Elyria Catholic’s resurgent season was well recognized by the Ohio Prep Sportswriters Association on Monday.
Nine Panthers earned All-Ohio honors in Division V, including first-team selections Griffin Davies, Jack Decker, Jack Griffin and Asa Kempton. First-year coach Brian Fox was also named coach of the year.
“I was shocked,” Davies said. “It’s a lot of hard work that goes into it. Getting to this point, it’s a very humbling thing. I’m just very excited for the rest of my teammates that got on this list. It’s a great feeling. It’s great for the community. The success that we brought helps our school and our community. It’s a great thing to see everyone come together.”
Davies, a senior defensive lineman, was often matched up against Decker, a senior offensive lineman, in practice. They said they pushed one another to do great things and the challenge of going up against the best in practice helped them achieve success during their senior year.
Davies led the team in tackles (168) and sacks (nine) while Decker was the anchor of an offensive line that helped produce 4,845 total yards — 2,388 of those on the ground. He was a big reason why senior running back Leighton Banjoff rushed for 1,740 yards and 23 touchdowns.
“It means so much to me,” Decker said. “My other boys that got it too, I’m happy for all of them, especially my boy Griffin. We’ve been waiting for this day. He texted me ‘iron sharpens iron,’ and that’s the best quote I’ve ever heard. We’ve pushed each other to get to this point in our lives. It means a lot.”
Griffin, a junior defensive back had four interceptions and a fumble recovery to go along with 37 tackles and 11 passes defensed.
“I didn’t expect to do this well at the beginning of the season,” Griffin said. “But with all of the practice and repetition, I did better than expected and I’m very happy with my results. This was a special team and a special year. It sucks knowing we could have went further, but I’m very proud of what we did this year.”
Kempton, a senior, placed 11 of his 38 punts inside the 20-yard line with a long of 70 yards. He averaged 41.5 yards in 12 games.
“I was pretty ecstatic when I found out,” Kempton said. “Going into the season with Coach Fox being a new coach, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Ending the season the way we did, I’m pretty hyper about it.”
In addition to the four first-teamers, Banjoff, quarterback Cameron Engrish and linebacker Stephen Ferguson earned second-team honors, while wide receiver David Griffin and offensive lineman Branson Taylor were selected to the third team.
“I knew we had some great talent, but the way they were recognized and how many guys we got on the list is so cool to see,” Fox said. “It’s unbelievable. To come out and see all the hard work come to fruition, because there’s so many of these kids that work so hard to earn this. Looking forward as a program, when you set the tone and then they can see all the helmets we put up on our wall, the blueprint is simple now.”
As for Fox, he was named coach of the year after taking a team that went 3-7 last year to a 9-3 record and a share of the Great Lakes Conference championship. The Panthers advanced to the second round of the Region 18 playoffs with a 42-35 win over Anna and came within a point of reaching the regional final, losing to top-seeded Genoa 42-41.
“Coach Fox is an unbelievable coach,” Decker said. “He deserves every piece of credit anyone ever gives him. He is the best coach I’ve ever had, the best coach, I think, in the world. I think he could coach anyone. For him to turn me into an honorable mention all-state to a first-teamer, that’s got to be the best accomplishment I’ve ever seen. A jump like that is just crazy.”
Nine other kids were honored in Division IV, though none of them made first team. Clearview placed four — defensive lineman C.J. Flemming and running back Drew Engle on the second team and defensive lineman Julian Colbert and linebacker David Renftle on the third team.
Firelands receiver Alex Angle took second-team honors while quarterback Blake Ruffner landed on the third team. Keystone running back Jacob Shackelford and linebacker Gavin Norris received third-team honors and running back/free safety Dylan Naylor was a special mention.
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