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St. C.’s Bober shines as WR

WHEELING — Craig Bober reported for OVAC Rudy Mumley All-Star Game camp with the idea that he’d be playing on the defensive side of the ball.

The St. Clairsville graduate was OK with that because the opportunity to play one last prep game before heading off to West Liberty University was more important to him than any individual effort.

As the week at Bethany College progressed, however, Bober’s mindset had to change toward the offensive side of the ball, which is where he’s expected to contribute for the Hilltoppers and where he offered the greatest impact for the Red Devils.

So when Bober had his number called for a stop-and-go route with Meadowbrook’s Davis Black late in the fourth quarter with the Ohio squad trailing, 17-14, Bober was ready.

“We talked about that play at halftime as an adjustment, but we realized we may only get one shot at it,” Bober said.

The Ohio coaching staff was spot on. After using Bober significantly underneath, head coach Andrew Connor picked the perfect time to go up top.

“The series before the touchdown, the corner did a nice job of breaking on the hitch, so we knew this was our chance for that play,” Bober continued.

From there, it was just a matter of two future Mountain East Conference rivals — Black (University of Charleston) and Bober — executing.

Bober, who caught 6 passes for 84 yards in the game, sold the initial move, Black delivered the pump fake and it was a touchdown.

“When I reported to camp, I definitely didn’t see myself catching the game-winning touchdown,” Bober admitted. “Catching that (pass) and celebrating with my teammates after is something that I’ll remember forever. I was just honored to play in the game, but to catch the winning the touchdown? That’s something else.”

Though the Buckeye State had regained the lead, the defense had to stand tall once more. West Virginia drove deep into Ohio territory, but a sack from Indian Creek’s Logan Wilson on third down forced a desperation heave from Hirt, which Ohio knocked down.

From there, the celebration was on.

“We practiced really hard all week and it paid off for all of us,” Bober said. “This game and experience is something all of us will probably tell our grandkids about.”

While Bober, Black, St. Clairsville’s Brady Kolb, Shadyside’s Connor Banco, Indian Creek’s Brennon Norris highlighted the offensive side, the Ohio defense was up to the challenge even after taking some significant body blows from a talented and speedy West Virginia attack.

The game-winning scoring drive was set up after Ohio’s defense, which pressured West Virginia quarterback Wyatt Hirt all night long, forced one of its three turnovers, as Union Local’s Cal Kildow made a diving interception.

That play bailed out the Buckeye offense, which had driven to the 2-yard line a drive prior only to fumble the ball away and seemingly give all of the momentum back to West Virginia.

Other than getting back to their own beds, Bober and the majority of his teammates hated to see the week end. Though many are just 18 or 19 years old, they seemed to already grasp that the OVAC Game is more than a football game and the memories it yields will last a lifetime.

“It was an experience of a lifetime,” Bober said. “I made so many great memories in the week we were there. From the dorms to the field. I made a lot of new, really good friends who I will continue to stay in touch with.”

Many Ohio players and coaches were tweeting their thoughts into the wee hours of Sunday morning.

Kildow, who is headed to Waynesburg, tweeted, “No experience like this past week. Incredible time with great dudes. Wouldn’t have had it any other way.”

Tino Kusic, who turned in an exceptional performance on defense and special teams, tweeted, “Something I’ll always remember, greatest game I ever played. #OH”

Connor, who was coaching in the game for the first time, tweeted, “Thank you to an awesome group of kids. Coaching the Ohio All Stars was such an honor. What an effort tonight! They made Ohio, their communities and schools so proud. I am so fortunate to lead this young men!! I will never forgot this week!! Thank you from the bottom of my heart!!

While the players do the job on the field, Connor deserves more than a lion’s share of the credit. The personable head coach was focused on winning this game from the time he accepted the position and it rubbed off on his players.

As one area coach told me, “Andrew Connor was all in for that game.”

Indeed he was. Actually, all of Ohio’s roster was. And that paid off in the end.

SETH’S SCOOPS

THE THIRD quarter looked a lot like a St. Clairsville regular season game. Ohio decided to give Kolb, who was named game MVP by an online fan vote, the ball time and time again. Kolb finished with 24 carries for 102 yards and a had a 28-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.

MADONNA’S Andrea Alimario was crowned Queen of Queens. Area placers included: Bridgeport’s Mary Grendel (Miss Congeniality), Martins Ferry’s Zoei Weishans (fourth runnerup) and Shadyside’s Morgan Vannest (second runnerup).

Staskey can be reached via email at sstaskey@timesleaderonline.com or at twitter.com/TLSportsSeth

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