Back-to-back playoff appearances are a first for Liberty-Union
While the season began on a new note as the Lions entered the larger Buckeye Division of the Mid-State League, many wondered how the Lions would do in the new league. The team grabbed the bull by the horns and adopted the slogan “New League No Problem.” At one point, Coach Johnson referred to the team as “a bunch of mean, little, fast guys.” Led by the selected captains for the year, Justin Barber, Tyler Magley, Parker Bozman and Jacob Basso, the team fought its way pretty sure-handedly through the first six games scoring 215 points against their opponents Berne Union, Lakewood, Portsmouth West, Amanda Clearcreek, Bloom Carroll and Hamilton Township and only giving up a total of 18 with three shutouts.
Week 6 against Hamilton Township was the annual Cancer Awareness game where the program raised over $3,000 for the American Cancer Society and Amy’s Army. Unfortunately, many fans will remember the game for its unsportsmanship. The Lions won 27-6 against a much larger Division 2 team.
The Lions then travelled to Logan Elm. Whether they were feeling a bit “untouchable” or whether they suffered too many injuries from the week before, the Lions failed to show up and suffered a 26-41 loss. This loss was a real wake-up call. The Lions came back the following week and beat Teays Valley 21-7, but lost their final home game against Circleville 14-20 on Senior Night.
It’s hard to describe and appreciate the special moment after the game ended if you weren’t there. The Tigers lined up on defense and Liberty Union’s spirited team manager, Zac Ballani, a senior with Down syndrome, suited up for the first time ever and took the ball from the Lions’ quarterback and ran it in for a touchdown. He celebrated with a push-up for each point he scored. It may have very well been the proudest moment of Zac’s high school career and one that touched every heart and soul in attendance. It lifted the heavy hearts of the losing team and helped put competition and life itself into perspective. You can see it on youtube.com.
The Circleville loss kept the Lions from hosting a playoff game, so they travelled to St. Clairsville on Nov. 9 where their mojo returned and defeated the higher ranked Red Devils in a 31-0 blowout. They then faced No. 1 seed Bishop Hartley on Nov. 16, at Bloom Carroll. They suffered a heart-breaking 7-14 loss as the Hawks ate away nearly the final nine minutes of the game. Bishop Hartley plays in the state championship game this weekend. One of the coaches summed up the game as follows: “We all may have just witnessed the state championship game... Both teams were clearly well coached and leaving it all on the field.”
To recap some of the highlights, the varsity team tied for third in the new league with an 8-2 record and just missed winning the league literally by inches. The junior varsity team finished 4-3 while the level 3 team finished 2-1.
Player awards were presented throughout the season. Hit of the Week recipients were: Brandon Dobos, Braden Glasgow, Braden Powers, Drew Chipukaizer, Luke Bressler, Eric McClure, Jacob Basso, Eric Owens, Justin Barber, Parker Bozman, Blaise Clark, P.J. Visintine, Mason Bader, Adam Taylor, Jake Richardson, Johnny Putnam, Travis Turley, Jake Dempsey, Kyle Varney and Josh Spencer.
Spirit Awards were given to Johnny Putnam, Tyler Magley, Eric Owens, Adam Snyder, Justin Barber, Luke Bressler, Tyler Makuch, Jacob Basso, Logan Piccirillo, Travis Turley, Zach Armstrong, Mason Bader, Luke Bressler, Blaise Clark, Alec Justice, Adam Taylor, P.J. Visintine, Blaise Clark, Jake Dempsey and Kyle Varney. Lineman of the Week recipients were: Dustin Short, Drew Chipukaizer, Josh Parsley, J.D. McDowell, Parker Bozman, Eric McClure, Ethan Schmelzer, Gabe DeLaney, Sean Lawless and Chase Pettitt.
