LaGRANGE -- Galion coach Chris Hawkins wasn’t going to let Keystone senior tight end and Kentucky recruit C.J. Conrad beat his team Friday night.
Double-teamed the entire game, Conrad was held without a catch by the Tigers.
The rest of the Keystone offense made some plays, but wasn’t able to put any points on the board. As a result, the Wildcats still haven’t beaten Galion.
The Tigers made only two big plays, but they were enough for a 14-0 non-conference win. The Wildcats fell to 2-1.
“Galion was a better team today, and you’ve got to give them credit,” Keystone coach Rob Clarico said. “They took C.J. out of the game by putting two great athletes on him, and we have to be able to have our 10 beat their nine. Tonight, their nine beat our 10 on that side of the ball.”
The first big play for Galion came early in the first quarter and via special teams. After Keystone was pinned on its 10 to start the game and went three-and-out, senior Jordan Valentine fielded a Tyler Polen punt at the Keystone 44 and returned it to the 4.
Keystone made Galion (2-1) work for it, but on fourth-and-goal from the 2, quarterback Jacob Fryer broke the plane to make it 7-0.
Late in the first half, the Tigers needed just two plays to go 68 yards and increase their lead. Following a 14-yard completion, Fryer found senior Jermaine Burket open and deep. Burket caught the ball in stride at the 20 and raced in for a stunning 54-yard touchdown with 1:58 left in the first half.
“I thought our defense played great,” Clarico said. “A championship effort by the defense. We gave them the ball for the first time on the 4 and they barely scored, if they scored. Then they got that one long touchdown when we were in a prevent defense to end the half. Otherwise, the defense was awesome.
“There’s some great things we can take away from this. We still have all of our goals in front of us. It’s disappointing. We’ve got to work hard and (Patriot Athletic) Conference play starts next week against Clearview.”
Keystone’s best chance came after the opening touchdown. The Wildcats got the ball on their 12 and drove to the Galion 5 in 17 plays. Facing fourth-and-goal, Clarico elected to send out the field-goal team. Kicker Turner Geisel hooked the 23-yard attempt wide right.
“I think about going for it every time we’re that close,” Clarico said. “But I knew this was going to be a tight ballgame and I wanted to come away with some points, especially after that long drive with it being a seven-point game. I think Turner is the best kicker in LorainCounty so I trust him. Unfortunately, it just didn’t happen for us.”
Hawkins revealed his defensive plan that worked to perfection.
“Keystone is not a one-man team,” he said. “(Conrad’s) a stud player and he is the best player on the field, we knew that. But they are not just a one-player team. But you can’t stop everybody. So we tried to match up with all of their other receivers and put the focus on (Conrad).
“We took a converted defensive end, who was in our secondary, back to defensive end and slammed him on every snap. And we put our best defender on him over the top. So if you tried to go to him, we’ve got two solid defenders on him. So they had to go to some of their other guys, which is what we wanted them to do. And, to our guys’ credit, they stepped up and made plays. It was a great game plan, but the kids had to execute it and they did.”
Hawkins was impressed by Keystone on film, and came away even more impressed following Friday night.
“This team’s a good football team,” he said. “I watched that film and I called our coaches and said, ‘Guys, we’ve got our work cut out for us. This is a good football team.’ It’s not just (Conrad). There’s about eight players on that team I’d gladly take on mine.
“I’ll take (Ryan Tobicash) on my team. I’ll take (Austin Conrad) on my team. I’ll take a couple of those offensive linemen and I’ll even take that little quarterback (Denny Szalai) and utilize him because he’s a playmaker. They have a lot of great football players. That was a nice win for us.”
Contact Dan Gilles at 329-7135 or email@example.com.