The Van Wert County Courthouse

Monday, Aug. 8, 2022

Friday Flashback: predictions vs. reality

Note: In place of the regular Friday Flashback feature, this week’s installment looks back to my preseason predictions for the Northwest Conference and the Western Buckeye League and compares them to the actual order of finish in each one.

SCOTT TRUXELL/independent editor

I can honestly say it may be my biggest blunder in 32 seasons of covering high school football.

A signed ball from the Columbus Grove players and coaches. Scott Truxell/Van Wert independent

I’m talking about one of my preseason predictions for the 2021 Northwest Conference championship race. Columbus Grove entered the season as the three-time defending champions, which alone should warrant consideration to be in the mix again.

However, I didn’t pick the Bulldogs to end up as four-time champions. I didn’t pick them to finish second, or third, fourth or fifth in the eight-team race. Instead, I rationalized to myself that losing seniors like Blake Reynolds, Gabe Clement and others would be too much to overcome and that the team would finish sixth.

“Three-time NWC champion Columbus Grove lost a ton of talent but has some nice players back,” is what I wrote.

“Head coach Andy Schafer (ninth year at Columbus Grove) does have nine returning starters, including highly regarded running back Colin Metzger, wide receiver Jackson Schroeder and punter/kicker Rece Verhoff, who has 16 career field goals and is one of the top kickers in the nation.”

“Defense may have to carry the team early in the season, until the offense finds its identity.”

The pick got the attention of the Bulldogs, who apparently used the pick as inspiration to finish the regular season 10-0 (7-0 NWC) regular season and yes, a fourth consecutive NWC championship.

“I said as soon as the picks came out I brought them into our team, read them off and said, ‘After the last game I will sign a ball and send it to you,’” Schafer said.

Keep in mind I didn’t know any of this until Thursday morning, when the ball arrived and was signed by the team and the coaches. Assistant coach Andy Kohls, who works in Van Wert, dropped it off and spent a few minutes chatting about the season.

The ball is getting its own case and a special place in my sports memorabilia.

As for my picks, how did I do overall?

I picked Spencerville to win the 2021 title but the Bearcats finished fourth. Looking back, a break or two and coach Sommers and his team could have finished second or third.

I did get Leipsic and Allen East right and I got Delphos Jefferson and Ada correct. I had Crestview fourth and Bluffton fifth, and they finished fifth and sixth.

As far as the Western Buckeye League, I was off as well. Van Wert won a co-championship with Wapakoneta. I picked them No. 1-2, so that part was close. St. Marys Memorial and Ottawa-Glandorf tied for third and I had them No. 4-5. After that, let’s just say I could have done better.

As they say in sports, there’s always next year.

POSTED: 10/29/21 at 3:53 am. FILED UNDER: Sports