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FINDING A HOME

Ramirez embraced by EHS football family after pandemic leads to transfer

The Inter-Mountain file photo Elkins High School’s Dante Ramirez finds running room during a game against Fairmont Senior from earlier this season as teammate Noah McKenzie looks to make a block. The Tigers are slated to visit Robert C. Byrd Sunday in Class AA quarterfinal action.

ELKINS — Dante Ramirez faced a dilemma when COVID-19 postponed the fall high school football season in Virginia.

With a goal of wanting to play college football, Ramirez knew waiting until the spring — when Virginia hopes to have a season –his shot at suiting up at the next level could take a hit.

“(College) coaches needed film from me,” Ramirez said. “And with Virginia not playing in the fall, and possibly not even in the spring, I talked to my family and we decided we needed to do something.”

The decision led to transferring from Grassfield High School in Chesapeake, Virginia, to Elkins High School.

“My mom (Joy Szafraniec) is from Elkins and my grandmother and a lot of my family live in Elkins too,” Ramirez said. “So it seemed to be the right choice.”

Submitted photo Dante Ramirez is shown with his father, Enrique Ramirez, and mother, Joy Szafraniec.

The choice certainly paid off as Ramirez has been part of a special Tiger squad that not only qualified for the postseason for the first time since 2012, but captured the first-ever playoff win in school history last Friday night with a 42-27 win at top-seed Sissonville.

Ramirez admitted he didn’t know what to expect when he joined the team. Elkins already had high expectations for the season with a senior-laden squad.

“I was a little concerned,” Ramirez admitted. “I was an outsider transferring in late. I went from registering for classes at the school and then straight to the practice field. I show up to practice and your not sure what the reaction is going to be.”

But the concerns quickly turned into a warm greeting from his new teammates.

“Everyone was great and made me feel right at home,” Ramirez said. “I can’t say enough about the support I’ve had from my teammates — from the start of my first practice and all through the season.”

Ramirez said the coaching staff also has been great, with the unusual circumstances that brought him to Elkins.

“Coach (Evan) Hott is not just a great coach, but a better person,” Ramirez said. “He’s open to suggestions and I’ve really enjoyed playing for him this season.”

On the field, Ramirez has been a standout for the Tigers at multiple skill positions.

He has rushed for 551 yards and leads the team in receiving with 15 catches for 253 yards, and scored a total of 14 TDs, including a game-changing 99-yard kickoff return in last week’s win.

“I couldn’t do any of it without my teammates,” Ramirez said. “They really push me to be the best I can be.”

Defensively, Ramirez is second on the team in tackles with 77.

“I really didn’t play much defense until my junior season,” Ramirez said. “I came (to Elkins) and have played different positions. I will play wherever I’m needed to help us win.”

Ramirez’s play has caught the eye of several colleges in the state, including West Virginia Wesleyan and West Virginia State. He’s being looked at as a running back or receiver.

“It’s great to get looks at the next level,” he said. “But a goal of mine is to play at WVU, and hopefully get an opportunity as a walk-on.”

But Ramirez and his teammates aren’t quite finished this season as a Class AA quarterfinal matchup at Robert C. Byrd on Sunday afternoon awaits, depending on Randolph County moving from orange in Saturday’s DHHR color-coded map.

“We want to keep going and we’ve worked very hard as a team to get to this point,” Ramirez said. “This season has been fun for me and hopefully it will continue.”

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