On a chilly, rainy evening, West Holmes overcame some early dropsies, while the rain made throwing the ball from Wooster’s spread offense especially difficult. Factor in a Knights shutout and the fact that West Holmes’ Layne Perone set a school mark and tied another en route to the Knights’ 43-0 whitewash of the Generals, and it all added up to a thrill for West Holmes (8-1), but a total downer for Wooster (2-7).
“We were never able to capture any momentum,” said Wooster coach Doug Haas. “The weather made it a challenge, but you have to give their defense credit, they really flew to the ball. But a ball that gets thrown crisply is going to make a difference, and that certainly wasn’t the case tonight because it was tough to get anything on it.”
In the Knights first three possessions, Perone fumbled away one ball which stopped a West Holmes drive, and quarterback Gabe Snyder mishandled a snap which led to a second turnover.
But while West Holmes overcame those two miscues, Wooster may have not recovered from its first series drop, one in which Wooster quarterback Cam Daugherty put one right on the money to Darian Owens, who was streaking down the sideline behind the Knights defense for what would have been a go-ahead touchdown. Instead, Owens had the ball go right through his outstretched hands, and Wooster eventually punted. When the Knights finally did get things going on offense, it made for a long evening for the Generals.
“Give our defense credit for keeping the score right there, because our offense didn’t get the job done early,” said West Holmes coach Kevin Maltarich.
Early in the second quarter, after a pair of West Holmes first downs, the Knights were facing a fourth-and-two situation at Wooster’s 29 yard line. Perone moved the pile for a four yard gain, and eventually he plunged in from two yards out to give the Knights a 6-0 lead.
Wooster would respond with a solid drive, with most of the damage coming on runs by Mason Tomlin, who cracked off a nifty 22-yarder to put the Generals in good shape near the West Holmes 30. However Keaton Leppla sacked Daugherty for a two yard loss, and a bad snap forced Wooster into a third and long situation. Daugherty dropped back and forced a throw into coverage, where Brady Arnold picked it off and ran it back to the Wooster 31 yard line.
“Brady made a nice read on that ball and intercepted it, and that score before the half was big,” said Maltarich.
Grant Hay then ripped off a 23 yard run around the left end to the eight yard line, and after Garrett Mackey was tackled for a one yard loss, Perone would gain five and Hay would run it in from four yards out, Perone’s two-point run making it 14-0.
If that was a punch to the gut for Wooster the resounding knockout blow came next.
With Wooster moving the ball inside West Holmes’ 30, Leppla again made a diving stop in the backfield, and when Daugherty slipped and fell to a knee trying to make a move on fourth down, the Knights took over on their own 35.
Snyder quickly reeled off a bootleg to Wooster’s 48, Luke Ogi ran twice for five yards and a pass interference call on tight end Brock Macaulay gave West Holmes a first down at the Wooster 29.
A nine yard pass to Mitch Sheely and Perone’s nine yard run put the ball on the 11 yard line with 24 seconds to play in the half. Snyder lofted the next pass over Macaulay in the end zone, but with five ticks left to play found a streaking Arnold in the left back corner of the end zone, crushing the spirit of Wooster.
Perone again pounded in a two-point conversion, making it 22-0 at the break.
“Even if we make a stop there, we have a chance to come out of the locker room with the ball and maybe we get a score and it’s a one score game again,” said Haas. “Unfortunately, that was a key turning point and those kinds of bad turnovers have been an Achilles heel for us this year.”
What hope Wooster had was dashed to open the second half.
Tomlin reeled off 11 yards on third and nine, and then got to the corner for 26 yards, but was stripped of the ball near the sideline by Arnold, where West Holmes recovered.
On third down of the ensuing series, Perone hammered his way up the middle for a 35 yard run, then picked up 11 more. After Mackey carried for three, Perone found a lane and broke away nearly untouched for a 27 yard score.
The touchdown would be his 23rd of the year, tying the school record for rushing touchdowns in a season set by Nolan Mackey in 2000. In addition, Perone would break Nolan Mackey’s season-high point total of 144, moving his ongoing total to 148 on the campaign.
“He’s a tremendous back who can hit it up in there and break tackles, and he has a good burst of speed,” said Maltarich of Perone. “But the other thing is, this team does a tremendous job of playing for each other, and the line did a great job of opening up some holes that Layne was able to exploit.”
West Holmes then created a three-and-out on defense, and Perone went to work again, racking up 47 of his 235 rushing yards on a sizzling run up the middle. West Holmes capped that drive off with a four-yard Mackey rushing TD to make it 37-0.
It was pouring rain, but the Knights were pouring on the score.
After again stopping Wooster, West Holmes looked to milk some clock, but that plan failed miserably when Perone burst through the line for 54 yards, and one play later Ogi would cruise around the right edge for a 25 yard touchdown, making it 43-0.
The two play drive ate up precious little time off the clock, but as Maltarich said after the game, “We will take that every time. We’ll put the points on the board whenever we can get them.”
From there it was a matter of West Holmes stopping the Generals on several drives, thwarting them every time they got inside the red zone. And if there was any thoughts of getting the ball back again for Wooster, that idea went away when Clay Stutzman peeled off a 50 yard run to give the Knights another set of downs to run out the clock.
For the Knights defense, it was the second straight game they have not allowed a touchdown.
“Twice they had first and goal and we were able to shut the door on them,” said Maltarich of his defense. “That was good to see, because as we continue to get into this thing here (playoffs), we need to play good, solid defense. That is one thing that helps wins championships.”
As they clinch a playoff berth and can earn the privilege of hosting a playoff game with a victory over Clear Fork Oct. 26 at home, West Holmes has every reason to look forward to this ultra-exciting time.
Instead, Maltarich said that they absolutely will not be looking forward to anything but their game against the Colts.
“We have got a lot of football to play before the playoffs, and we have to strive to continue to get better and better each and every day,” said Maltarich. “We will enjoy all of this when it’s all over.”