Friday, October 08, 1999

Holmes rises from 1-9 to 6-0

Enquirer contributor

        In August, Holmes football coach John Vander Meer thought his team could rebound from 1998's 1-9 record.

        Senior running back Eddie Bane was hoping for just a single home win.

        After six games in '99, Vander Meer, Bane and the rest of the Bulldogs have their answer. Entering tonight's Class AAA district game at Dixie Heights, Holmes joins Newport and Bellevue as the only Northern Kentucky teams at 6-0.

        “Last year there wasn't any motivation to play,” sophomore linebacker James Jackson said. “I think the motivation started in (summer) two-a-days. (Players) looked like they wanted to play.”

        The offense has scored 228 points and averaged 387.6 yards per game; and the 69 points the defense has surrendered is the fourth-fewest in Northern Kentucky.

        “It started last year, when our kids made the commitment to lifting weights,” he said.

        Holmes certainly had a lot of 1998 baggage to unload: an overtime loss to Lawrence County to open the year; falling to Dixie Heights in the last two minutes of regulation and Simon Kenton in double overtime; leading Covington Catholic and Ryle in the fourth quarter before folding.

        “It wasn't a good year, but we weren't getting beat 40-0 (every week),” Vander Meer said.

        Said Bane: “Honestly, I felt like crying after every game. We didn't bag nothing. We had faith in ourselves.”

        The faith has been rewarded in '99: Bane has 789 yards rushing, six touchdowns and a 9.9-yard average per carry; senior quarterback Brian Ferguson is 40-of-67 for 723 yards and 12 touchdowns and senior receiver Jerry Weaver has 19 catches for 444 yards and nine TDs.

        Ferguson perhaps had the most to prove this year. He fell behind in '98 because he had to take summer school classes to remain eligible and was out of shape when he finally joined the team, Vander Meer said.

        This year is much different. Ferguson lost 15 pounds, improved his grades enough to spend the entire summer with the team and learned to throw with his whole body instead of just his arms and shoulders.

        “I always cared about football,” Ferguson said. “This year, it matters most. I grew up a lot. I matured. It took a long time, but I finally did it.”

        Said Weaver: “I think he wants our team to win more than he did last year. He wants to be more of a leader.”

        Ferguson's emergence came at a time Vander Meer planned more passing for the offense. Senior Marco Hallman has 11 catches for 121 yards and junior Brandon McClendon has eight for 139.

        “We have so much speed,” Vander Meer said. “We wanted to take advantage of the speed that we have.”

        As productive as the offense has been, Vander Meer said the improvement on defense has been as rewarding. Weaver and junior defensive back Antwan Curry have three interceptions apiece; juniors Simar Rice and Jeff Young each have two and Weaver, Rice and junior Nick Frazier each have two fumble recoveries.

        “Last year we were the worst defense in Northern Kentucky,” Vander Meer said. “Our defensive staff and our kids have made commitments to getting better.”

        Holmes' toughest tests are ahead. After Dixie, the Bulldogs host CovCath next Friday, travel to Highlands in two weeks and finish at home against Scott on Oct. 29.


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