Photos By Sean Hoxworth
As the rain drops fell at West Holmes High School on Oct. 31, the West Holmes Knights football seniors walked out onto their field for the last time with the rain giving off an extra glare to their traditional blue helmets.
The Knights listened to coach Kevin Maltarich give his last pre-game speech, entered the back of the end zone where Mr. Dodd had his thundering marching band belting the school fight song louder than they have ever heard it and jumped with their fist high in the air for that last team shout before getting it mixed up with Clear Fork.
On top of all the emotion was a chance for the Knights to earn a share of the Ohio Cardinal Conference championship with a victory over the Colts.
The wet surface and bad footing didn’t slow down Knights’ senior Luke Ogi who torched the Colts for 212 yards on the ground on just 14 carries with four TDs. The last two carries of Ogi’s career as a Knight were a 80-yard touchdown run and a 51-yard score. Ogi’s touchdowns led West Holmes to a 42-0 pounding of Clear Fork and gave them the share of the conference crown.
Wooster will play Orrville on Saturday night. If Wooster takes care of business against a struggling Orrville squad, then Wooster and West Holmes will go halves on OCC title.
“It’s bittersweet,” said Ogi. “I’m done with high school football, but we went out OCC champs. We would have liked to make the playoffs, but the next best thing was the OCC championship. I’m proud of all the guys and I love them.”
Love, while probably not the most manly word to use around a locker room, was felt in waves after the game. The special bond between all the seniors was poured out harder than the rain that fell almost the entire contest.
“We defiantly stuck together,”said senior quarterback Brody Miller. “I’m proud of every single one of these players for staying together and for all these seniors. Football is the best sport there is. I can’t believe it’s over.”
It may be over, yes. Some seniors will not play at the next level and some will. It was bigger than that for the Knights on Friday. It was about doing it for each other and giving the guy standing next to you everything you have no matter what the score said, the clock read or the opponent was doing. It was about the Knights.
“I’ll remember the practices the most,” continued Miller. “Every day was a challenge. I’ll also miss the coaching staff. They made me a better player as the season went on and they made me a better person. Especially coach Maltarich, he’s a great guy.”
After starting the season 0-3 it was coach Maltarich who made sure everyone was getting better each day and look where that got the Knights. 6-4 and forever the right to say they were 2014 OCC champs.
And Clear Fork, unfortunately for them, stood in the way of all the emotion and talent leaking from the Knights with a ferocious aurora.
The Colts were steamrolled right from the get go.
On the Knights’ first drive, it took them just six plays to get in the end zone. One of Ogi’s four dances across the coveted goal line was the first score from 14-yards out. Boom, just like that it was 7-0 Knights.
The weather popped up its’ ugly head giving the teams some fits most of the way throughout the first quarter. The Knights turned the ball over on downs after a fourth down bad snap and then Clear Fork finished their best drive of the evening with a fumbled snap on fourth and four from the Knights’ 17-yard line.
After the only sustainable drive the Colts had on the night, two plays later Ogi burned everyone for a 80-yard TD romp that gave this game a running clock feel.
In the second quarter Ogi got help from his fellow running backs Garret Ervin and senior, Sam Young. It was Young first though who tumbled in the end zone with 4:23 to play in the first half from 4-yards and then Ervin got a 1-yard score. On the Ervin scoring drive the Knights ran three plays, all to Ervin who finished it off.
West Holmes led at the half 28-0 and had a tight grasp on the conference title with two quarters to go and the Colts showing no signs of being able to score on the slick turf and tough Knights’ defense.
Ogi’s two, long scores in the second half just made the clock go faster and moved the Knights closer to the final tick.
Just as fast as they ran on the field Friday night, the Knights ran back to the locker room to share the victory with each other.
“It’s the best feeling running down the sidelines. I’m going to miss playing football here,” said Ogi.
And now it is over. As much as the Knights’ senior didn’t want it to believe it. Their season came to an end. And it came to an end with them labeled Ohio Cardinal Conference champs.
“It was a fun ride,” said senior tight end Levi Jones.
A ride that saw the Knights drop their first three games, win their next five straight, lose a heart breaker to Wooster and finish up with the annihilation of Clear Fork.
More importantly perhaps will be the legacy they leave behind for themselves, their coach, parents and school as OCC champs of the 2014 season.