When talking about the Kettering Alter Knights, many have failed in giving them the RESPECT they deserve. Look up the word and then judge for yourself. I'll save you the trouble by doing it for you.
To feel or show deferential regard for; esteem.
A feeling of appreciative, often deferential regard; esteem.
The state of being regarded with honor or esteem.
That last one is what caught my eye. The Alter Knights have not gotten the RESPECT they deserve. The local and statewide media has not regarded them with honor or esteem. But the players have found a way to receive all the respect they deserve. What have the Knights done to deserve RESPECT?
WON TWO STRAIGHT GCL NORTH CHAMPIONSHIPS 2002 - 2003
SINCE THE 2001 SEASON LOST ONLY 2 GCL GAMES, BOTH IN 2001
HAVE A REGULAR SEASON AND PLAYOFF RECORD OF 31 - 7 SINCE THE 2001 SEASON
Saturday night in front of over 8,000 fans at Welcome Stadium, the Knights captured that second straight GCL North title and with it much respect. With the victory the Knights also earned the top seed in Region 12 of the Division III OHSAA playoffs.
With an overcast sky for most of the day in Dayton, both teams had fans waiting and tailgating around Welcome Stadium. The rain held off until just before kickoff and while heavy at times, stopped and allowed for a great game with no excuses from either team on the night.
Coming into the game with the Chaminade-Julienne Eagles, the media and many high school fans, looked at the high power CJ offense with QB Anthony Turner, RB Javon Ringer and WR Ryan Patrick as too much for the Knights. The only problem with this was someone forgot to tell Alter Head Coach Ed Domsitz or any of the Knights players.
From the kickoff you could see the Knights were ready to play. The Eagles went to their offense and Ringer, who many consider one of the best backs in the state, took a handoff, with the gain came his second straight 2,000 yard rushing season. Turner went back to pass and saw senior Dan Reeves intercept the pass for the Knights and set up the offense.
The Knights game plan called for ball control. Running out of the wishbone for most of the night, the Knights used Zach Thuney, Chris Vermillion, John Tytko and the rest of the offensive line to open holes for the running of 6'0" 250 lb. fullback Nick Hess. Hess would rush for over 150 yards on 20 carries for the night. At the end of the 1st quarter the Knights held a 7 - 0 lead over the Eagles with more scoring to come.
The Eagles and Head Coach Jim Place didn't waste anytime in regrouping and with 9:38 in the 2nd quarter Turner hit Patrick for a touchdown to even the score at 7. Both teams traded the ball and with 13 seconds left in the quarter, the Eagles gave the Knights the ball with a bad snap on 4th down. With the ball on the 9 yard line and 8 seconds left, Knight senior QB Mike Savino hit senior WR Zach Freshwater with a crossing pattern to give the Knights their second score. The kick was no good, and at the end of the half the Knights took a 13 - 7 score into the locker room.
After the game we spoke with Zach Freshwater about the catch.
OPS: On the touchdown catch was it designed for you?
Zach: No it was designed for one of the backs, I was the third option and Mike saw me in the back of the end zone and threw me a great pass.
During warm-ups at halftime, senior Knights keep telling their teammates, 2 quarters - GCL, 2 quarters - GCL. They made sure the younger players knew they needed to give everything they had for the next two quarters.
The Knights put another score on the board with 9:16 left in the third. Senior Mike Gorman scored and the Knights looked to get the missed extra point back by going for two. Senior tight-end Travis Gaul bulled his way into the end zone and the Knights increased the lead 21 - 7. On the night, Gorman was all over the field and totaled over 160 yards for the Knights.
The Eagles wasted little time, Ringer showed his greatness with a super run. Starting down the right side, Ringer saw the lanes closing, he then darted left, then right and back left when a new lane opened, using his great speed he headed for the house and put the Eagles back into the game. The extra point was good and the score 21 - 14 for the Knights with 8:52 left in the third.
The Knights answered with a long pass play to Gorman and after a personal foul against the Knights, worked till Savino scored on a QB keep with 4:02 left in the quarter. The Eagles answered with a touchdown pass from Turner to Bonner with 46 sec. left in the 3rd and the Knights lead returned to 7 at 28 - 21.
