West Holmes Football

Titans edge Knights 20-14 in game of changes of style

Bridger Cline

When West Holmes hosted Triway on Friday, Aug. 25 at Knights Stadium, it was a pair of new-look teams trying to adjust to new strategies.

Triway, under the tutelage of Drew Sarachman, is looking for balance after years of a five-wide spread offense that saw them throw the ball with vengeance. West Holmes, under new head coach Zac Gardner, was looking for balance after decades of smash-mouth football that featured a steady diet of trap right and trap left runs.

In the end Triway got the best of both worlds to take home a 20-14 victory in the season opener. Triway scored the game’s first touchdown on an opening drive that ate up nearly 10 full minutes before Nick Sparr found Braden Biggs on a wide-open 6-yard pass to the corner of the end zone. Then after West Holmes had tied the score early in the second quarter and after Bridger Cline hit Ethan Kinsey on a 54-yard catch-and-run touchdown, Sparr struck for a monster 47-yard pass to Austin Davis that set up a 15-yard run for pay-dirt by Dylan Eshler. It was 10 minutes of a grind-away attack featuring a host of little gains for a score, followed by two huge plays in less than one minute.

From then on the defenses would star, and after a late third-quarter field goal push with Triway’s lead back to 10, West Holmes would finally get back in the end zone. Again it would be the Cline-to-Kinsey connection on a 27-yard out pattern that would place the ball on the 1-yard line, where Gavin Sheldon would produce a score to trim the Titan’s lead to 17-14.

Through the fourth quarter the two teams traded stops until Triway’s final possession saw them drive the length of the field to the 6-yard line, where again West Holmes stymied them, forcing the Titans to settle for a field goal with about two minutes to play.

West Holmes would then make things interesting, marching out past mid-field, but an offside penalty would prove costly, and on fourth-and-six Cline rolled out and flipped a pass to Grant Hay on the sideline. However, as Hay turned to catch the ball, he lost his footing, and the ball fell idly to the turf. Along with it the Knights chances of victory also hit the ground.


Keys to the Game

  1. Four times the hard way

Coach Sarachman decided to go for broke on fourth down four times, and all four times his Titans worked up a play to secure a first down and keep possession. One of those, the first one in the first quarter, resulted in the game’s first touchdown.


  1. Triway answers back

West Holmes had just tied the game in the second quarter with a superb pass and run from Cline to Kinsey, who bolted 54 yards for a touchdown. Triway’s response was lethally quick as Sparr hit Davis for a long strike to the Knights’ 16-yard line. From there Eshler bolted in to give Triway the lead again.

“We were feeling really good after that (Knights TD), and when you give up a big play like that and momentum swings back, sometimes that is even worse,” Gardner said.


  1. Making a big play

Following a wild West Holmes fumble that saw several players knock the ball backward toward the Triway goal about 20 yards, the Titans finally recovered with 30 seconds to play in the half. Triway quickly hammered down within striking distance, but with five seconds left, Sparr tried for a score in the corner of the end zone. West Holmes’s Brayden Chaney leapt high in the air to knock the pass away to keep the Knights within one score at 14-7.


  1. Mr. Kinsey goes deep

The Knights were able to keep pace thanks in large part to Kinsey. The senior wide-out hauled in a 54-yard TD, and then in the fourth quarter he grabbed a 27-yard pass that set up Gavin Sheldon’s one-yard scoring plunge, which drew West Holmes within 17-14. Both plays proved to be monumental efforts in the game.


  1. The Titans’ O-Line was rock solid

Sparr has plenty of time to throw, and he credited his offensive line for giving him more than enough time to operate the offense. Sparr was rarely pressured, the lone Knights’ sack coming on an errant snap out of the shotgun.

He said the 50/50 mix of run and pass is a huge variation from the pass-happy attack of former head coach Tony Lee’s philosophy.

“We’ve been working really hard on our run blocking, and the offensive line was great tonight,” Sparr said. “This is a lot different than we have played in the past, and it actually makes it easier to throw, believe it or not. Not that I minded throwing it 50 times a game like we used to. We just have more balance, and my line did a great job of protecting me all night.”


Sideline chatter

Pride on both sides of the ball

Both West Holmes and Triway had new head coaches at the helm with kids trying to hone their skills in completely new systems. That meant some work on the fly, and both Sarachman and Gardner expressed their pleasure with the effort they got from their kids.

“I am so proud of my guys and so proud of my coaches,” Sarachman said. “We talk all the time about how we want to be the mentally toughest team in the state of Ohio. We faced a lot of adversity tonight, and we stayed mentally tough throughout. We had penalties that hurt us, and they came after us, but we were able to stay focused and mentally tough when we had to down the stretch.”

Even in the loss, Gardner was more than happy with his team’s effort.

“I am so proud of the way our kids fought and never quit,” Gardner said. “That is a virtue that is going to serve them well in life. We’ve only got 35 guys, but they have bought in, and they are fighting, and when this clicks, it is going to be something special. Our kids are doing all that they need to do to build the foundation of a successful program.”


The little things that lead to losses

Gardner said while his Knights did some good things, the game tilted the Titan’s way because West Holmes failed to execute in doing some little things that opened the door for Triway. Twice the Knights gave up first downs on third-and-plus-10 yards. Four times they failed to stop Triway on fourth-down efforts. Several key penalties and a pair of fumbles proved costly.

“When it comes down to it, we need to execute better,” Gardner said. “We left a lot out there on the field. We couldn’t get into a rhythm offensively because of penalties, dropped passes and missed assignments. That cost us, and we are going to be sick to our stomachs for awhile.”

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