A Project for Better Journalism chapter
Sports

Unsung heroes

The West Ottawa varsity football team is off to an impressive 4-1 start. Success brings plenty of media attention for the players. Everyone has heard about Sr. Isaac Van Dyke’s touchdowns, Jr. Max Voet’s amazing runs, and Soph. Blake Bosma’s incredible catches, but behind every touchdown, run, or catch, there are many additional players making plays essential to the team’s success.

 

 

Player: Brandon Walton

Game: Forest Hills Central

Position: Wide Receiver

Situation: Second quarter; West Ottawa ball on the 27th yard line; 14-14.

Game Changing Play: As the team was in the middle of a fight they had spent their summer  preparing for, Sr. Brandon Walton knew it would take more than just spotlight plays to beat this talented team. The play: “F shallow, Z stop.” Jr. Max Voet ran a route in front of the line expecting a pass while Walton ran a 10-yard route also awaiting the ball. Walton saw the pass was going to Voet, but he knew his job wasn’t done. Walton saw a defender hot on Voet’s tail, and with split second reaction time, he got an angle on the defender and delivered a crushing block. The play gained 15 yards and a key first down. Voet got the recognition he deserved from the impressive run, but it wouldn’t have been possible without Walton’s undeniable skill and knowledge of the game that went unnoticed.

 

Player: Jake Holstege

Game: Rockford  

Position: Outside Linebacker

Situation: Fourth quarter with 2 minutes left. Rockford ball on our 2 yard line, ahead 40-39.

Game Changing Play: Sr. Jake Holstege knew his ability to make the tackle could make or break the game, but in this game he had the disadvantage. A hip bruise with strains on the muscles near his hip caused him to walk and run with a limp the whole night. With two minutes left, Rockford had just scored and they were attempting a two-point conversion. If they missed, West Ottawa could win the game with only a field goal. If they succeeded, we would need a touchdown. Holstege wanted it. He lined up on the right side. As soon as the ball was snapped, Holstege dropped into pass coverage looking for an open receiver. He didn’t see one. He locked in on the quarterback, who had tucked the ball and dashed for the left pylon. Despite his injury, Holstege reacted in an instant and made the unlikely tackle just before the quarterback reached the goal line. This is another game changing play performed with heart and passion that barely received recognition.

 

Player: Marcus Saengdara

Game: Rockford

Position: Offensive Guard

Situation: Fourth quarter with 20.5 seconds left. West Ottawa down by 1. West Ottawa on the 1 yard line.

Game Changing Play: The clock was winding down, 20.5 seconds left in the fourth quarter. Sr. Marcus Saengdara, a stand out lineman, lined up across from the defense and was ready to create the path that would lead VanDyke into the endzone. With only two points until we secured a win, and only one more inch until a touchdown, everything rested on the shoulders of the lineman. The play was designed so that Van Dyke could run off of Saengdara’s shoulder and directly into the endzone. Van Dyke could carry the ball through, but only if the lineman blocked, got aggressive, and played with heart. That is exactly what Saengdara did. He exploded into the opposing lineman pushing him away from the outside, burying him beneath a pile of players, and taking out two players in one swift move leaving a wide open path for Van Dyke. Van Dyke scored. The crowd went crazy. “After we ran it in for a touchdown, most of the fans congratulated Van Dyke for the win, but it started with the line in front of him,” Saengdara said.  

 

Player: Alijah Wood

Game: Forest Hills Central

Position: Strong Safety

Situation: Overtime. West Ottawa ahead by 1. Forest Hills ball.

Game Changing Play: Double overtime. Forest Hills scored a touchdown. Down by one point, they set up for the extra point kick. The crowd held their breath. Sr. Alijah Wood lined up on the left and drove in hard to block the kick. Suddenly the the holder stood up. It was a fake; they were going for a two point conversion. After these few seconds, the winner would be determined. With reaction time the speed of light, Wood made a sharp turn and sprinted back at the holder.  Wood wrapped his arms around the waist of the holder. Just as the holder made a last ditch effort to throw the ball, Wood dragged him to the ground: West Ottawa victory. While there was a lot of media coverage on this highly anticipated game, Wood’s game winning play did not make the headlines.

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