By Dave Morrison
OAK HILL – Oak Hill’s Ethan Thomas-Vargo never ran from the matchup. And he never ran from the outcome.
Last fall he faced both in a Sept. 20 matchup against Wyoming East.
With time running out, Thomas-Vargo drew coverage on Wyoming East receiver Jake Bishop. Not only was he giving up half a foot in height, he was giving up the all-important experience of the situation. Two year’s previous Bishop had caught a touchdown pass from the same quarterback, Seth Ross, in a last-second victory against Westside.
With Oak Hill leading 39-38, it all came down to a final snap at the Oak Hill six-yard line and the clock was rolling after a run gained next to nothing.
“Everybody thought the game was over,” Thomas-Vargo said. “The clock was running down. I was in the end zone, about 10 yards off (Bishop, who was lined up on the right side of the formation). The ball was snapped and (Ross) threw it …”
It was almost like time stopped.
“He had the height advantage, but that’s not an excuse,” Vargo-Thomas said. “I feel like I should have made a better play.”
Bishop caught the ball and Wyoming East won the game, a win that helped the Warriors advance to the postseason.
Vargo-Thomas never ran from the situation.
“I felt like I let my team down,” he said, almost a year later. “It was a bad experience. I feel like I should have done better. I think it was a learning experience at the same time.”
Vargo-Thomas earned respect by not backing down from blame. Many of his teammates have gone on record saying it wasn’t just that play that cost Oak Hill the game. Many opportunities had gotten away earlier in the game, a game in which Oak Hill was a decided underdog.
This season the Red Devils toughest competition, but if things remain status quo the rest of the week, Oak Hill is scheduled to host Mingo Central Friday night at Red Devil Stadium.
These days, Vargo-Thomas is back and will play multiple roles for the Red Devils. Along with playing defense with a little offense, Vargo-Thomas is also the Red Devils kicker. And he is a good one.
Last season he kicked 12 extra points and two field goals.
Over the summer he attended the Wilson All-American National Kicking Showcase in Indianapolis with fellow kicker Will Harmon of Shady Spring.
“There was a lot of competition,” Vargo-Thomas said. “It helped my technique a lot, and competing against people and learning from people who are better than me and following what they do is going to help me a lot.”
He said he has already extended his range on field goals. He was asked where his comfort level was this year for field goal attempts.
“Comfortable, I’d say 45 yards,” he said.
Vargo-Thomas said he does not prioritize one position over another.
“I just do whatever to help the team win and do the best I can,” he said.
Prior to the season being stalled by Covid-19, Thomas-Vargo had great expectations.
“I think we will compete and we have a chance to win a lot,” Vargo-Thomas said. “If we do everything right we should be able to compete with everyone we play against.”
He will be playing for a new coach in Dave Moneypenny, a long-time area coach (Fayetteville) who replaced Jason Blankenship, who resigned after the 2019 season ended.
“I love him,” Vargo-Thomas said. “He’s made a lot of changes. He’s helped us a lot. I feel like he will guide us the right way.”
He said he also benefits from legendary county coaches like Frank Spangler (Fayetteville) and Jim Martin (Mount Hope, Midland Trail and Oak Hill).
“There’s so much knowledge and they know so much about the game,” Vargo-Thomas said. “They help us a lot. They can teach us everything. They know everything.”
Having shown he doesn’t back down from even the stiffest competition, Vargo-Thomas said his goals are simple.
“I don’t want to make any little mistakes this year,” Vargo-Thomas said. “I just want to try and do my best, try not to miss any field goals and just be the best I can be.”