Undefeated, All-Ohioans, but no playoffs for Bears

J. Patrick Eaken

No respect — that’s what it is. The only good thing about Northwood and Gibsonburg not making the playoffs is they are the only teams that finish the season unbeaten at 10-0.
        The Rangers won another Toledo Area Athletic Conference championship and the Golden Bears claimed their second straight Sandusky Bay Conference River Division title.
        But that may be considered a small consolation, especially when you consider that if the Rangers did not finish a lightning postponed game with Stryker on a Sunday, and called it a “no contest,” they would have made the Division V playoff. The Rangers won that game, 65-2.
        Northwood may not have a very good all-time playoff record, but the feeling was that this year’s team could have fared better, even against the likes of some very solid programs in the region.
        For Gibsonburg, which had three All-Ohioans in D-VI, coach Mike Lee saw the playoff snub coming.
        “It was not a shock to us because when we saw the new alignment come out in the summer it was like, ‘Oh boy,’” Lee said. “The big thing was there was like six or seven new teams that we joined up with that were in the playoffs last year, and then you throw the ‘normals’ in there, like us, Fairview, and others — it’s a tough one. It’s got to be the toughest in the state, no doubt about it.
        “This was a very special year for Gibsonburg football. We have no apologies for our schedule and for not making the playoffs,” Lee continued. “Things went well a year ago when we finished second in our region with the same schedule. These young men did everything that was asked of them this year. There are so many factors that were out of their control and now they are paying the price for it. We are all very upset and sad with the way things turned out but our kids have handled it with class and have shown great character throughout the last weeks of the season.
        “We’ve talked to the kids as a staff, and unfortunately I told them I’ve been through this before back in the day at St. Wendelin when we 10-0, 9-1 and 10-0, and that 9-1 team was a state runner-up, and the 10-0 teams didn’t make the playoffs. But the big difference is they only took two (in each region) back then,” Lee continued.
        “What we’re telling the kids is the only thing you can take care of is what you can take care of. You just win ballgames, try to go undefeated, win the league title and let the chips fall where they may, and that is all we can do. We’ve been handed a tough hand and we’re going to try and play through it. We needed a couple ‘boys’ (teams) to take care of things on our schedule. We are going to take care of what we can do.”
        The good news for Gibsonburg is that even the coaching staff did not expect the team to do quite as well as they did. Plus, the players dealt with adversity.
        “We only had, realistically, three kids returning at their original spots from a year ago,” Lee said. “When we came into the season, we were not sure where things were going to fall and the kids started to grow and learn their positions and they had a great summer in the weight room. That says a lot for our kids when they dedicate themselves.
        “They’ve answered the bell in a lot of ways and I’m so proud of them. So it starts back in the beginning. We’ve had some misfortunes happen with (senior playmaker) Jesse (Arriaga) and his car accident and a couple other things that bothered us, but the kids have fought through it and I’m so proud of them.”
Two heading to Colorado Springs
        Earning first team all-state this year was 6-foot-2, 212 pound senior lineman Jake Montgomery. Jon Auld, a 5-10, 172 pound senior, is a third team all-state running back and Trey Kaseman, a 5-8, 171 pound senior, is a third team defensive lineman. All were honored in some way or another in Alan Miller Jewelers All-Press voting, but didn’t get top billing because they were overshadowed by the success of Oak Harbor and the fact that the community had 19 players get first team All-Ohio in D-V.
        Montgomery, who had a 91.7 percent success rate blocking, was the Division VI Northwest Ohio Lineman of the Year and first team All-SBC River Division on both offense and defense. He is one of two Gibsonburg All-Ohioans who will be attending the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs upon graduation.
        “There are a number of things you need in order to run a Wing T, and two of the most important are great pulling guards. We had two,” Lee said. “Although sophomore Tyler Schooley was very good (second team All-SBC), Jake was outstanding. Jake moved from right tackle to right guard this year.
        “This outstanding athlete made the move look easy as coach Glenn Owens, who was the offensive line coach for Eastwood’s state runner-up team (2017), again did a remarkable job with our offensive line. We dominated defense by rushing for 3,562 yards. Pancakes are not big with us, but technique is and this is where Jake stood above the rest.”
        Auld ran for 941 yards on 81 attempts and scored 16 touchdowns, earning first team All-SBC after coming off major knee surgery last season. He led the conference with 11.8 yards per carry and also led the team with a 32.3 yard average in pass receptions. He also will be attending the Air Force Academy.
        “Please keep in mind two things—first, Jon came off major knee surgery and did not get his release for contact until the week of game one. Second, Jon was part of our ‘three headed monster’ where he was not a featured back like most offenses—we shared the wealth,” Lee said.
        “Hunter Smith rushed for 1,265 yards, Jon rushed for 941 and Theo Hernandez ran for 851. Jon did everything that was asked of him including blocking, running inside and out, he caught the ball and was our backup quarterback. Simply put, people noticed Jon. He ran around defenses and ran through individuals. On the other side of the ball, Jon led our defense with four interceptions.”
        Kaseman was first team Northwest Ohio and All-SBC, finishing with seven sacks, 23 tackles for a loss, three caused fumbles, three pass deflections and 46 tackles.
        “Trey started the season as a defensive back but could not crack the starting lineup so he agreed to move to defensive line,” Lee said. “What a move. His quickness, strength and nose for the ball made him look like a seasoned veteran.
        “Our scheme includes a lot of movement which allowed Trey to make the most of his skill set. I am so proud of this young man as he made the best of a very difficult situation. He has always played in the secondary and never played on the defensive line where he became a standout this season.”
        In addition, you talk about program building, and it’s happening at Gibsonburg.
        “Another neat thing that I don’t remember happening before is our JVs winning a game last year and they were undefeated this year,” Lee said. “So, it says a lot for our kids and how they’ve grown and they’ve taken on their role as scout players during the week and on Saturdays, they do a wonderful job.”
        The JV team was not only unbeaten, but playing against larger schools because Gibsonburg picked up a couple games because some SBC River schools don’t have JV teams.


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