Ever since the beginning of the season, summer practices and two-a-days, Nelsonville-York head coach Rusty Richards has stepped out of meetings at the school and seen quarterback Drew Carter and wide receiver Ethan Gail working on routes at Boston Field.
The extra work after practices led to three touchdowns between the duo in the Buckeyes’ (5-2, 4-1 TVC-Ohio) 41-6 playoff win over Symmes Valley (5-3) on Saturday night.
“These two were out here a couple of days a week on their own,” Richards, who was met with a Gatorade shower after the clock ran out, said. “At six or seven o’clock at night all summer. Even after two-a-days, even when we were 0-2 these guys were over here staying.”
Carter found Gail on the Buckeyes’ first offensive play of the game. Gail took it up the sideline and to the end zone for a 68-yard touchdown. The senior scored once again in the second quarter when Carter lofted a ball over the top for a 66-yard touchdown that extended the lead to 21.
The relationship between the junior quarterback and his senior receiver has grown through the season and is a big reason why Nelsonville-York is headed to the third round of the playoffs with a five-game win streak.
“It definitely helped us start out and get that chemistry going knowing exactly where to put the ball,” Gail said. “Me knowing exactly how to run our routes, that was huge. Now it’s just transitioned into games and it’s only gotten bigger because I can see the trust Drew has in me.”
Carter threw to his top receiver six times, and three went for touchdowns, as he torched the defense for his best game of the season with 216 yards on 8-of-15 passing with four touchdowns.
The final touchdown came on a quick pass to Gail, who broke a tackle and took in a 31-yard touchdown to finish off any hopes of a comeback from the Vikings.
If not for an untimely drop, Gail would have had four touchdowns. While he may have blown up the stat sheet with his 165-yard performance, it still wasn’t up to his standards.
“It was probably my best game by stats, but not by my standards,” Gail said. “I dropped a couple of passes, but stat-wise it probably looked really good.”
Gail’s opportunities have grown as the season has progressed.
In week two, Nelsonville-York’s main ball carrier, Brandon Phillips, was injured for the remaining season. Gail was ready to step up and as his quarterback has improved through the season, he’s made several big plays for the offense.
“I was just ready to be the guy this year, I was ready to take over,” Gail said. “And I hope I’m doing well.”
The senior has been huge for the Buckeyes this season. He even snatched an interception in the regular season finale against Athens.
Gail is a part of a stingy Nelsonville-York defense that has only allowed 19 points in the last three games.
The senior likely played his last game at Boston Field on Saturday, as the Buckeyes move on to face Fairland next week in Proctorville. He will be part of a family legacy that has been left on that field.
“My dad and all my family have played here,” Gail said. “It’s something that I’m glad to wear on the jersey, I’m glad to rep the colors. I’m so happy that I’m here and that everybody supports me. Everybody in the stands is here, and they get very loud even though we have a smaller crowd. It’s something that’s unlike anything else.”
Saturday’s win was just the third playoff game ever won at Boston Field, the most recent being the Buckeyes’ last playoff win in 2017, Richards said. Nelsonville-York will have to win on someone else’s field next week if it wants to keep its season alive.
“We made it to the playoffs. Cool. Now we have to win it,” Gail said. “We have to look to next week now. Next week’s a big game against Fairland, they’re a very good team, very fundamental. We just need to play our game.”