Ironman recipients included: Justin Barber, Jacob Basso, Parker Bozman, Gabe DeLaney, Brandon Dobos, Tyler Magley, J.D. McDow- ell, Chase Pettitt, Logan Piccirillo, Dustin Short, Austin Vannatta, Mason Bader, Luke Bressler, Tyler Makuch, Eric Owens, Braden Powers, Ethan Schmelzer, Adam Snyder, Braden Glasgow, Jake Dempsey and Blake Morman. Scholar Athletes were: Jake Thompson, Jacob Waddell, Tyler Magley, Austin Vannatta, Tyler Makuch, Jeremy Trapp, Johnny Putnam, Kyle Varney, Eric Owens, Luke Bressler, Blake Morman, Alex Englehart, Adam Snyder, Jacob Basso, Logan Piccirillo, Chase Pettitt, Mason Bader, Garrett Wiley, Wyatt Denney, James Sevenoff, Brandon Dobos, Justin Barber, Braden Glasgow, Drew Chipukaizer, Avery Miller, Jake Richardson, Keven Keister, Dustin Short, Gabe DeLaney, Adam Taylor, Jacob Ballani, Scott Brobeck, Parker Bozman, Josh Parsley, Blaise Clark, Alec Justice, Zach Armstrong, J.D. McDowell, Troy Alford, Sean Lawless, Jonathan Clark, Tyler Russell, Ethan Schmelzer, Travis Turley, Eric McClure and Sam Fisher.
Justin Barber was voted by his teammates as Most Inspirational. In addition, Justin was selected by the Bondurant family to receive the Chris Bondurant Memorial Award. Dustin Short received the Most Improved Award.
School records were tied and broken. Tyler Magley broke a season record for interceptions in 12 games with 6 and tied the career record of 13 interceptions.
The team’s overall record was 9-3. Team records were also set by the entire defensive unit. The stingy Lions’ defense allowed an average of just 8.9 points per game and caused 26 fumbles, recovering 20. The defensive unit will go down as one of the best defenses Liberty Union has ever had.
The starting 22 players, along with their GPA’s have been submitted to the OHSAA All Academic Committee for additional recognition. Parker Bozman was nominated for OHSAA Academic All Ohio, with a 4.1 GPA and was named Special Mention All Ohio. During the season, Logan Piccirillo received the National Guard’s Player of the Game and Austin Vannatta was named one of The Columbus Dispatch’s scholar athletes.
Post-season special awards were announced: All Mid-State League 1st Team: Jacob Basso, Justin Barber and Adam Snyder; 2nd Team: Tyler Magley, Dustin Short and Tyler Makuch; Honorable Mention: Parker Bozman, Austin Vannatta and Josh Parsley. All Area (Fairfield County) Selections include 1st Team: Defense: Josh Parsley, Justin Barber, Tyler Magley and Tyler Makuch. Offense: Jacob Basso, Adam Snyder, Parker Bozman and Dustin Short. 2nd Team: Defense: Chase Pettitt Offense: Scott Brobeck All District 1st Team: Parker Bozman, Justin Barber, Jacob Basso and Tyler Magley (ironically, the four captains) 2nd Team: Adam Snyder, Dustin Short and Tyler Makuch Honorable Mention: Josh Parsley and Austin Vannatta. And, finally, All Ohio selections include: 3rd Team: Justin Barber and Special Mention: Parker Bozman, Jacob Basso and Tyler Magley. Lancaster Eagle Gazette County Coach of the Year: Dan Johnson. He attributed much of the team’s success to his knowledgeable and experienced staff giving credit to his assistants as “perhaps the best staff in Ohio.”
Early in the season, Coach Dan Johnson had the team document their community service performed over the summer and opened the first scrimmage with a benefit for the local food pantry. It is amazing what a small town can do when everyone pays forward. In return, the fan base this year was phenomenal. The team would like to thank everyone who contributed to the program by purchasing paw prints, providing items or donating towards the cancer benefit and to those who provided food items for meals and attended games.
The team would also like to thank statisticians, Kennedy Sherman, Bianca Piloseno and Marissa Mattox; ball boys, Cole Peardon, Noah Graf, Landon Piccirillo, Hunter Putnam and Brent McClure; and team managers, Jacob and Zac Ballani.
The 2013 Lions are the first to go back-to-back in the state playoffs. Congratulations to the Lions and best wishes to the seniors who are among the winningest teams in Lion history.