Updated Wed, Nov 27, 2013 6:13 pm
Tucked into the northeastern corner of Athens County are Trimble Twp. and the villages of Glouster, Trimble and Jacksonville. This is an area with only about 4,480 people and a high school with just 238 students. The township is small but it is one that is full of pride this Thanksgiving.
To the casual passerby, Trimble Twp. can appear to be a declining area with several empty storefronts and some ramshackle buildings lining St. Rt. 13. Driving through, it looks like a once-thriving area that time has forgotten when the coals mines closed and industry moved away.
Good news is often hard to come by and life can be tough for locals. But, this autumn the negativity has been lifted and a sense of community pride has been rekindled and burns brightly. The reason? Football.
Last Saturday, Trimble won a regional championship for the first time in school history by defeating Shadyside in come-from-behind fashion, 21-14. The Tomcats are 13-0 and will face Berlin Center Western Reserve, the champions of Region 23, on Saturday at 7 p.m. at St. Clairsville High School in the state semifinals.
After clinching the win, the Tomcat players and coaches rushed into the stands to celebrate with their fans, neighbors and alumni. It was an expression of appreciation but more than that, it was an outburst of community pride.
Pride is a common theme, not only for the team but for the people who live in this school district. When describing the season, “pride,” “family,” “unity” and “community” are words often heard – demonstrating that the Tomcat hysteria transcends the football field.
“The extent to which the school is the center of a small rural community becomes apparent with the way folks rally around student success,” said Dr. Kimberly Jones, Trimble alumna and the Superintendent of Trimble Local Schools.
“All I can say is…we're proud!” Gary Vaughn added. Vaughn is a grandparent of Konner Standley, the team’s quarterback.
Many in the school district see the team as a reflection of the family values and strength of the region.
“The Trimble football team is a great reflection of our community," said Sherry Downs, a Trimble alumna and local resident. "We band together as a tight-knit family in good times and in bad. We support each other regardless of the situation or outcome, and, we are proud to call ourselves Tomcats.”
That same sentiment is reflected by Sam Jones, owner of Sam’s Gym and a long-time leader, advocate and trainer for area youth.
“What has happened with this team this season is really exciting and there has never been anything like this before in our community…I couldn’t be happier. All of the support that I’ve seen from family, friends and the town for this team, well, it’s ignited the entire community. This is an exceptional group of young men that have truly bonded together. They are a team,” Jones said.
Part of the bonding of this team began with the first Tomcat practice in August and it has now permeated the entire community. Assistant coach Rusty Richards, while surfing the internet, came across the phrase, “Hold the Rope.” He thought the significance of the phrase was important to his team – showing how they all needed to support each other.
The phrase has stuck. The team found a section of rope, painted it red, and now carry it to each game as a symbol of their unity.
Now, the community has adopted the phrase. Alice Richards, mother of the assistant coach who introduced the phrase, said: “Hold the Rope means that the community has come together and is united.”
“This Tomcat season is one of hope,” said Sandra Vaughn, a life-long resident. “This team has shown our area what it means to "Hold The Rope." Our community steps in when others are in need, but this concept of ‘Holding The Rope’ has caught on and what it truly means to do so. This team, these young people didn’t know what an impact they were going to have in the beginning, but I really feel that this phrase will continue to grow in the sports arena, in leadership roles and hopefully in the futures of our upcoming youth.”
Not only has the Tomcat team been a beacon for Trimble Township but for the entirety of Athens County. Other parts of the county are jumping onto the Tomcat bandwagon.
“The team has never gone this far before and this entire community is behind them, in fact, it’s not just us, it’s all of Athens County. I do believe that the entire town was at the last game…that shows true Tomcat pride.” said Aaron Schoonover, employee at Ole Time Pizza in Glouster.
Even some of the team’s haircuts are being copied and noted around the region. On the weekends, the Trimble team meets in Richards' basement. Saturdays are for watching college football and Sundays are for watching films and looking at stats and reviewing the last game. A couple of players showed up one weekend with mohawks and assistant coach Dennis Orsbourne commented that thereafter they would be called the “Mohawk Mafia.” The term stuck and has grown. There have been t-shirts designed and articles written about the term.
The community has now joined the spirit. Athens County Commissioners Chris Chmiel and Charlie Adkins, according to the Athens Messenger, have pledged to have their hair cut in mohawks if Trimble wins the state title.
Other area schools, even competitors, also are supporting the Tomcats.
“We’re all so competitive in this area and some things that have truly moved me are pictures I’ve seen on Facebook; one in particular, a picture of the Athens Bulldog cheerleaders with a sign stating they support the Mohawk Mafia,” said local resident L.R. Faires.
“Other schools and our neighboring towns are supporting us and I’m so proud to be a citizen of our township. I went in to the grocery store on Sunday and through the aisles heard someone shout ‘Tomcat Pride’. Everyone is included in this and we can all be proud of this team. I’m just so happy.”
This Thanksgiving is a special time for the residents of the Trimble Local School District. For a brief moment, local issues and problems have melted away and are replaced by a sense of gratitude and pride.