When a person wants something in life, they will do whatever it takes to attain what they are after.
For Wheelersburg junior quarterback Trent Salyers, a state championship was what was desired.
It didn’t matter what it took, Trent and his team were not going to be denied. Regardless of what happened, Wheelersburg knew what they wanted and there was nothing their opponents could do to stop them.
Not even a broken right fibula would keep Salyers from taking home the state championship trophy.
“The injury happened with like 4:13 to go in the third quarter,” Salyers said. “But then in the fourth quarter, I threw a throw across the field off my back leg like 20 yards down the field to Bryson Keeney, and that’s the first time I put all my pressure on it. That’s when I knew it was a bad injury and not just a little tweak.”
Still, Salyers refused to leave the game.
“Trent never for one second thought about coming out of the game,” Wheelersburg head coach Rob Woodward said. “I could tell in his mind he was evaluating “Ok, what can I do? Am I going to hurt this team? Am I going to be able to still be effective with this?” and he displayed full confidence in us that he was good to disperse the ball where he needed to.”
“He didn’t bat an eye when it came time. He had been evaluated by our trainer, our trainer didn’t know definitively what exactly things were and felt that he could go back out, so we went with that.”
Woodward noticed the limp in Salyers’ step shortly after he was hurt, but the junior had his heart set on finishing the game on the field.
“I was committed to it all along,” Salyers said. “The first time I hobbled off the field, Coach Woodward looked at me and said “Is it bad, is it alright?” and I said it’s bad, but I’m not coming out of this game.”
“My guys meant more to me than just a little injury, so I had to go out there and push through and get the victory with my teammates.”
Salyers even said he had no thoughts about checking out of the game.
“It didn’t cross my mind,” Salyers said. “I was thinking more about what I needed to do the next play than the pain in my right leg. I kind of ignored that and put it to the side and was more focused on getting that trophy.”
His teammates admired his grit, but they didn’t know until a day after the game the severity of the injury.
“He’s a fighter, he’s crazy,” junior Avery Donini said. “Honestly, he played it off so well I thought it was just a little rolled ankle, but I saw on the videos that it landed on him wrong.”
“It’s honestly crazy that he played throughout that, I don’t know how someone could do it.”
Salyers embraced the role of a fighter late in the fourth quarter when his team fell behind 14-7 with 1:50 remaining after Eastwood ran for a touchdown.
Before the quarterback headed out on the field, he received some vital feedback from his coaches on the sideline.
“They just said to stay calm and take what they give you, and to do what you’ve done all year,” Salyers said. “So, I just kind of took that to heart, and I’m going to do what I’ve done all year and be me and be relaxed and get the open guy.”
“Thank the Lord that I hit some special throws out there and I was clutch when it happened, and I was calm, cool, and collected and made it happen when I needed to.”
As you may have guessed, the comeback was not short on drama. In fact, you probably couldn’t script it any better if you tried.
After two plays netted only a yard to start the drive, Salyers was looking at third down and a long nine to pick up a first down. He was running out of chances, and needed a big play.
Salyers would get just that on an 18-yard completion to senior Bryson Keeney on the sidelines to move the chains for a first down.
“I was a little scared because I was running out of opportunities … I hit Bryson on the sideline on that 3rd and 9, and that’s kind of when the rhythm started,” Salyers said. “I got in a rhythm and I felt pretty confident after that moment.”
Keeney knew his signal caller was not going to be stopped on the series.
“He’s got to be one of the toughest kids I’ve ever met,” Keeney said. “Not a lot of people can come out here and play on a broken leg, I mean you’ll see people cramping and being out for a whole quarter because of cramps.”
“It’s actually his right foot, so when he throws the ball he would have to throw off his right foot. It’s got to take a lot of toughness to play through that.”
After the completion to Keeney, Salyers would find senior Cole Lowery for a 31 yard gain all the way to the Eastwood 25-yard line.
Following the throw to Lowery, Salyers kept the hot hand going on a 13-yard pass to junior Tanner Holden. Then, Salyers hit Makya Matthews underneath for a 12-yard touchdown with just 17 seconds left. The extra point tied the score, and sent the game into overtime.
“We called angle protection, which meant Makya was going to slip up through the middle,” Salyers said. “As soon as I caught the ball and dropped back, they blitzed a linebacker and another flew out, so I knew he would be wide open in the middle of the field if I gave him time.”
“I dropped back about five steps and just tossed it over the middle and he was wide open and got in the end zone thankfully.”
In overtime, Wheelersburg got the ball first on offense. Faced with a 4th down and 1 from the 11-yard line, senior Xander Carmichael found Holden wide open on a jump pass to take the lead.
The Pirates just needed a defensive stop to win a state title, and they would get just that. Senior Alex George made a hit, and Donini swept in to force a fumble. Lowery recovered, and Wheelersburg was victorious, 21-14.
“As soon as that fumble was recovered by Cole I just dropped to my knees and bawled crying, because all that hard work and all that emotion built up to that,” Salyers said. “I could just let it out because I knew that we had that success. It was a special night to everybody in this community and everybody in the county really.”
Surprisingly, Salyers said he didn’t really feel the pain in the last minutes of the game.
“I felt it barely,” Salyers said. “The fourth quarter when I came in there and we had the game-tying drive, the adrenaline was rushing so fast that I didn’t feel much pain.”
“On the way home on the bus I felt a lot of pain, and I had ice on it. I wasn’t worried about the pain, I was worried about celebrating with my teammates and our community.”
Throughout the season and his career, Salyers has shown continued toughness and a will to win. His heart, along with the pride and passion of his fellow Pirates, no doubt led them to winning it all.
Salyers hopes that the heart his Wheelersburg team played with this season will be remembered in the years to come.
“The heart that we had this year, I want that to be remembered the most,” Salyers said. “Almost every playoff game we got behind going in to the second half, and then we bounced back and kept a high head.”
“We played with our hearts, and that’s more important than the physical talent that you have out there. When we played with heart, we got the job done. That’s what I want people to most remember our team for.”
For Woodward, he knows his team is full of kids who never give up at anything they pursue in life.
“Some people wonder if we have tough men these days,” Woodward said. “By golly, the Wheelersburg Pirates do, and Trent’s one of them for sure.”