HOLLAND — Friday is West Ottawa High School’s first home game for the 2020 football season.
The Panther’s head coach Coah Oshnock notes; “Anyone who thinks about high school football, they think about Friday night lights.”
Logan Lewis, co-captain of the West Ottawa Panthers, tells us what sets them apart from other teams in the district this year is that they’re small: “When we took pictures, it’s 25 kids."
Small…. but mighty, as co-captain Eli Permesang says. “Chemistry, our chemistry is really tight this year,” he reflects. “We know everybody, everybody is really tight. Since we have a small team, we always hold each other accountable on things, making sure nobody messes up.”
“Is there a silver lining in having lower numbers? For the kids, a lot of guys get a lot of reps," Coach Oshnock adds. "I mean, in this program, you play to exhaustion.”
With 44 players on their roster, the Panthers work harder and play smarter because they have to.
“No one can get hurt," Lewis tells us. "It’s all of us out there, and we are a unit out there ... have to be.”
“I have to step up my game no matter what,” says Permesang. "I have to make sure I”m right here (at the top), never here (in the middle), or even right here (at his lowest), never.”
All this hard work is taking place this fall with new COVID-19 precautions. Permesang shows us that the team has clear visors on the helmets in front of the mouth.
He also shares that when they take the helmets off, for instance during half time, each player wears a neck gator.
The players say they don’t mind the new gear, as long as they get to go out and play on Fridays.
“This is the only thing I look forward to,” notes Lewis. “It’s nice seeing these kids in school, then being able to hit them in practice.”
It’s clear the team is close. As Coach Oshnock tells us, “They're comfortable with each other. They feel like they’re a band of brothers.”
“No matter how high the highs are, or how low the lows are, I’ve never heard anyone get down on someone. They’ve always stuck together, shoulder to shoulder, and really bore the burden of any successes or failures.”
Leading up to Friday’s game against Jenison High School at 7 p.m, Permesang tells us there’s really only one thing left to say: “Go WO!”
To stream West Ottawa High School’s home game against Jenison High School, click here.