After a sluggish first half where the Knights were their own worst enemy, West Holmes got back to basics in the second half and turned a 7-7 tie into a 35-7 romp over the Indian Creek Redskins in Div. III playoff football action Saturday at Knights Stadium.
"When you get to this point, you cannot turn the ball over," West Holmes coach Kevin Maltarich said. "Teams are too good and they're going to take advantage of it. We preached it all week to our kids. Maybe we preached it too much. One thing that doesn't get enough credit is our defense. It plays really, really well, and tonight we were able to overcome turnovers because of our defense.
"The biggest key in the
second half was, we hit them harder than they hit us," the coach continued. "In the first half, that wasn't the case. We came out in the second half and went back to basics. We played our basic fundamental defense. Our kids are comfortable in that, and we were able to pull that out."
The West Holmes defense allowed only two second-half first downs by the Redskins, amplifying what the coach said.
"I give credit to our coaches. They said read your keys and go, go, go," said defensive lineman Andrew Rose. "We went in there, read our keys and did our jobs. We are one unit and we work together and it pays off. As long as we're all on the same page, things get done. We just hit them hard."
Indian Creek (9-2) took advantage of a Gabe Snyder fumble to score the first touchdown of the game.
Alex Young hit Corey Goodrich on a 31-yard scoring strike with 6:38 remaining in the first quarter. Young tacked on the conversion kick, and the Redskins led 7-0.
After an exchange of punts, the Knights took advantage of a short field, setting up shop at the Redskins' 37. From there, it took two plays, the second a 29-yard scoring jaunt by Layne Perone. Logan Gallion kicked the first of five PATs and the game was tied at 7-7 with 2:11 remaining in the first period.
Indian Creek rolled the dice late in the first half, going for it on fourth-and-inches deep in their own territory. They made the first down but the drive eventually stalled and the Redskins were forced to punt.
The first half ended with the game deadlocked at seven.
"We made a couple adjustments at halftime, but the biggest adjustments came from the kids within their ears," Maltarich said. "They decided at halftime, they were going to go out and get it done. It was a matter of just going out and doing it."
And the Knights got it done.
After a three-plays and punt drive to open the second half by the visitors, West Holmes struck quickly taking advantage of Indian Creek's pursuit to the ball.
Snyder faked a handoff to his left and ran a bootleg around the right end for a 61-yard scoring scamper and a 14-7 lead.
"I just tucked it up and ran," Snyder said.
"That changed the whole complexion of the game," Maltarich said. "We were watching that in the first half. It was just a matter of time before we were going to run it. And when we ran it, Gabe ran it perfectly."
The West Holmes defense forced another punt, and this time the offense marched 73 yards in six plays, the key play being a 35-yard pass from Snyder to Brady Arnold, who utilized his hoops skills and rebounded a tipped ball for a big gainer deep into Indian Creek territory. From there, Garrett Mackey went to work, busting loose up the middle for an 8-yard scoring run and a 21-7 lead with 4:05 remaining in the third quarter.
"Our kids don't get rattled. They've been through this before and know what to expect," Maltarich said. "We knew they were going to come out hitting. That was a pretty good football team. We knew we were getting their best shot and it was just a matter of weathering the storm and going out and executing."
Following another three-and-out, the Knights needed eight plays to find pay dirt again, this time on a 30-yard scoring pass from Snyder to Arnold.
"We really stepped it up on defense tonight," Grant Hay said. "The defense played well all night. We weren't getting our offense going, and once we did, everything started working for us."
"I just have to stay physical. Everyone was making plays on defense," Snyder said. "Read keys and react. That's it."
The Knights capped off the scoring after taking over on downs by marching 54 yards in 11 plays with Perone going the final 6 for six. The record-setting junior finished with 196 yards on 24 carries to lead the West Holmes attack.
"The reason we've been successful is we have a great offensive line and we've got great running backs that can pound it up in there," Maltarich said. "That's our bread and butter and these kids just were not going to be denied."
The Knights gained 299 yards on the ground while allowing only 71.
The win advances West Holmes (10-1) to the next round of the playoffs this Saturday against Steubenville.