The No. 40 ranked cornerback put forth his best efforts in the Division II title game, but the Lancers were just too strong for the Knights.
Offensively, Ward was Nordonia’s biggest threat throughout the game and La Salle did everything it could to keep the ball out of his hands.
He had a promising first quarter with two catches for 62 yards and three rushes for 17 yards, but the Knights could not find the end zone. Some big plays by Ward got Nordonia down in the red zone twice, but both drives resulted in field goals.
“I think we just came out slow,” Ward said afterwards. “We just need that motor just to keep working. Just real disappointed with the outcome.”
On the Knights’ first scoring drive, they went to Ward immediately as he went right down the seam for a 40-yard catch to the La Salle 42. The next drive saw him get involved in the running game as he took sweeps for 11 and 5 yards before the offense stalled again.
The Lancers shut him down after that, though, as he would only catch two more passes for 27 yards and take just one more carry for 3 yards.
On special teams La Salle would not give him a chance to make a play in the return game. All but one kickoff by the Lancers was directed away from him even though it gave the Knights good field position on several occasions.
On the defensive side of the ball, Ward did not have much of an opportunity to show off his cover skills as the Lancers only attempted five passes.
“It’s not really frustrating because I just got to do my job and trust my teammates that they’re going to do their job,” Ward said of the lack of passing attack from the Lancers. “So it’s not really frustrating, we just got to finish.”
He did play well in space, though.
La Salle’s tandem of Jeremy Larkin and Jarell White often found themselves in the defensive backfield and Ward was very involved in stopping the run game. He finished with six total tackles, including five solo stops. He did however have a bad attempt at an arm tackle on Larkin. Ward was one of the last lines of defense but couldn’t bring Larkin down on a play that ended up being a 45-yard touchdown run.
Despite the unfavorable outcome, Ward was extremely excited to be playing on his future field for the biggest game of his life.
“I was definitely excited coming in knowing that this was going to be my future field,” Ward said on his opportunity to play in the Horseshoe. “But I was just focusing on playing with my teammates as a Nordonia Knight. When the time comes and (I’m) playing at Ohio State then I’ll enjoy it then even more.”
With his season now over, the time will come faster than he thinks. He said afterwards that he has been in contact with cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs about where he will be lining up on the field for next year with the Buckeyes. He mentioned that special teams is what he is looking at for next season, specifically returning kicks.
While he leaves his first game in Ohio Stadium a bad taste in his mouth, there will plenty more opportunities in the coming years for him to savor victory as he leaves the stadium.