He had bid adieu one year earlier.
And then, as if it were magic, he unexpectedly returned.
His name is Keith Boedicker, a man who decided to give the Knights a second try after a one-year hiatus.
Boedicker, who spent six years as the head football coach at Nordonia High School, came back to South Bedford Road after spending the previous season as the gridiron commander at Stow-Munroe Falls.
Let’s just say World War II general Douglas McArthur would have been proud. That’s because Boedicker returned to reconquer a land ruled by well, quite a few schools surrounding Northeast Ohio.
It was 2002 when Boedicker made his way back to the old William Boliantz Stadium, a somewhat decrepit old fossil that was later rebuilt into a majestic sports tabernacle some eight years later.
The prospects didn’t look too promising, though. The same Nordonia squad that Boedicker led to the playoffs for the first time in 11 years finished a head-scratching 3-7 in 2001.
However, as many longtime green and white fans fondly recall, something unexplainable happened the following season at a place in a rather quiet neighborhood located not far from Route 8.
Nearly 18 years later, those same people still might struggle to connect the dots. That includes yours truly.
For those who do not remember this four-month period of endless divine intervention, the Knights experienced a season that seemed unthinkable when two-a-days began.
Just how mind-boggling was this scintillating fairy tale?
The odds-defying Knights finished 13-2 and reached the Division II state championship game.
I covered Nordonia extensively during that indelible autumn. I made a number of trips to Macedonia and on the rare occasions when I didn’t see the Knights in person, I normally made Sunday-evening appointments to chat with Boedicker about the team.
The man affectionately known as "Coach Bo" wasn’t exactly the shy, sensitive type. He was confident to a point where he seemed a bit brash at times and could be very outspoken.
In other words, my type of guy.
I’ll never forget Nordonia’s 2002 season opener. The Knights took the field against Brecksville-Broadview Heights, which is now one of their rivals in the Suburban League National Conference.
Thunderstorms lurked in the area that night and since Boliantz Stadium didn’t feature a retractable roof, Boedicker’s much-anticipated return was on the verge of being delayed another day.
If I’m not mistaken, we were told to abandon the stadium at halftime due to the plethora of lightning bolts. At that point, I began to wonder if I needed to make plans for Saturday morning. That’s because I was convinced the second half would not be completed that evening.
We waited … and waited … and waited.
When the storm calmed down, I made my way over to the Knights’ locker room, hoping to get some information on what time the game would resume the next day.
Instead, I heard a still fired-up Boedicker shout this unthinkable remark to his players as I waited outside.
"We’ll go all night if we have to!"
Yep, if you had any plans to stop this game from being completed, you would have had the unfortunate task to personally force Boedicker out of the stadium.
Let me put it to you this way: I didn’t volunteer.
Thus, after a 90-minute delay, the two teams made their way back to the field around 10:30 p.m. or so. When Nordonia put the finishing touches on its 27-7 win over the Bees, I stared at my watch in utter disbelief.
Why? It was early Saturday morning ... 12:05 a.m., to be exact.
Good thing I wasn’t on deadline, huh?
As the double-digit victories piled up one by one, I soon realized something special was taking place.
Speedy senior tailback Dan Macon shredded up defenses behind a robust offensive line. Junior linebacker Ben Batton led a formidable defense that held opponents below double digits six times during the regular season.
And what made this green and white machine even more stunning was that it continued its rampage without its starting quarterback.
Junior Tom Stockle, a 6-foot-2 bruiser known more for his powerful legs rather than his arm, suffered an injury early in the season.
Little-used senior quarterback Matt Ruhl, who was more of a traditional pocket passer, took Stockle’s spot behind center.
The Knights didn’t miss a beat.
Heading into its highly anticipated matchup with Solon, Nordonia was a glittering 8-0 and had outscored its opponents by a lopsided 254-52 margin.
I remember bringing up the quarterback situation with Boedicker. As usual, I got a clever, matter-of-fact response that was Bo’s custom whenever we bumped into each other.
"Wally Pipp," he quipped.
Fortunately for Stockle, his days of resembling an unfortunate New York Yankees’ first baseman were soon, well, forgotten when he returned to the field later in the season.
Stockle wound up becoming the Knights’ punishing fullback to compliment his slippery partner in crime, Macon.
As a result, Nordonia got the best of both worlds: Ruhl was the Knights’ version of Lou Gehrig as the durable field general while Stockle resembled their "Iron Horse."
If there was one blemish to Nordonia’s awe-inspiring autumn, it was Week 9 against the Comets.
