By Garth Shanklin
People like remembering the firsts.
First words, first steps. First day of school. First car. Keeping track of the milestones like those are especially important in the sports world.
Teammates give silent treatments for first-ever home runs, baseballs from first hits or strikeouts are jokingly swapped out and misplaced.
Ask most players, and they’ll be able to tell you about their firsts. Teams have firsts too, and West Clermont High School reached a bunch of milestones on Friday, August 25.
The Wolves took the field for the first time in school history, and thanks to a few trick plays and a rushing game coming alive in the second half, the squad walked away with their first-ever win, rallying past Princeton High School 28-13.
“It feels awesome,” head coach Nick Ayers said. “It feels good. We have a lot to work on, back to the drawing board tomorrow.”
Neither team scored in the first quarter, though the Wolves showed a ferocious defense that flew to the football, something that would continue throughout the entire game.
Finally, Princeton broke though. Seven seconds into the second quarter, Tyrese Sherman scored from six yards out to put the Vikings ahead 6-0. An attempted two-point conversion pass was thrown out of bounds.
Later in the period, Princeton struck again. This time, Hosea Hairston kept the ball and scored on a seven-yard QB keeper. The extra point was good, putting Princeton ahead 13-0 with 3:44 remaining in the half.
West Clermont answered quickly and unconventionally. Quarterback Tyler Steinker tossed the ball to Chayse Gambrell, who launched a pass down the right sideline for Hunter Eads. Eads caught it, and outran his defender for a 57-yard touchdown. Ayers said the team had to do something different offensively to try and break out of their scoring funk.
“We had to get it going,” Ayers said. “You need stuff to kickstart you, so we did that. If we don’t do that, we’re down 13-0 and nothing happens. We have a long way to go to get better, but we’re 1-0 right now so we’ll enjoy it.”
Midway through the third, West Clermont made more history. Ayers flipped the ball to Hunter Eads, who tossed a pass to Hunter Maham for a 51-yard touchdown that, after the extra point, put West Clermont ahead 14-13.
From there, the Wolves’ run game took over. West Clermont scored twice in the fourth quarter, once on a six-yard run by Jacob Kilgore and a 17-yard run by Gambrell to put the game out of reach.
West Clermont rushed for 158 yards as a team, but no running back had more than 46. Kilgore led the way with those 46 yards and a touchdown on eight carries. Ryan Cann led the team with 13 carries but picked up just 27 yards. Gambrell tallied six carries for 38 yards and a touchdown, while Maham totaled four carries for 30 yards. Ayers said the team’s blocking was the problem in the first half.
“We didn’t execute blocking inside the tackles very well,” Ayers said. “That’s been a problem with us all offseason, and that’s just us being new with each other in the new offense. Coach Taylor has really done a good job getting kids to understand concepts in the Wing-T blocking, so it’s really getting better.”
Defensively, the Wolves dominated. The team forced two turnovers, held Princeton to just two of 13 on third down, helping give the team a large edge in time of possession.
“Our defense ran to the football like crazy, Ayers said. They did a good job.
Given all the work that went into combining the Glen Este and Amelia squads this past summer, Ayers and his staff know that the work isn’t done yet.
“It’s been an emotional time,” Ayers said. “Combining these schools, our staff and kids have worked tremendously. We have a lot to do, we have a lot of work and I’m really excited.”
Ayers added he’s a community man himself, and that he and the rest of the West Clermont appreciated the community support, which helps the team stay focused on the on-field things.
“I love it,” Ayers said. “I grew up here, I’m a Mt. Caramel kid. These people are my family, good, bad or otherwise. We just have to keep working.”
West Clermont’s next game is again a home contest. The Wolves host Winton Woods on Friday, Sept. 1, 2017. The Warriors defeated Northmont 45-36 in week one.