Trimble takes the field and plants their skull-pole
Trimble takes the field and plants the Hit Stick

Tomcat Traditions: Passed-Down Props Strengthen Trimble Brotherhood

Posted on:

< < Back to

The Trimble Tomcats have been a very good team for a very long time. They have compiled a 44-12-1 record over the last five years, including a 4-0 start this season. How does a team consistently dominate like the Tomcats do?

They are certainly not short on talent. They have the division’s reigning Defensive Player of the Year in linebacker Sawyer Koons. A former Gridiron Glory Player of the Year candidate in running back Conner Wright.

But they have something else as well, and that is a collection of unique traditions that you will struggle to find anywhere else.  Many in the community and beyond are familiar with the tradition of the “Mohawk Mafia,” where all the players don identical red mohawks. That tradition, started in 2013 and continuing today as Jacob Koons (a player on the 2013 team that made it to the state championship game, and now an assistant coach) and Sawyer Koons cut the hair themselves, is but one of many traditions that the Tomcats have taken up.

Trimble, like many schools, breaks through a banner during their entrance onto the playing field. But during their entrance, they also carry with them a red and black totem-like pole with a skull adorning the top. It is called the Hit Stick. And it’s been around for longer than head coach Phil Faires can remember.

“Oh boy, that thing, I can’t tell you when that started,” Faires said. “We’ve had that forever.”

Its origins may be a mystery, but its purpose through the years is anything but. The Hit Stick is a ceremonial reward, an incentive for something the Trimble Tomcats appreciate: hard-nosed football.

“The Hit Stick is basically; whoever gets the hardest hit during that game gets to carry it out the next game and break through the banner, stick it in the ground,” senior Ian Joyce said. “It basically marks that field as our territory, once that stick goes into the ground.”

In Trimble’s most recent game against the South Gallia Rebels, the honor of carrying out the Hit Stick belonged to sophomore Bryce Downs. Deciding who it goes to every week is a responsibility not of the coaches, but of the players.

“The Hit Stick is usually just voted on by the team,” Joyce said. “And then the person who had the Hit Stick last passes it on.”

“They decide whether they agree or not,” Sawyer Koons adds.

“The coaches don’t have a say in the Hit Stick,” Koons said. “I mean, they know what it’s all about and stuff, but the players pass it on and keep the tradition alive.”

It is one of the most impressive things about the traditions surrounding the team, the effortless preservation; the maintenance that comes from generations of players, without coaches having to step in to ensure its continuation.

And there is still more.

Trimble High Schools Cameron Kittle (12) runs for a touchdown during a game between Trimble and South Gallia High School on Sept. 20, 2019, in Glouster, Ohio. Kittle is the current holder of the Rope.(Charles Hatcher/ WOUB)
Trimble Linebacker Sawyer Koons stands with the Hit Stick and a young fan after a game
Trimble head coach Phil Faires watches on during practice before the Tomcats game against the South Gallia Rebels. Photo: Nick Henthorn
The Tomcats put themselves on each others shoulders before their game against the NY Buckeyes. Photo: Jackson Baehr

After Trimble’s season opener, a 35-0 win against the Nelsonville-York Buckeyes, senior quarterback Cameron Kittle was at midfield answering questions from Gridiron Glory reporters when a young boy ran up to him with a length of thick rope, roughly a foot long, old and frayed at the ends.

“Cam, they’re giving you the rope,” he said.

Kittle accepted, put it around his shoulders, and continued answering questions.

It was the latest chapter of a tradition that also started with the 2013 team.

”The Rope kind of defines brotherhood,” Koons said. “If you were hanging off the end of the cliff and you had a rope to hang onto and someone on the other end of the rope, who would you want holding the rope? It shows that we’d want one of our brothers on the other end of the rope, holding us up.”

It is a symbolic item, and not one exclusive to the Tomcats. Some high school and college programs such as West Virginia and Clemson have adopted the slogan “Hold the Rope,” but Trimble has introduced a unique take on the tradition by passing down a physical version of what is for other teams, only a hypothetical thing.

“Konner Standley had it in the 2013 season, and he handed it down to the next generation,” Koons said. “And now it’s handed down to Cameron (Kittle), Cameron carries it out and Cameron will hand it down when we’re gone.”

Awards like the Hit Stick and the Rope, given from player to player, on a weekly basis or a generational one, serve to solidify the brotherhood the Tomcats have built, and help the team on the field.

“Those things, they definitely bring us together as a team,” Joyce said.

This year, Trimble will probably once again be a great team. They have been for years. And all the while, as amazing players have come and gone, the traditions created and kept by the Tomcats have lived on.