CHAMPIONS!!! Tigers top Wynford 15-7; secure at least share of NCC crown
By JON KLEINKNECHT
Inquirer Sports Editor
The thoroughbreds proved to be champion mudders.
In a game that was played under a steady rainfall, the Galion Tigers defeated the Wynford Royals 15–7 at Unckrich Stadium last night, securing at least a share of the North Central Conference championship in the process.
With the win, the Orange-and-Blue are victorious for the eighth week in a row, upping their overall record to 8–1 but, more importantly, their NCC mark to a perfect 6–0 with one week to go.
The Royals — who entered the season having garnered seven consecutive NCC titles — won’t make it eight as they go into week 10 with a 4–2 conference mark. They are 7–2 overall.
Sixth-year Galion head coach Chris Hawkins won his second league championship in Tigertown. The 2009 Orange-and-Blue were outright Northern Ohio League champs. This is the second year the Tigers are competing in the NCC.
In 17 years of coaching, Hawkins-led teams have won 5 league championships — three in the NCC and two in the NOL. He had coaching stops at Wynford and Willard before taking over the Galion program.
“We are a thoroughbred team,” said Hawkins after last night’s triumph. “We are based on speed. The weather hurt our offense. Our defense was fast, though, and that was the key to the game.”
A year ago, Wynford defeated Galion 22–20 in the ninth game of the season outside of Bucyrus. That loss kept the Tigers from not only claiming at least a share of the NCC crown, it also effectively kept them out of the playoffs.
It’s been a long year for Hawkins, his coaches, the players and anybody in Tigertown who is a fan of the Orange-and-Blue.
“We’ve waited for 365 days,” Hawkins matter-of-factly said. “That was the most gut-wrenching loss I’ve experienced in all the years I’ve done this,” the long-time mentor added in reference to last year’s defeat at the hands of the Royals.
Last night … different story.
The Tigers never trailed the Royals. They began the game with a touchdown drive for the ages. Getting the ball on their own 31-yard line after the opening kickoff, the Orange-and-Blue launched a 15-play, 69-yard series that took 9:10 off the clock and culminate with a 1-yard quarterback sneak by Dareian Watkins. A Connor Kempf extra kick followed, making it 7–0.
Early in the second period, the Royals capitalized on a Galion mistake. A poor snap resulted in Galion punter Austin Chaplin falling on the ball for a 16-yard loss. The Royals took over at the Galion 22. Three plays later, Brock Williamson bulled his way into the endzone from a yard out on a QB keeper. Robbie Sielski tacked on a PAT kick, tying the score at 7–7 with 9:14 left in the first half.
With 7:37 to go in the third quarter, the Tigers stopped the Royals on downs as a long fourth-down pass fell incomplete. Wynford’s bench was cited for unsportsmanlike conduct for vehemently protesting what the visitors thought should have been a pass interference call against the hosts. After the 15 yards was tacked on, the locals had the ball first-and-10 at their own 46.
The game-deciding scoring drive followed as the Orange-and-Blue marched 54 yards on 11 plays with Watkins again scoring on a keeper from a yard out with 2:29 showing on the scoreboard clock. The junior followed with a 2-point conversion run for the final points of the battle.
Galion had another long drive in the fourth stanza. It took five minutes off the clock and entailed 11 plays, ending with a 28-yard punt by Watkins that was downed at Wynford’s 10 with only 2:26 to go.
The Tigers forced the visitors to turn the ball over on downs at the 10 with 1:32 left. A trio of kneel downs by Watkins in victory formation finishing off the clock and the Royals.
“We used last year’s disappointment as motivation,” stated Hawkins. “As a team, this is one of the hardest working off-season teams I’ve ever had. We will enjoy this for about six-and-a-half hours and start preparing for next week,” he added with a laugh.
The remainder of this story can be viewed in printed editions of the Galion Inquirer.