Solon, which was the Division I runner-up two years earlier, gave the Knights a brutal wake-up call when it breezed to a 21-7 win.
At that point, an invincible Knights’ squad had finally come crashing back to earth.
It was a rather sinister crash too.
No worries for the well-wishers on South Bedford Road, though.
Nordonia got back on track with a 31-13 win over Bainbridge Township Kenston in its regular-season finale to finish 9-1.
Thanks to this dazzling body of work, the Knights received what I thought was a way-too-low fourth seed in the Division II, Region 5 bracket.
By the way, my suspicions were proven 100-percent correct.
Nordonia, thanks to its menacing defense, rolled to the Region 5 title game with victories over fifth-seeded Grafton Midview (21-0) and top-seeded Green (16-7).
If I had to pick a favorite game to cover during that breathtaking season, the highly anticipated Region 5 showdown would be, hands down, my first, second and third choices.
The Knights ran into second-seeded Avon Lake, a perennial playoff team that had reached the Region 5 title game the previous year.
So what happened?
If you stuck around after halftime, you would have witnessed these shocking digits on the scoreboard early in the third quarter: Nordonia 51, Avon Lake 0.
The final ended up being 58-32, but let’s face it, the game was pretty much over not long after the two teams took the field.
Besides, the only reason it wasn’t a total massacre is because the Shoremen kept most of their starters on the field until the final whistle.
Such a fact wasn’t lost on the never-miss-a-trick Boedicker, by the way.
The Knights’ state semifinal contest will likely be stored in my brain for as long as I live too.
Nordonia butted heads with 2000 Division II state champion Olmsted Falls at Byers Field in Parma.
If you made the trip to Cuyahoga County that evening, my hunch is, you may have been a bit edgy during the drive to the game and the ride home. That’s because freezing temperatures and blizzard-like conditions turned the field into the Arctic Circle.
I don’t remember too many details, but I do know both teams struggled to find their footing in this unwelcome winter wonderland.
In the end, the David Copperfield-like Knights pulled another rabbit out of their hats. Nordonia’s survival in this icy war of attrition produced a gut-wrenching 12-10 win. More importantly, the Knights earned an improbable, long-awaited invitation to the state title game at Massillon’s Paul Brown Tiger Stadium.
If I were to describe my immediate reaction to this delicious rags-to-riches’ tale, 20th-century American ventriloquist Edgar Bergen would likely come to mind.
"Who’d a thunk it?"
Sadly, this classic fairy tale ended on a sour note for these valiant princes of Macedonia.
That’s because the love of Nordonia’s life did not awake from its harrowing glass coffin.
Therefore, this 2002 remake of Snow White ended rather cruelly. Look at it this way: When they stood in front of a certain mirror, the Knights were told they weren’t "the fairest of them all."
Instead, a not particularly evil witch known as Dayton Chaminade-Julienne proved to be the poisonous apple to Nordonia’s stunning season.
Running back Javon Ringer, looking more like the explosive Hall-of-Famer Barry Sanders instead of a typical teenager, ripped Nordonia’s defense apart with 252 yards and four touchdowns.
The Knights also committed an uncharacteristic five turnovers that killed just about all of their hopes of staying with the high-powered Eagles, who finished 14-1.
I don’t remember much else that happened during that fateful night. To be honest, I don’t really want to.
Instead, I choose to reminisce about the wonderful times I spent covering this amazing once-in-a-lifetime team.
I’ll never forget hanging out in that way-too-small, but extremely charming press box at Boliantz Stadium.
Heck, I remember when word got out regarding Nordonia’s massive success, it was usually standing-room only in that miniature rectangle that was more like a teepee.
If I saw any of my friends from other publications, you basically had to stand shoulder to shoulder.
But hey, it was all worth it.
Thanks to these gallant Knights, I got to experience some of the most fabulous times of my 22-year journalism career.
In case you’re wondering, I wasn’t the only person who didn’t see this coming.
Despite its overwhelming success, Nordonia had just two All-Ohioans on that team: Macon and junior offensive lineman Brandon Jeffries.
The Boedicker-led Knights reached the state semifinals four years later. Nordonia, led by current head coach Jeff Fox, also was the state runner-up in 2014.
However, with all due respect to those legendary teams, I must confess that I have and likely always will have a soft spot for a certain squad that allegedly had no business doing what it did.
Congratulations to the members of the 2002 Knights’ football team for a spectacular journey.
It was a journey this longtime reporter will never forget.
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org or @FrankAceto_Gannett.