By Garth Shanklin
Clermont County football players took to the gridiron one last time on Thursday, June 7 at Kings High School in the Ron Woyan East/West All-Star Game at Kings High School.
The county was well represented, with seven locals on the East squad, including Bethel-Tate’s Seth Becker and Owen Holtke, Batavia’s Will Scaggs, New Richmond’s Chandler Kinhalt, Goshen’s Andrew Arnold, Clermont Northeastern’s Joey Groeber, and Milford’s Blake King.
Three of those six players threw a touchdown pass, with Kinhalt recording a touchdown on a circus catch in the first half of what would become a 34-19 East win.
Early on, it didn’t seem like things would go the East’s way. The West took a 3-0 lead on a field goal, then scored again on a 45-yard touchdown run to take a 9-0 lead. The extra point was blocked.
The East got on the board in the first quarter thanks to Milford’s King, who threw a three-yard touchdown pass to Loveland’s Nate Webster III to cut the lead to 9-7 at the end of the first quarter.
In the second period, the West struck first again, scoring on a 34-yard pass to go on top 16-7.
Kinhalt made his circus catch in the second quarter, leaping and snagging a pass from Becker for a 15-yard score. The East trailed 16-14 at halftime.
The West started the second half with a field goal for a 19-14 lead, but the East dominated from there. Tyrese Sherman from Princeton broke off a 52-yard run, with Batavia’s Scaggs adding his second extra point of the game for a 21-19 East lead.
The game stayed close until 6:24 remained in the fourth quarter. Holtke lined up at running back, but threw a 44-yard touchdown pass to Anderson’s Austin Watt, putting the East up by eight. They would add another touchdown late in the quarter, with Fayetteville’s Luke Wiederhold connecting on a 13-yard pass to Princeton’s Rafael Floyd to put the game away.
Bethel-Tate head coach Jeff Essig coached the East squad, and said the trick play he called was made possible because of Holtke’s prior experience as a quarterback and the coverage on the play.
“In that game, it’s set up for offense,” Essig said. “When you have man coverage, you can do some tricks. You feel safer in a certain place, and with that play we kind of knew that if we could get the corner to bite on the run and come up that we would have Watt open. When [Holtke] was younger he actually played a little quarterback, so we always felt confident with him being able to throw the football under pressure. The defensive end kind of stopped a bit and the corner came up and Watt was back there for a pretty grab, and he did the rest with the run. It was fun.”
Becker finished the game with four completions in seven attempts for 76 yards and a score. King completed seven of his 16 attempts for 53 yards, with Wiederhold connecting on five of nine attempts for 42 yards. King attempted more passes than any other quarterback due to an injury by Becker, but Essig said the former Tiger was removed for precautionary reasons.
“He came off complaining about his vision, so we just wanted to be safe,” Essig said. “He played pretty well he was in there. I don’t know if he took a hit or what happened, but we wanted to make sure he was safe so the training staff got him out of there.”
Sherman led the East in rushing with 66 yards on four carries. Becker tallied 34 yards on six attempts, King 29 yards on eight tries, and Holtke added five rushes for 16 yards. The East had issues with blocking in the first half, with King especially forced to scramble early on in the game.
“We had some defensive lineman and offensive lineman out kind of late in the process, so some of our lineman had to go both ways,” Essig said. “Once they understood what was going on, they were able to trust one another and that’s where we started to have our success.”
That trust, according to Essig, was something the team worked on creating up until the start of the game.
“We built that trust during practice, but our practice was kind of up-and-down with attendance and things like that,” Essig said. “We went into halftime and made a couple adjustments, talked to some of the kids. They started trusting what was going on and we were able to execute some things.”
The game also gave Essig the chance to coach Becker and Holtke one more time, and he was very complimentary about both players.
“That was fantastic,” Essig said. “For both of them to throw touchdown passes speaks about what we’re trying to do with our program at Bethel-Tate, having kids enjoying things and doing different things. It was a great game for [Holtke] especially, that will be the last time he ever plays football and to give him a memory like that was a great experience. Being able to coach both of those guys, they were both captains of the team and great representatives for our team.”
In terms of his overall experience coaching the team, Essig said that, while it took a lot of work, watching the SBAAC compete with bigger schools in the area and seeing his players building relationships with other players was worth it.
“I would say that it was a lot of work but it’s rewarding,” Essig said. “It’s great to not only be able to come and play in the game, but coaching other kids from the league that you got to coach against and meet them and be able to spend the day with some of those guys. To be able to have the other guys from our small league compete with the guys from his bigger schools and to see the camaraderie the kids have with each other that was one of the many benefits and why in the game we were able to outscore then with 20-3 in the second half. Our kids came together in practice and really bonded.”
With the win, the East continues to dominate the West. The East has won the last four games and 11 of 12 since 2007. The last West victory came in 2014 by a 63-43 count. Glen Este wide receiver Tyler Flanigan recorded eight catches for 168 yards and three touchdowns in that game.
For more photos from the game, check out The Clermont Sun’s Facebook page.