The Galion football team did not make it to the second round of the Ohio High School Athletic Association’s playoffs for the fourth year in a row earlier this month.
The No. 1 seed Milan Edison won its first home playoff game in school history with a 49-28 rout on Nov. 7, concluding the No. 8 seed Tigers’ season with an 8-3 record.
It was the same story going back to 2012 – the seniors’ first year on the team – when the Tigers lost to Richwood North Union 40-21 in away game. The story repeated again in 2013, when Galion lost to Kenton 58-14. And again last year, when it lost to Wooster Triway 42-7.
But despite the losses, Galion football coach Chris Hawkins says the team’s 14 seniors leave a legacy of making it to the playoffs in all four years of high school.
“That’s quite an accomplishment,” he said. “How many seniors get to go to the playoffs all four years?”
There were only five divisions and four qualifiers per region when the team first qualified for the playoffs in 1985. Although ranked No. 4, the Tigers went on to beat Youngstown Cardinal Mooney for the Division II state title. It qualified for the postseason again the following year and in 1989.
OHSAA now accepts nearly a third of the 715 high schools in Ohio that played football, or 224 total playoff qualifiers.
There are now 70 schools that have never made it to the playoffs with eight schools qualifying for the first time ever in the 44th postseason this year.
Hawkins said the team has come a long way since he started coaching the Tigers in 2008.
“This program was the laughing stock of Ohio (in 2007),” he said. “Not Crawford County – Ohio.”
In Hawkins’ second year of coaching, Galion qualified for the playoffs in 2009, the first time in 20 years. Galion lost in the first round to Pemberville Eastwood 35-6.
Some seniors were instrumental to the team’s success, Hawkins said.
Drake Barnett played in all of the Tigers’ playoff games for the last four years. He finished the 2015 season with 208 carries for 1,770 yards and 32 touchdowns. He also had 11 catches for 247 yards and three catches.
Jacob Fryer played in the playoffs for the last three seasons with some games that were “a big eye opener,” when facing nationally-ranked quarterbacks at the time. He was happier playing wide receiver this year after playing quarterback for two years.
“This year was a lot more fun,” he said, referring to the Edison game. “We were more in control.”
Fryer finished the season with 527 yards in total offense. He was 7-of-15 passing for 74 yards after playing quarterback earlier this season, and had 61 carries for 453 yards and six touchdowns. He also had 33 catches for 434 yards and five touchdowns.
Fryer said he’s already in discussions with a couple colleges as he wants to play football or track at the collegiate level after graduation. But he said Galion helped push him athletically.
“I feel like we have a lot more athletes in our school,” Fryer said.
On the other hand, Isaiah Davis is still thinking about what he wants to do after graduation.
“I’m not really sure to be honest,” he said.
He is interested in specializing in communication as he likes to talk a lot. Like Fryer, he enjoyed playing against Edison as it was his last playoff game in high school. He felt like they had a fighting chance to win.
“We were in it for once,” he said. “I really enjoyed the experience.”
Davis finished the season with 45 tackles and nine sacks, six forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.
Hawkins said he will miss the seniors as they finish up their last academic year, which he encourages them to finish strong. He also has high expectations as they enter the workforce, college, military or other outlooks in life.
“Whatever they choose to do they can be very successful,” he said.
The Chargers’ story continues after defeating Swanton 17-15 in the regional semifinals at at Frost-Kalnow Stadium in Tiffin last week. Edison (11-1) will play Doylestown Chippewa (10-2) at Brunswick AutoMart Stadium at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Reach Klein at 419-468-1117, ext. 2048 or on Twitter at @brandoneklein.