GALION — Following a 2016 campaign that saw the Galion Tigers football team going 2-8 overall and 1-6 in the now-defunct Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference Red Division, the Tigers are looking forward to improvement in 2017.
The Tigers were outscored on the field last season, 385-173.
Galion was 2-3 on the home turf at Unckrich Stadium and went 0-5 on the road in 2016.
Head coach Matt Dick is entering his second season at the helm of the Galion squad and is facing an uphill battle after the loss of many of his team’s key elements from a season ago.
Although the Tigers have 14 total letter winners returning to the gridiron this year, they lost 15 players overall to graduation. Leading point scorer, school record holder and first team MOAC member Connor Moreton is off to Miami University of Ohio, starting quarterback Chase Cooke is heading to Baldwin Wallace University and the backfield duo of Garrett Kuns (2nd team MOAC, defense) and Ryan Talbott all crossed the stage and received their diplomas in the spring. Other key loses for the squad are Charles Reuer and Kelby Knight.
But coach Dick remains positive as five offensive starters and four defensive starts will take snaps in 2017 for Galion.
Of the five returning offensive starters, three are on the Tigers’ front line.
“I think the strength of our offense is the valuable experience we got last year,” says Dick.
When asked to describe an offensive weakness, Dick stated the obvious.
“Our offensive weakness is going to be breaking in a new quarterback and running back. The returning offensive linemen and multiple receivers should make breaking in a new QB an easier transition,” he said.
Juniors Noah Grochowalski and Karson Rinehart, along with sophomore John Abouhassan will anchor the front line of the offense and will be protecting either Harrison Ivy or Elias Middleton at the quarterback position. Galion also has four players battling for a spot in the backfield in the likes of senior Nakoma Breedlove, juniors Colbey Fox and Joah Singer and sophomore Evan Barker.
As far as receiver positions go, keep an eye out for seniors Tanner and Takoda Crisman, as well as sophomore Isaiah Alsip. Gage Lackey and Jake Watkins also are possible offensive contributors at the wide receiver positition.
“Defensively, we have put a big emphasis on stopping the run,” said Dick. “Our front eight will be the strength of our defense.”
The Tigers return senior nose guard Dayvin Hagemann, Grochowalski (honorable mention MOAC Red in ‘16) and Tanner Crisman at cornerback. Coach Dick is also looking for Steve Hoffman, Matt Oehrli, Mason Weldon and Fox to be defensive contributors in ‘17.
Galion has set modest goals for the season ahead.
The Tigers are looking to “grow together as a team/constantly work on team chemistry, to lead and to finish with a winning season,” states the head coach in an email. The start to those goals will come on Friday, August 25 when Galion travels to Bucyrus to face-off in the battle for the Saccaium Park trophy. Galion and Bucyrus have one of the longest-running rivalries in football throughout the state of Ohio.
With the Jonathan Alder Pioneers, MOAC Red champions in 2016 gone to the Central Buckeye Conference, a MOAC championship is up for grabs. Of course, there has also been the departure of the Fairbanks Panthers, Galion’s only other win (28-25) of ‘16, after the home opener win against the Redmen from Bucyrus (49-7). The Panthers have moved on to the Ohio Heritage Conference. Joining the MOAC are the Ontario Warriors and the Clear Fork Colts.
“I think that our league is very balanced. Every week you are going to have to show up and play well if you expect to win,” states Dick. “Some teams we match-up better with than others but they all have their strengths and weaknesses. Part of taking that step forward this year is going to come down to how we play as a team in the fourth quarter,” the head coach concludes.