GALION — Entering the final week of the 2019 high school football regular season, Galion has a lot to be proud of.
Their last regular-season game is tonight at Pleasant. And there is high hopes for a playoff spot.
The Tigers, 8-1 overall, could see their regular season end in a myriad of ways. If Galion beats Pleasant and Clear Fork defeats Shelby, the Tigers would claim an outright MOAC title. If the Tigers lose to Pleasant and Shelby defeats Clear Fork, the Whippets would be outright champions. Also on the table was the possibility of a four-way tie atop the MOAC given that Pleasant and Clear Fork win, putting all four mentioned teams with a final record of 4-2 in conference play.
“One could look at it that we’re a touch or a play away from being 9-0 and beating Clear Fork,” said Galion coach Matt Dick. “But, you could also argue that Shelby was just a play or so away from beating us. You never know what could’ve happened. We could have a rematch with either one of those teams in the playoffs. It’s going to be an exciting end (to the season).”
“I came here to win conference championships. I expected some fun and some great seasons as Galion has a great football tradition. The town gets behind their Tigers and supports us in just about everything that we do. The kids understand it’s a big deal to play for Galion,” Dick said. “I can’t say enough about my staff and kids and everyone buying in and just continuing to click as the season moved on.”
In addition to the conference championship implications, coach Dick and his team entered the final week of the season in the driver’s seat of their own playoff fate. Following the release of the week nine polls, Galion sat in second in the computer rankings in Division IV, Region XIV, while LaGrange Keystone held a firm grasp on the top spot (19.95-18.2172). By finishing in the top-four in the region, the Tigers would host a week 11 matchup at Unckrich Stadium in Heise Park on Saturday, Nov. 9.
“I’m just happy to be in the playoffs. I want a home playoff game. I want to win a MOAC title. That’s the stuff I’m focused on,” he said. “Who we play in the playoffs, I don’t think that matters to me as much as getting into the playoffs and finishing the regular season on a high note … deserving your portion of the title … whatever it may be. Winning a title is a huge deal because that’s something that goes into the gymnasium and lasts forever.”
Behind the Tigers in their region are Wauseon (18.0778) in third, and Ottawa-Glandorf (16.1111) in fourth. Knocking on the door to hosting a potential playoff contest though are Clear Fork and Shelby. Clear Fork entered week 10 in sixth in the region (15.1889) while Shelby was seventh (14.0056).
What has made the Tigers successful this season?
“It starts with our defense. We’re playing really, really good defense and even the teams that score on us aren’t necessarily scoring on our defense. The guys on the line really stepped up and have grown as the season has moved on. And our secondary all came back strong and ready to go this year.”
The offensive line has been a strong point, too, and has done a great job in protecting “undersized” quarterback Wilson Frankhouse.
“John Abouhassan (senior) is one of the best football players I’ve ever coached,” Dick said. “He plays like a 6-6, 300-pound offensive lineman out there. He’s really, really special and we’ve known that for many years now. He’s been a pillar of our ‘O-line’ for four years now.
”The other four lineman? I just can’t say enough about how much they’ve grown. Seniors James Burkhart, and Wyatt Hollis are both three-year starters and they’ve allowed us to run a lot of inside zone behind them. Colten Yost, a sophomore, gets better every week Christian Robinette became a full-time starter on the line for us this season and I feel that that is where we’ve seen the most growth as a team.”
Growth has been the name of the game for the Galion program as a whole.
When Dick took over in 2016, the Tigers finished just 2-8 overall, including a 1-6 mark in the MOAC Red Division. Galion made a jump to a .500 record in 2017, finishing 5-5 overall and 2-5 record in the MOAC. A season ago, the Tigers saw a one-game improvement and jumped to 6-4 and 3-4. In 2019, the orange and blue will finish with their best season record since joining the MOAC and Dick contributes that to his seniors, among others.
“I just want to again thank my seniors for buying in to the process and doing whatever is asked of them and by doing so, setting the standard high and setting up the program for future success,” he said.