East Hardy football team rallies together for undefeated start following tragedy

Published: Oct. 5, 2021 at 6:36 PM EDT
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BAKER, WV. (WHSV) - The East Hardy High School football team has become a story of resilience after they were struck by tragedy. East Hardy senior wide receiver and defensive back Josh Hahn was killed in a car crash August 26, the day before his team’s first game.

“At first I didn’t think it was real, I was texting everybody trying to see if it was real and it was horrible, I was torn up for probably two weeks, and it made us get a fire under our butt,” said Damian Iman, a running back and defensive back who was a close friend of Hahn’s.

“We definitely miss him as a player but also as a person inside the locker room, he was one of those people that he’d make you laugh every single day and you miss that,” said Mason Miller, the Cougars starting quarterback and Hahn’s cousin.

Since Hahn’s passing, the team has come together for an undefeated start to their season.

“The philosophy for us right now is just using football as a way to get out some aggression, this undue aggression and energy, and it’s a way to grieve and exert some energy into something positive,” said Devon Orndorff, East Hardy’s head coach.

After Hahn’s passing, Orndorff and his coaching staff met with the team to decide if they would play their first game the following day. Once they got approval from Hahn’s parents, the team chose to play in his honor.

“Just like any other time something terrible like this happens we got through it together, we grieved together, we shared memories of Josh, it was a very somber bus ride to Glenville State to play Gilmer but we did it together and that’s how we’ve done everything this season,” said Coach Orndorff.

The Cougars defeated Gilmer County 41-20 that day, and set the tone for the rest of the season.

“It was very emotional, we came out and everybody was serious, no one was laughing the whole way and everybody knew we had to do this for Josh and get it done and that’s what we did,” said Damian Iman.

The entire team was overcome with emotion before, during and after the game.

“The hardest part was taking the field, for me it was having to reorganize the depth charts that was when it really kind of sunk in, it’s just like what do you do without him now,” said Coach Orndorff.

“It was a long, long 24 hours and after that it was like relief, you come home and the family was like ‘we’re so proud of you, good job, I don’t know how you all did that’ and then you’re like ‘well, we did it for Josh,’” said Mason Miller.

The Cougars haven’t slowed down since that game, they are now 5-0 and the games haven’t been close. The team crushed Pocahontas County 38-0 in their most recent game.

“Every game since we’ve grown a little closer, we have a little bit more fun and with more fun comes more wins so I’m really impressed with the team’s resiliency this year,” said Coach Orndorff.

Hahn was a huge Star Wars fan and the team has used that as one of the many ways they are honoring him.

“Just to help us feel a little bit like he’s still with us and so we come out to the Star Wars theme pre-game instead of Enter Sandman like we normally do but we have our posters things of that nature, we take his jersey with us everywhere we go,” said Coach Orndorff.

The team also remembers Josh for the fun-loving person that he was.

“On the field he knew what he was doing, he knew where to go, what was happening every play, but off the field he was the life of the party, not the party, but he was the life of a party in his own world somewhere,” said Mason Miller.

“The biggest way we try to honor Josh is just living the way Josh would want us to live, the way that he did, which was very freely,” said Coach Orndorff. “Josh was a goofy kid but he was very honest, he was hard working, he was dedicated, he was caring.”

The Cougars travel to Virginia to take on Bath County this Friday before returning home for a heavyweight showdown with their county rival Moorefield October 15.

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