Inquirer Sports Editor
KENTON — The high-powered, aerial attack of the Kenton Wildcats proved to be too much for the Galion Tigers to handle here last Friday night in the first round of the Division IV football playoffs.
Quarterback Grant Sherman completed 37-of-50 passes for 499 yards and 8 touchdowns — in the first half — as the Wildcats eased their way to a 58-14 punishing of the Orange-and-Blue. The winners — ranked first in the state in media poll in Division IV and 10th overall — will take an 11-0 record into a second-round match-up this Fridaty against Wooster Triway (9-2) at Arlin Field in Mansfield.
In losing, the Tigers conclude the season with a 9-2 record, finishing as North Central Conference co-champions.
Sherman — a 6’5” 225-pound senior who threw for nearly 4,100 yards during the regular season — connected with junior wide receiver Collin Stollar for 4 touchdown passes in the first quarter alone. The scoring strikes were of 22, 50, 39 and 17 yards. A fifth TD toss of 9 yards in the stanza went to Colyn Blackford. Mix in a quartet of 2-point conversions and it added up to a 38-0 lead for the winners going into the second period.
In the second frame, Sherman had TD throws of 25 yards to Blackford, 37 stripes to Angelo Lombardo, and 7 yards to Justin Sawmiller. A Sherman 2-point conversion run was tallied also, putting Kenton up 58-0 at halftime.
Kenton coach Mike Mauk rested his starters the entire second half and turned to a running game to keep the clock moving and hold the score down. The Wildcats threw just 4 times in the final 24 minutes.
Galion garnered a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns via a 5-yard Josh Keller to Cario Davison pass connection, and a 33-yard TD throw from Jacob Fryer to Tyler Castline. Connor Moreton followed both scores with a extra-point kicks.
Kenton gained 499 yards passing and added 33 yards on 23 runs. Galion netted only 15 yards on 28 rushing attempts and completed 14-of-26 passes for 177 markers.
Individual statistics for the Orange-and-Blue had Drake Barnett rushing for 17 yards on 5 carries; Kevin Bowshier, 14 on 2 attempts; Fryer, 4 on 4 attempts; Alex Armistad, 1 yards on 4 carries; Keller, minus-4 on 8 tries; and Arby Thompson, minus-17 on 4 runs.
Keller — starting at quarterback in place of Dareian Watkins who was forced to sit out the game because of violating the school’s athletic code of conduct policy — was 13-for-23 passing for 144 yards. He was intercepted once. Fryer was 1-for-2 for 33 stripes, and Armistad threw an incomplete pass.
Catching the ball for Galion were: Davision, 5 receptions for 52 yards; Jermaine Burket, 4 for 49; Armistad, 3 for 42; Castline, 1 for 33; and Jordan Valentine, 1 for 1.
For the hosts, Justin Sawmiller had 10 receptions for 148 yards and a TD; Stollar, 9 for 178 and the 4 opening-period scores; and Conner Jones, 6 for 47 markers.
Galion’s seventh-year head coach, Chris Hawkins, reflected on the game and the season. “I’ll be very surprised if we didn’t lose to the Division IV state champions,” he said. “They are an outstanding team. My hat’s off to them. We accomplished what our first two goals of every season are — to win the league and advance to the playoffs. There’s no doubt we proved we were the best team in the league, and to win back-to-back championships and go to the playoffs two years in a row is something to be very proud of. We lost 16 seniors from last year and there’s a lot of people who thought we’d go 5-5 or 6-4 this season. I’m proud of our kids.”
TIGERS BITES: Valentine intercepted a pass. … Galion has not won a playoff game since knocking off Youngstown Mooney 6-0 in the 1985 Division II state championship battle. It’s been one-and-done for the locals in the post-season in 1986, ‘89, 2009, ‘12 and this year. … Volunteer statistician Tony Durtschi completed serving his sixth season in that capacity. During his stint, the Tigers have gone 46-17 — a winning percentage of .730 — and claimed 3 league championships.