Senior defensive end Kaleb Dave showed up at 7 a.m. Oct. 6 to watch film of the Worthington Kilbourne High School football team's 28-17 loss to Dublin Scioto in the Battle of Hard Road the previous night.
Although coach Vince Trombetti allows his players to miss Saturday practices for college visitations, Dave wanted to get in his film session before heading out to visit the University of Dayton later that day.
"Kaleb is a coach's dream and he's having a fantastic season despite our record," said Trombetti, whose team is 1-6 overall and 1-3 in the OCC-Cardinal Division entering its game at Hilliard Darby on Friday, Oct. 12. "He works his tail off during the offseason, he keeps his mouth shut unless he's keeping his teammates from pointing fingers and he plays so hard. Basically, he's very mature and does everything we ask of him."
Although Dave also sees some time on offense as a guard, it's his play on the defensive line that's drawing praise.
"He's just under 6 feet and goes about 210 or 215 (pounds), but he plays much bigger," Trombetti said. "Our defense, like most defenses, is geared for the linebackers to make plays. In order for that to happen, we ask our linemen to confront blockers. But that's just his first job.
"His second job is to attack pulling guards by wrong-arming the trapper and fighting through it. It's great when you can find someone to understand that and do that, but he gets on to job No. 3, getting in on the tackle. It's very rare to be able to do all three things and he's been phenomenal doing that. He's just special."
As important as his play, Dave values being a team leader.
"I would've liked for us to have had a better season this year and last year, too," Dave said. "But I'm still trying to finish this season strong and I haven't given up on getting some more wins. My biggest job is keeping these guys motivated and encouraging them to learn from mistakes and get better. I want to keep them focused on the next game and I have to do that as well. That's why I went to meet the coaches to watch film that early (on Oct. 6)."
Dave said he wants the younger players to better understand the team approach.
"As a freshman and sophomore, I wanted to be 'the man,' wanted to make all the tackles and big hits," he said. "But when I got to varsity and the coaches explained what they wanted me to do, I accepted that. You have to remain patient and understand why they want you to do certain things.
"I'm playing the technique they want me to play and it works and it works best for the team. If everyone did that, things would get better. I think they're starting to understand that now and we are playing better. I also want them to know that 'one game at a time' isn't just a motto. It's something you have to work at. You can't change the past; you've got to move on to the next play, the next game."
Darby is 5-2 overall and 3-1 in the OCC-Cardinal after beating Thomas 38-14 on Oct. 5 when Connor Jones rushed for 221 yards and three touchdowns and Evan Grose ran for 118 yards and a touchdown. The Panthers amassed 462 yards rushing.
Against Scioto, the Wolves had a significant advantage in both time of possession (nearly 33 minutes to 15 minutes) and first downs (21-14).
"We played a lot better, but we allowed big plays and that's been our Achilles' heel," Trombetti said. "It got us again."
Kilbourne took a 17-14 lead early in the fourth quarter on a 28-yard touchdown run by Terrique Gray, but Scioto regained the lead just 36 seconds later when quarterback Kyron Rogers threw a 48-yard touchdown pass to Kenyon Pannell. The Irish sealed the outcome with a late touchdown run.
Gray finished with 146 yards rushing on 33 carries.
"Terrique has done a great job since becoming a starter and (defensive back) Manny Herraiz also continues to play well," Trombetti said. "Our offensive line is doing a good job, but we have to be more effective in our passing game."