The crowd on both sides of Welcome knew a wild fishes was ahead. The Eagles raised their helmets and four fingers at the start of the wild fourth quarter. The teams traded turnovers as the Eagles saw Turner throw an interception with 10:17 left the Knights went into ball control and looked ready to score. With 6:39 left the Knights were working on putting the Eagles away until Savino fumbled, the Eagles saw new life and with 5:35 left Turner hit Patrick in the flat and the senior worked his way into the end zone. It was the second score on the night for Patrick who also had 153 yards in receiving. It was the biggest pass on the night for Turner who only threw the ball seven time and completed five of them. The kick was good and the score even at 28 - 28 with :29 left.
The next drive will go into Knights history. Taking the kickoff and starting with 5:21 the Knights worked the field. They planed on not giving the Eagles a chance to score again. Looking to put a touchdown on the board the Knights moved the ball into the red zone, with 27 seconds left the Eagles sack Savino and the Knights rush toward the line to spike the ball. Savino takes the snap and spikes it. With 7 seconds left and fourth down with the ball on the 10, senior kicker Eric Frey came in for the biggest kick in his life. All three parts of the field goal were on. The SNAP, HOLD and KICK were good and the Knights went up 31 - 28 with three second left in the game. At that time Coach Place went into coaching overdrive. Coming onto the field and placing his hands team one by one on the field, Place looked for a play that could take the Eagles into the end zone and give the Eagles a victory. The play on the kick didn't work and the Knights rushed the field to earn their second straight GCL North title.
After the game we spoke with kicker Eric Frey:
OPS: How does it feel making the game winning kick?
Eric: It feels great!
OPS: What was going on inside your head as you prepared for the kick?
Eric: Stay focus, I took my three steps back to the left, I look at my target, I look where my plant foot goes, I set my arms, I tap my foot where I'm to strike the ball and try and relax.
OPS: Is this the biggest kick in your life?
Eric: No!, Yes!, I made a game winning kick against Columbus Independence, there was about a minute and a half left in that game and our defense held them. I have a great holder in Matt Thuney and snapper in John Tytko, they did there job perfectly and I did my job ok to get the ball through.
We also spoke more with Zach Freshwater:
OPS: Zach whats going through your mind right now?
Zach: I thought for sure they were going to come back, with Javon back there you never know. I'm just overwhelmed right now.
OPS: What are your thoughts going into a new season and the OHSAA playoffs?
Zach: Well we have to enjoy this tonight and then put it out of our minds tomorrow. We start preparing for who we have next week and be ready for them.
We also spoke with Chris Vermillion:
OPS: What's going through your mind now? Two years in a row GCL Champs.
Chris: Its great, but were thinking about the playoffs right now. This was just one of our goals on the season. While it was our first one, its not our last one. We need to enjoy this tonight, and get ready for the playoffs. We could see CJ again in a few weeks.
OPS: The offensive line really plays as a group. What can you say about the play of the line tonight?
Chris: I give all the credit to Coach King, he's been with us since we were freshman. He molded us into one, we don't care about what we get for ourselves, its about what we do as a unit. But all of us give the credit to him. All we try to do is gain yards and keep trying for the whole game.
OPS: Coming into the game the talk was ball control, is that always the plan?
Chris: That is always the plan, were a power football team and we don't pretend that were not. Sometimes we have to pass the ball, but were a power running team all the way.
The Knights earned their RESPECT on the field over the last three seasons. They have back to back GCL North titles, they have back to back #1 seeds in their region for the playoffs. Also in this time span are three straight wins over rival CJ. The next goal they want is a State Title and from the way they played on Saturday night, one may not be far away.
The Knights will open play against Graham in the first round of Division III Region 12 playoff action. The road to a championship will not be an easy one for the Knights. With teams like Valley View, Newark Licking Valley, St. Mary's Memorial, Cincinnati Wyoming, St. Paris Graham, Chaminade-Julienne and the only team to defeat the Knights in 2003, Bellbrook ahead just in this region. If you want some great football action keep an eye Division III, what may turnout to be the hardest division to win a state title in 2003.
Wish the Knights the best during the playoffs and would also like to thank Zach Freshwater, Eric Frey and Chris Vermillion for taking the time and speaking with OPS after such a great game.