The first victory of the season was a sweet thing for Ross High School’s football team, and it didn’t come easily.
The Rams had to rally from a 14-0 deficit to defeat Logan 33-21 last Friday, giving Kenyon Commins his first win as a head coach while improving their record to 1-8.
“It felt great to be out there with my teammates for the first win of the season,” said senior wingback Jacob Brewer, who scored a pair of touchdowns. “We’ve worked harder than ever this year, even though it hasn’t really showed.”
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Commins had endured four defeats by seven points or less, so he was beyond ready to taste victory.
“It broke our way for once, which was nice,” Commins said. “I was starting to feel like the ugly kid at prom that nobody wanted to dance with. It was a pretty big weight to get off my back, that’s for sure.
“Our kids are still in the process of learning how to win and getting things done, but the culture has slowly started to change. Our kids have not changed one iota from the first day of two-a-days until now in terms of how hard they work, and I think it’s finally starting to pay off.”
Ross will close the season on the road Friday night against Talawanda, a Southwest Ohio Conference rival that would love to end an unpleasant streak of its own.
The Braves are 0-9 and have been outscored 336-71 in 2017. Their last victory came against Ross in Week 10 last season.
“Human nature tells you this is one we should look at and say, ‘Boy, we feel like we’ve got a chance to win this one,’ ” Talawanda coach J.D. Vonderheide said. “This season hasn’t been easy for them either. But I give Ross a ton of credit because they’ve stuck to their guns and made a tremendous amount of improvement throughout the year.”
Vonderheide is dealing with a young team that only has eight seniors. The Braves have a considerable amount of sophomore talent that’s been tossed into the fire this year.
Quarterback Adam Crank is one of those 10th-graders and, not surprisingly, has produced some mixed results. He’s 137 of 279 for 1,312 yards and seven touchdowns with 11 interceptions.
“We’re all frustrated. We’ve left some games out there that we thought we should’ve competed better in,” Vonderheide said. “But I will say this about our kids: They have been great. I think what gets clouded in all this is the amount of improvement our kids have made. In this day and age, it’s a really, really hard thing to see when you haven’t won.”
He said his seniors deserve to go out on a winning note on Senior Night.
“They’re not a big group, they’re not a very vocal group, but they’re a very solid group,” Vonderheide said. “They’ve kind of been the rock that’s held everything together because we are super young. At times we’ve started 15 sophomores and one freshman.
“It’s really easy for the kids and the community to talk about, ‘Wow, the future looks really bright,’ but that doesn’t mean anything to those seniors. They’re staring down the barrel of their last football game. So we’ve really focused on them and trying to send them out the right way.”
Commins is expecting Talawanda to play with emotion and confidence Friday.
“If you don’t prepare for Coach Vonderheide, he’ll get you,” Commins said. “Offensively, he does a great job with formations and motions. He gives you eight million things to think about and look at. Defensively, they don’t miss tackles. No. 36 (Dalton) Norris jumps out at you. He’s all over the place.”
The triple-option offense is starting to come together for the Rams, even though they’re using their fourth quarterback of the season due to injuries.
Junior Nick Arno is the starter, while classmate Dylan Zimmerman — who began the year as the QB — has returned and is playing some wingback.
“We’ve just decided to ride it out with Nick,” Commins said. “He’s the first quarterback we’ve had this year to start three games in a row. He’s got a grasp of the offense, and it’s all starting to click up front, which is really helping.
“It always comes back to us. The opponent with us, as it’s been all year, lies within. It’s a faceless opponent. We didn’t turn the ball over once last week, and there’s no coincidence that we won the game.”
Commins said the rebuilding process would definitely be aided by finishing the campaign with a two-game winning streak, “but I also think that momentum is there regardless. Our JVs and freshmen have done a great job. I think the kids have seen and felt the improvement.”