ALBION – With a tumultuous week winding down, Monte Mawhorter finally found his solace stepping onto Cougar Field in Albion. The West Noble coach certainly missed his longtime friend and colleague, Chuck Schlemmer, who was taken off life support Wednesday night after being hit by a van while riding his bicycle last Friday.
The Chargers' 19-7 victory over host Central Noble, their fourth consecutive win in the Noble County schools' annual “Battle For The Bell”, provided some semblance of normalcy to an otherwise chaotic week, compounded by the unexpected passing of West Noble fan Dan Allard. Allard, who attended many West Noble athletic events, was killed in an automobile accident earlier this week.
Several players attended Allard's viewing Friday afternoon before traveling to Albion, including senior Brandon Pruitt, who shined for the Chargers. Pruitt, who will play for the Naval Academy next fall, iced West Noble's victory with a 35-yard touchdown run inside the final two minutes.
“I think sports brings communities together,” Pruitt said. “We knew (Schlemmer and Allard) would be in the stands. We just played to release some of that energy and it was awesome.”
Mawhorter explained after the game his squad didn't practice well throughout the week headed into the season opener.
In a fashion befitting Schlemmer's legacy, one recognized well beyond the halls of West Noble High School – not just for his cross country and track teams' success, but also as a way to honor the man, Central Noble allowed just the Charger football team to take the field prior to Friday's contest for a moment of silence.
Both the Cougars and Chargers affixed decals with the words “Schlemmer Hero” to the back of their helmets, and many West Noble players wore green instead of black under their eyes in an effort to honor Schlemmer.
“Having a green ribbon on, it's certainly all we can do,” West Noble athletic director Tom Schermerhorn said. “Ironically, (Schlemmer) always wore something West Noble. He bled red, white and blue through and through.
“Central Noble and West Noble, we are rivals on the athletic field but the people in our communities work together. It was very nice for Central Noble to (hold the moment of silence), and we've had many schools in the area that have reached out and asked if there's any way they can help.”
Mawhorter voiced his pleasure with the outcome, knowing that his friend Chuck – whose classroom stood right next to his for nearly three decades – was in attendance, even if in spirit only.
“That was part of our talk in the locker room,” Mawhorter said. “It's hard for kids to lose anybody, but to lose a teacher that's there every day, the whole school was messed up all week. I would not say we had a great week of practice, but these kids stepped up. He would have always been here for this game. He never missed this game.”