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In rather workmanlike fashion, the West Holmes Knights ran over the visiting Clear Fork Colts 34-14 Friday night, securing a share of their first Ohio Cardinal Conference championship thanks to a stunning win by Mansfield Madison over Mansfield Senior.
The Knights, Rams and Tygers all share the top spot in the OCC with 6-1 records.
"It's Senior's first title and our first title. It's something we're going to cherish. When this thing's all said and done, we'll take time to pat ourselves on the back, but for right now, we've got to get ready for Week 11," said West Holmes coach Kevin Maltarich. "It's a credit to our kids. We don't have the top-notch athletes the other schools do. But I'll take hard-working kids any day of the week."
It was a pair of hard-working running backs who churned out nearly 300 yards to lead the assault by the Knights Friday.
Layne Perone set the school record for rushing touchdowns, tacking on three more scores to bring his total to 26 on the season. The junior piled up 170 yards on 19 carries to lead the Knights. Grant Hay added 115 yards on seven carries.
"It starts up front, but he can hit it up in there," Maltarich said of Perone. "We know what we're going to get with Layne."
The Colts (3-7, 2-5) struck first on a 51-yard scoring strike from Ryan South to Nick Henwood six plays into the game. Justin Homerick tacked on the conversion kick for a 7-0 lead.
"It's never a good thing when anyone scores on us," Maltarich said. "It was a mix-up in our defensive backfield, where they caught a pass and ran it in for a touchdown. We corrected it, and away we went."
The Knights put together a nine-play, 80-yard drive, capped off by Perone's record-setting score, an 18-yard blast up the middle. Logan Gallion hit the first of four conversion kicks.
After a punt, the Knights took a 14-7 lead as Hay broke loose on an 84-yard gallop.
"It feels great to make a big play for your team," Hay said. "It was a very well-blocked play. It was a good call, too. There wasn't a lot of people over there."
"Both our guards (Keaton Leppla and Andrew Rose) and the outside tackle (Colton Shane) sealed the end and the guards kicked out," Maltarich said. "Grant hit it up in there and Mitch (Sheely) threw the block to spring him. They do a good job, controlling the line of scrimmage, pounding it up in there. Garrett Mackey also threw a big block. Our backs get the credit, but our line does a heck of a job."
Clear Fork then took possession near midfield, but the defense of the Knights held the Colts on four plays, taking over on their own 40.
Sophomore linebacker Luke Ogi had a big night defensively to lead the Knights, making several tackles and coming up with an interception.
"I just try to fill in for Layne," Ogi said. "I try to learn from Keaton and Layne. They're two pretty good linebackers. I just try to follow them. You just got to go after the ball. That's what we're out there to do. Layne didn't go out (defensively) in the second half, so I just tried to fill in and do the best I could."
After a long pass from Gabe Snyder to Mackey set up a first-and-goal, Perone powered in for another score and a 21-7 lead early in the second quarter.
West Holmes made it 28-7 at the break on a 10-play, 85-yard drive, capped off by Perone's 1-yard plunge.
Perone made it 34-7 late in the third quarter, busting loose on a 50-yard jaunt.
The Colts capped off the scoring on a 14-yard pass from South to Brandon Luers.
West Holmes held the Colts to 72 rushing yards on 34 attempts. South completed 4-of-11 passes for 105 yards and two touchdowns and an interception.
Snyder finished with 122 yards on 4-of-8 passing.
"The name of the game this week was to survive Week 10 and get on to Week 11," Maltarich said. "We took a light week as far as contact was concerned. We wanted to make sure everyone was healthy. We couldn't overlook anybody, because in this conference, the team that's ready to play on Friday night is the team that's going to win."