Behind their awesome running game and determination to succeed, McComb claims the Division VII title…the school’s first in 35 years.
Canton – I want to make a case for the little guys (schools), the hometown kids, if you will. Because sometimes a championship means as much, or more, in towns like McComb or Glouster than it does in Cincinnati, Columbus, or Cleveland.
Such was the case Saturday morning when Glouster Trimble (Athens County) and McComb (Hancock County) squared off for the small-school Division VII title in OHSAA football.
McComb, behind the remarkable athleticism of senior quarterback Tanner Schroeder, won, 28-3, in a contest that rivaled every bit of the hitting and passion of Friday night’s Division I big school title game between Cincinnati Colerain and Cleveland St. Edward.
It was intense, on the edge, and at times even a bit chippy.
“We want ’em to play on the edge,” said McComb coach Kris Alge. “We want it to be clean, but these guys just like to hit. I don’t let ’em hit in practice because we don’t have very many kids, so when they get out there they really get after it.”
It is unfortunate, in this day of high-profile coverage of the ‘recruiting’ game in high school football, where the bulk of attention goes to Divisions I and II because that’s where the kids that go to Ohio State and Michigan, and Alabama usually come from. The 3-stars, 4-stars, and 5-stars…those are the kids that get seen and written about.
But in Glouster, Ohio, and in McComb, it means just as much to kids and community alike – those that turned out in proportion to their population on Saturday to see a title dream come true. McComb had one just one previously, in 1983. Glouster…had never won!
“Some of the guys from that 1983 team came in to talk to the kids this week,” said Alge. “They told them it’s time their photo from back then get moved aside. They don’t want it taken down, but they wanted another up there with them.”
Saturday, the Panthers made it happen.
Their relentless running game accounted or 216 yards and all four touchdowns, led my Tanner Schroeder, who’s probably the best overall athlete in all of Ohio Division VII football. He runs, he passes, he punts, he kicks and he plays on the back end of their secondary on defense. He is the complete football player.
But he had help – from Tyler Durfey, Kheaghan Loe, and a swarming defense that literally shut down Glouster’s Wishbone attack.
“In our league we don’t have to throw the ball much,” said Glouster coach Phil Faires (21 years coaching the Tomcats in the Tri-Valley Conference). “We practice the pass, of course, but we really don’t have to do it. Today they took the run game away and we had to throw.”
But quarterback Cameron Kittle would connect on just 6 of 21 attempts – for 69 yards – and their only score came at the end of the first quarter when Max Hooper’s 25 yard field goal trimmed the McComb deficit (for a time) to 7 to 3. As it turned out, it would Trimble’s only score!
But McComb quickly answered on Schroeder’s second touchdown of the game to go to the halftime locker room leading 14-3.
The rains opened up in the third quarter, further putting a damper on the Glouster offense, and their chances to cut into a growing McComb margin. They would finish the game with just 151 yards on 61 plays.
Jacob Dillon scored the third Panther touchdown midway through the third, after an interception return of 38 yards by teammate Kaden Scherick. And Kheaghan Loe added the concluding points with a four-yard run as the third quarter ran out.
It was finished at that point, but both teams continued to play, to hit, and compete for the pride of being in the state final game.
“We’re not a real rich community,” said Faires in the post-game press conference. “So this experience has really lifted our community. They really supported us through this and it seems everyone has been in a better mood for the past two weeks. It was an honor to be here.”
Glouster went home with the runner-up trophy for the second time in five years, having previously lost to Marion Local in 2013.
But McComb, and Tanner Schroeder, took the big trophy back to Hancock County – and a picture of their accomplishment to hang beside that of the ’83 team.
“We knew this was our last game, no matter what,” said Schroeder, who obviously would rather play than talk. “We thought we might as well go out with a win.”
“We’re blessed to have him,” smiled Alge, speaking of his star quarterback. “And his younger sister may be the best athlete in the family. But the thing with Tanner is he’s a great team player. I know some of the players give him a hard time and ask him how he makes some of the plays he makes. But he’s always around the ball. He’d play anywhere on the field if you asked him.”
And this tribute to McComb is in respect to all the teams they beat to get here…hard-fought playoff wins over Patrick Henry, Leipsic, Edgerton, and Fort Loramie. They’re all good small-school football teams – and to Glouster Trimble, who recorded nine shutouts during the 2018 season.
35 years between titles is a long time, as they know all too well in Athens County. But the good news Saturday for the Tomcats is that good things do come in the course of time and hard work. McComb will stand as their example.
“They were a good team,” said Trimble’s Max Hooper of McComb.
And just as important as the trophy…their picture is now on the wall!