If you’re a regular reader of these pages, you know all about the high school football successes of programs such as Wayne, Centerville and Alter. There are many winning reasons why those teams stay in the headlines year after year.
The flip side is programs like tiny Bradford. The Railroaders had regressed so much that the Cross County Conference essentially put them on IR last year. That’s what happens when your entire program consists of 17 players grades 7-12.
In 2012 Bradford played in the smallest school playoffs. The next season the Railroaders were winless. Bradford was a JV program last year. It was a swift and startling fall in a state that prides itself on small-community high school football.
But none of that mattered last week. The rural Miami County school won its first varsity game since October 2012 by scoring 34 straight points to stun visiting Cincinnati Hillcrest, 34-18. Afterward, rookie coach Nathan Hyatt was given a game ball that was signed by Bradford’s eight seniors. To conclude that it was an emotional exchange in the locker room doesn’t do justice to the moment.
“That was very touching for me,” said Hyatt, an Oakwood grad who spent 15 years as an assistant first with the Lumberjacks, then at Vandalia Butler. “You start to reflect on what they went through and it took me a long time to get that first (head coaching) job. People say you were crazy to go to Bradford. I feel, why not? We’ve got great kids out here.”
That would include senior Tyler Gunter. Last year’s starting quarterback, he requested a switch to receiver and that Andy Branson play QB. That team-first attitude should serve Gunter well in the U.S. Navy, in which he recently enlisted. Gunter had a 35-yard touchdown catch from Branson in the win.
Bradford (1-3) hosted Johnstown Northridge on Saturday night. The Railroaders won’t collect enough computer points to be in playoff contention anytime soon and their CCC status remains uncertain: Bradford will remain independent through 2016. But there are other more important numbers to consider.
Hyatt said there are now 50 players in grades 7-12, enough for middle school, JV and varsity teams. There’s even a combined fifth-sixth grade peewee team. The school ran out of football equipment, a good problem, said Hyatt.
“When you’re in a situation like we’re in, you can’t define success every day by winning on Friday nights,” assured Hyatt. “It was emotional for all of us. We let all the seniors talk and a couple got very emotional. I understand that. You think about what these kids have been through, it’s no fault of their own. Tough decisions had to be made by people.”
Hyatt said practice was unusually upbeat this past week. Wins — no matter how few — tend to have that effect. Fittingly, the Railroaders quickly embraced a new motto: “It’s only the start.”
Other things we learned after Week 5 of the high school football season:
• West Carrollton should have pep in its practice step this week, too. The Pirates beat Toledo Scott 16-13 in overtime on Friday, courtesy of Jake Shockley’s 29-yard field goal. That was their first varsity win since Week 9 of 2012.
West Carrollton also beat Middletown Christian in Week 2, but MC is a non-varsity program this season.
• Unbeaten Wayne has drawn comparisons to its 2014 team, which advanced to the Division I state final. That was a senior-loaded team. The transition a year later has been nothing less than spectacular. Better than the original? Don’t count that out.
“Taking nothing against anybody we’ve played, but we’ve got so much more in the tank that we’ve got to get out of them as coaches and the players have to give to the game,” said Wayne coach Jay Minton said following Friday’s 49-14 mauling of previously unbeaten Miamisburg.
Miamisburg coach Steve Channell is a Warriors believer.
“It’s going to take a really good team to beat them,” he said. “I don’t know who that may be. I told Jay before the game, ‘I think you’re better this year than last year.’ They’ve got a lot of weapons and their defense is as good as I’ve seen.”
• Twenty-three years ago Valley View quarterback coach Danny Smith led the Spartans to the first of 12 straight playoffs. Included in that run — among the area’s best — were three state titles.
Now, Smith’s son – Kole – is the Spartans’ starting QB. He’s just one of several second-generation Valley View players on the roster. All are major reasons the Spartans (4-1) are vying for the program’s second playoff berth in six seasons.
“These guys definitely have a sense of the tradition and we get the most out of them because they want to play at that level,” Valley View coach Kris Ketron said. “We always talk about how you kind of stand on the shoulders of giants here. I think that adds to our program.”
Junior defensive end Konnor Smith, Kole’s brother, leads the Southwestern Buckeye League in sacks (five). Freshmen QB Zach Hannah and sophomore linebacker Logan Hannah are sons of former NFL lineman Shane Hannah. Sophomore RB/DB Collin Genslinger is the son of assistant coach Kile Genslinger. Junior WR/DB Zane Kozarec is the son of high school principal Todd Kozarec. And junior FB/DB Jake Neatherton is the son of Bobby Neatherton.
All those fathers are former Valley View football standouts.
“(The tradition here is) a huge advantage for us as coaches,” assured Ketron, “and you try to capitalize on it as much as you can.”
• This is what Springfield was waiting on. Standout receiver Danny Davis shifted to the backfield and responded with 23 carries for 255 yards and two touchdown runs in a 51-13 defeat of visiting Butler. His most electric run came midway through the third quarter. He cut and raced alone down the sideline for a 79-yard score.
“If we give him the ball that many times, somewhere along the way he’ll make a play,” Springfield coach Maurice Douglass said.
Davis also caught an 8-yard TD pass from QB Saalih Muhammad, who had four touchdown passes.
• Fenwick sophomore Keegan Corbett continues to shine in relief of senior running back Andy Riazzi, who’s missed the last two games with a knee injury.
Corbett ran 10 times for 51 yards in the Falcons’ 38-31 defeat of Badin in a showdown of unbeaten GCL Co-ed teams. He completed a key 35-yard pass to quarterback Jimmy Gephart a week earlier in a 24-0 blanking of Alter.