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Holmes breaks school record

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    Northwestern’s Justin Holmes caught eight passes for a school-record 217 yards in the Tigers’ win over Wilson on Saturday. Holmes also finished with three touchdowns. That performance earned him the Times News Player of the Week. For a video, visit NANCY SCHOLZ/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS

Published September 19. 2019 01:19PM


Justin Holmes made three varsity sports rosters as a freshman.

He came into his sophomore season looking to step up on the varsity football team after being moved to a wide receiver position where the team thought his 6-2 frame would play well.

The thought was that he would join junior Justin Rodda and senior Paul Huff to give quarterback Deven Bollinger a variety of targets.

In summer practice, Holmes and Rodda both went down with injuries, leaving the deep group of receivers thinner than head coach Josh Snyder expected. Rodda didn’t practice much coming into the season opener, but caught four passes from Bollinger. Holmes’ quad injury sidelined him for the first couple of weeks and in Week 3, he was used sparingly, pulling in two passes for 21 yards.

“We wanted to take it a little slow with him, give him some playing time and let him sort of fit into the offense,” said Snyder. “We knew his workload was going to increase, but we didn’t quite foresee him doing as much as he did against Wilson.”

What he did against Wilson in Week 4 was set a school record for receiving yards in a game. The old record of 184 yards was held by Trevor Cunningham, and Holmes eclipsed that with 217 yards receiving on eight catches for three touchdowns.

“I took what I could from the time on the sidelines and got as many mental reps as I could,” said Holmes of dealing with the early injury. “It was pretty much getting back to the offense, and Deven and the rest of the offense really was a big part of the game last week. The running game opened things up and their corners became a little indecisive, and I was able to beat them on a couple of plays.”

In other words, the Northwestern weekly game plan – run first and open up the passing lanes – worked perfectly, and Holmes took advantage of the situation. Not a bad outing for a guy just adjusting to playing wide receiver.

“He’s just so athletic,” said Snyder. “I really think playing right field with the baseball team last spring helped his confidence. When you can start in a sport like that as a freshman, it says something about your ability. We saw his size and the fact that he has good hands and would be able to make plays for us, and it made sense to move him out there.”

In addition to football and baseball, Holmes also made the varsity basketball team as a freshman. While he’s done well at all three sports, he admits that football has always been his first love.

With the Tigers off to a strong 3-1 start, having Holmes as another option for Bollinger gives the team the depth that they were hoping to have coming into the season. The injury that sidelined Holmes early this season is healed, and he’s prepared to play whatever role the team needs him to fill both offensively and defensively.

“I’m just trying to do what I can as part of the team on both sides of the ball,” said Holmes. “We have a good team and have the potential to go really far this season, and I just want to do what I can to help us do that.

“One of the strengths of our team is that Deven really spreads the ball around, and we also have a good running game, so we can beat teams a lot of ways. Our defense has had a few miscues, but we’re working to eliminate any mistakes, and we’ll be stronger as the season goes along.”


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