to the races for a stunning 81-yard touchdown catch and run that made it 21-0.
Cael Ogi wasn’t about to let the aerial attack have all the fun, and his 15-yard scamper into the end zone capped off a first half that saw West Holmes take a commanding 28-0 lead.
“We had some really tough talks with our kids on Saturday following the Wooster game,” head coach Zac Gardner said. “We’ve got a great rapport with our kids, and they understand where we are as a program and where we want to get to. They are so receptive to coaching, and we challenged them. Our execution in that Wooster game was unacceptable, and the film didn’t lie, and they saw that and learned from it. We went out and prepared and had a great week of practice, and that transitioned over to the game.”
After Lexington finally pushed a score across the goal line, the two teams traded scoreless possessions, but West Holmes did not let up on the gas, and it would again be Jones providing the fireworks by cranking out a 50-yard punt return that made it 35-7. Jones would make it 42-7 when he would haul in a Cline offering from 14-yards out.
Now the offense was seemingly unstoppable, and when Cline found Ogi out of the backfield on a 9-yard swing pass that ended up as a touchdown, the Knights were overpowering the Minutemen 48-7.
The amazing thing was it was only half-time.
“It’s amazing what that kind of an effort does for the mind-set of our team,” Gardner said. “These kids have made a huge commitment, and we are starting to see their hard work and dedication pay off. When we learn how to win, some great things are going to happen.”
The third quarter saw neither team able to push the ball across the goal line, and Lexington sandwiched a pair of fourth-quarter scores around a Hayden Baker 1-yard plunge that completed the exciting Knights win.
“We are taking this process step by step, but this was a nice step for us,” Gardner said of the win. “Our next goal is to win two games in a row, something this program hasn’t done since 2014. It is now a matter of us learning to maintain that level of preparation and execution.”
The defense took a back seat as the Knights racked up eight touchdowns, but it was a great effort by the defense including controlling the line of scrimmage all night to produce a number of quick three-and-outs. Chaney and Michael Taylor both recorded interceptions while linebacker Josh Baldridge was all over the field making tackles.
Cline’s official passing yardage of 367 yards was one shy of the school record, but it took Tyler Dennis 55 attempts to crank out 368 yards. His five passing TDs also tied the school mark set by Brian Coblentz in 1989. He also averaged an eye-popping 20-plus yards per completion on the night.
Coming off of a horrendous game against Wooster, Cline was able to push the thoughts of that game aside and play a terrific game.
“When you are the quarterback of a spread offense, every single play runs through you, and Bridger is really starting to understand his role in operating this system,” Gardner said. “In that role you get a lot of pats on the back, but you also get a lot of criticism when things go wrong. Bridger took a great approach in practice in getting back to fundamentals, and he has a passing technique that can make him a very prolific passer.”
Prolific was a great choice of words for this performance as the Knights proved that this spread offense can rack up points at a high rate of efficiency when they execute properly and play sound, fundamental football.