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Offensive player of the year: Holton Ahlers

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D.H. Conley's Holton Ahlers, offensive player of the year, poses in the studio on Dec. 19, 2017. (Molly Mathis/The Daily Reflector)

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By JORDAN ANDERS
The Daily Reflector

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Perhaps Holton Ahlers’ most outstanding moment of his senior season was tying the NCHSAA record with nine touchdown passes in D.H. Conley’s conference championship victory over South Central to close the regular season.

But when Ahlers, The Daily Reflector’s all-county offensive player of the year for the second straight season, looks back at that win, he sees it as an encapsulation of his time at Conley not because of his stellar performance, but because of the way his team buoyed his spirits in the days following the loss of a dear friend, Turner Shafer.

“The week before, my best friend passed away and it was just kind of dark in my life,” Ahlers said. “I knew that I could depend on the team to get me through that. We were playing South Central for the conference championship and all the fans showed out. It was just a special night. It was something that kind of reflected on not just that night, but my whole Conley career with everyone behind me and supporting me. I’ll forever be grateful for that.”

The nine scores Ahlers tossed that night were part of an eye-popping 61-touchdown pass campaign that also garnered him state offensive player of the year honors from the Associated Press. That total is the fourth-most passing TDs in a single season in NCHSAA history, and Ahlers threw just four interceptions against those scores (that’s roughly a 15-1 ratio, if you’re counting).

His 14 rushing touchdowns gave him a touchdown responsibility of 75, the second-highest mark in state history. He was also MVP of the Shrine Bowl all-star game.

But with his high school career behind him and his future as a college player set to begin thanks to his signing with East Carolina last week, Ahlers was introspective not just on his senior season, but his entire four-year tenure and the lasting legacy he and DHC’s other seniors leave in their wake.

“We changed the culture at Conley football for the good,” he said. “Going into every game, I think our fans and us and the coaches and everyone around believed we at least had a chance to win, and that’s something that wasn’t there before for a lot of Conley football’s history.

“We always talked about leaving our own legacy and I think we did that.”

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