The Press Newspaper

Toledo, Ohio & Lake Erie

The Press Newspaper

The Press Newspaper

You will have to excuse Genoa's players if they felt like that should have been them taking on Ottawa-Glandorf last Saturday night in the Division IV regional finals.

Seven days earlier, the fourth-ranked Comets nearly pulled off a miraculous comeback against Orrville, which took a 29-8 first-half lead but had to hold on for a 36-35 victory in the regional semifinals in Ashland.

"In the Orrville game, we didn't play our best defensive game of the year," third-year Genoa coach Mike Vicars said. "We had some blown assignments and we didn't tackle our best. Our three turnovers really hurt us. We ended drives that we should have gotten points on, and it robbed us of valuable energy. You need energy - emotional energy - in these big games."

And so Genoa's season, one in which the Comets gave up just 31 points and shut out seven opponents in their first 11 games, came to an end with an 11-1 record.

Orrville (9-4) lost to Ottawa-Glandorf 21-20 on Nov. 21 to advance to the state semis.

Genoa was attempting to, at the very least, get back to the state semifinals, where last year it lost to eventual state champion Kettering Alter. Vicars, however, said he "never talked state title" to his squad throughout this season.

"To put that kind of pressure on yourself is very difficult," Vicars said. "So much has to go right for that to happen. Out of the 120 schools in Division IV, only one team wins it all. When you play against great teams, you can't make mistakes. You have to stay away from injuries and you have to have some luck go your way. It all has to go your way.

"I think it is a great goal, but you can only take care of it one week at a time.  Orrville was a good team that had no less than two Division I (college) signees. We have zero."

Vicars said Genoa's players, in particular seniors Matt Bassitt, Connor Wendt, Greg Hillabrand, J.J. Adkins, Jake Schreuder, Kody Vincent, Richard Wonnell, Jon Lester, Devin Mazza, Scott Traver and Alex Eckel, talked about bringing home the Comets' first state football title.

"I'm proud that the kids had no fear in proclaiming that as their ultimate goal," Vicars said. "They were criticized by some close to them, but they never wavered. Unfortunately, it is a society we live in and unless you accomplish the goal you set, others will make fun and we've had to deal with it. But, they have played at such a high level and they have been record-breaking as a group.

"Our goals were to just get better every week. I thought we did that very well. We were fortunate to stay away from injuries. They were a fun group to be with every day. They knew how to work very hard, and yet have some fun."

In Genoa's three seasons under Vicars, the Comets have gone 34-4 with three Suburban Lakes League titles and the first three playoff appearances in school history. Genoa, which went 13-1 last year, has won 29 straight regular-season games.

Vicars said the program has grown "awfully fast."

"We had a great year by any measure," he said. "Some will see it as an underachievement, but really? I'm really proud of what this group of kids and staff have accomplished. Did you see the kids after the Orrville game? It was like someone died. Almost to a man they collapsed on the field.

"I truly knew that they had given their all, and we came up short. We didn't play our best, but we could not have given more. They shot for the stars and landed on the moon. That isn't too bad."

Next year's squad will have to replace six starters on offense and seven on defense. Football players who are not playing winter sports at Genoa will begin training following the Christmas holiday break.

"They know what to do," Vicars said. "The players and seniors-to-be know that they now will have to write their own legacy. Chapter One begins in January. As of today (Nov. 22) there are only 277 days until Rossford at home."

The Comets garnered plenty of spots on the All-Northwest District squad last week. Hillabrand, a running back, was a first-team pick and was named the district's co-offensive player of the year. Other Comets named to the first team on offense were Schreuder, a lineman, and sophomore kicker Tyler Pickard.

The first-team defense included Wonnell at end and Wendt at defensive back. Wendt was named the defensive player of the year.

The second-team offense included Bassitt at quarterback and Vincent on the line, while Traver was a second-team defensive back. Seth Dufendock was an honorable mention selection.

"Our 11 seniors are an incredible group of young men," Vicars said. "We are gonna miss them."

 

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