Galion head football coach Chris Hawkins has once again set the bar high for the orange and blue with the 2015 season ready to get underway.
The veteran coach, now in his ninth season at Galion, believes the Tigers can improve upon their 2014 performance, which saw the team finish third in the Mid Ohio Athletic Conference Red Division and reach the postseason for the third consecutive season.
“I think the hunger’s there, because we didn’t win the league title last year, which was a goal that we set,” Hawkins said. “And we’ve talked with them about how hard it is to reach the playoffs. Even though we’ve made it three years in a row, they’re hungry to get back and win a couple of games.
“Our kids have that expect victory attitude,” he added. “We don’t want to be cocky and overlook anybody, but we want to be a confident team, and so our kids know that we have the potential to make the playoffs four years in a row, but they also understand that if we don’t continue to improve, we’ll come up short.”
Galion (6-5 overall, 4-3 MOAC in 2014) saw 15 players walk across the stage during graduation ceremonies in May, but despite that, Hawkins is excited about the players coming back in 2015. The Tigers welcome back 15 starters and 23 letter winners from the 2014 squad.
“To have 15 of your 22 starters back, that’s nice. Talent is huge, but experience is key,” he said. “I think we’re further along now than we were last year, because we were still teaching at this stage of the game last year. Don’t get me wrong, we’re still teaching, but we’re doing more refining. Whereas we were introducing things and going at a much slower pace adding things because they were younger and weren’t getting it, with all these kids returning with experience, we don’t have to go back to square one.”
According to Hawkins, the Tigers are blessed with two key factors: speed and size on both sides of the ball.
“You want a strong, fast and tough football team,” Hawkins said. “We’re just not a finesse speed team. We’re pretty big and strong up front and I think we’ve got some pretty football players. I think, at some positions, we’ve got the trifecta there, and that’s quite uncommon.”
First-team All-MOAC quarterback Jacob Fryer (5-10, 170, Sr.) is back to lead the spread pistol offense. He rushed for 1,515 yards and 18 touchdowns and passed for 776 yards and seven touchdowns and three interceptions in 2014. Drake Barnett (5-10, 170, Sr.) will get the bulk of the touches at running back this season after rushing for 272 yards and two scores last year.
The Tigers’ receiving corps features Colten Moore (6-2, 175, Sr.), Tyler Castline (5-9, 160, Sr.), Caleb Ivy (6-1, 175, Jr.) and Harrison Ivy (5-10, 175, So.).
Up front, second-team All-MOAC right tackle Isaiah Davis (6-0, 250, Sr.) returns to an offensive line that features all seniors. Paul Keller (6-0, 268, Sr.) joins Davis on the right side. Anchoring the left side are tackle Zach Throckmorton (6-0, 220, Sr.) and guard Jacob Staiger (6-5, 330, Sr.). Zach Deibig (5-10, 285, Sr.) is the man in the middle for the Tigers.
Placekicker Connor Moreton (6-0, 160, Jr.) was voted honorable mention All-MOAC in 2014 after connecting on 4-of-6 field goal attempts and 31-of-32 point after tries.
“We have powerful and experienced offensive linemen along with a talented backfield and great receivers,” Hawkins said.
Staiger and Davis will be the tackles in Galion’s 4-2 defensive set. Nick McDaniel (6-1, 210, Sr.) and Dominick Monk (6-0, 190, Sr.) will flank them at defensive end. Barnett, a first-team All-MOAC selection, and Throckmorton fill the linebacker spots.
The defensive backfield features Fryer and Kevin Bowshier (5-9, 160, Sr.) at safety along with Castline and the Ivy brothers.
Moore will be the punter. He averaged 31.5 yards per kick in 2014.
“We have a lot of players that will run to the football and hit,” Hawkins said. “We have good linebackers and an athletic secondary. Our defensive line is talented, but a bit inexperienced.”
Hawkins said the Tigers’ biggest concern this season is depth. Galion’s roster includes 15 seniors — same as 2014 — and 13 juniors, but only nine sophomores.
“We’re talented, but not real deep,” he said. “We just gotta hope that the good Lord keeps us healthy and we need to do a good job taking care of ourselves.”
Galion opens the 2015 season Aug. 28 at longtime rival Bucyrus. The Tigers’ home opener is Sept. 4 against the Columbus Crusaders. All games, home and away, begin at 7 p.m.
Reach Carter at 419-468-1117, ext. 2048, or on Twitter @ACGalionSports.