Grove City: Dawgs make strides in first year under coach Matt Shaul

Frank DiRenna
ThisWeek group
Sophomore running back Trevor Mills takes a handoff from sophomore quarterback Zakk Tschirhart during a 48-12 win over Westland on Oct. 2. Mills led the Dawgs in rushing with 709 yards and seven touchdowns on 127 carries.
Matt Shaul went 3-7 in his first season leading the Dawgs. "Our coaches coached hard every week and our players got better every week. It was just a blast," he said.

Matt Shaul thoroughly enjoyed his first season leading the football program at his alma mater.

Grove City finished 3-7 overall and displayed glimpses of promise, according to Shaul, who was named coach in January to succeed Tennyson Varney. 

Varney took over the program at his alma mater, Hamilton Township, and guided the Rangers to a 6-2 record.

“The experience was awesome,” said Shaul, a 2001 graduate who played quarterback for the Dawgs. “The ability to lead your alma mater, be around a bunch of kids you love to be around and watch your team improve (was special). Our coaches coached hard every week and our players got better every week. It was just a blast.”

Grove City opened with a 7-6 win over Central Crossing on Aug. 28.

The Dawgs dropped their next four games before snapping the losing streak with a 48-12 win over Westland on Oct. 2 for their lone victory in OCC-Ohio Division play.

Grove City went 1-4 in the league to finish fifth behind champion Pickerington North (5-0).

The 16th-seeded Dawgs lost 49-0 at top-seeded Pickerington Central in the opening round of the Division I, Region 3 playoffs Oct. 9.

Grove City added three games to its schedule following the loss to Central, including a 10-0 win over Westerville North in the season finale Oct. 30 and a 14-13 setback against Thomas Worthington on Oct. 16.

“In an age where we didn’t think a season was going to take place, we played all 10 games,” Shaul said. “When it’s all said and done, it was a lot of fun.”

Sophomore Zakk Tschirhart (QB/DB) completed 53 of 103 passes for 414 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions, and sophomore Trevor Mills (RB/DB) led in rushing with 709 yards and seven touchdowns on 127 carries.

Sophomore Christian Isaacs (RB/DB) ran for 372 yards and one touchdown on 73 carries, and senior Caden Gordon (RB/DB) and sophomore Xavier Rose (RB/DL) each added 209 yards.

Lukas Hamilton (WR/DB), who was one of 21 seniors, led the team in receiving with 12 catches for 237 yards and two touchdowns.

Senior Hayden Yerian (RB/LB) led the defense with 82 tackles. Senior Cole Becker (RB/LB) had 51 tackles, followed by senior Carter Binford (47, WR/DB), senior A.J. Stoll (46, RB/DB) and junior Zach Combs (45, TE/LB).

Seniors Tyler Biddle (RB/LB) and Dennis Chadeya (TE/DL) were named first-team all-league, seniors Austin Allmon (TE/DL), Isaacs, Tyler Lantzy (K/P) and Mills were second-team all-league, sophomore Isaac Carter (OL/DL) was special mention all-league and Becker was honorable mention all-league.

Biddle, Carter and Mills were special mention all-district.

“We got better as a team, not just on the field but off the field, too,” Allmon said. “Everybody was just one. Everybody acted like a family and nobody hated each other. Everybody wanted to be there. It was like football should be.”

Other key players eligible to return include juniors A.J. Jones (TE/LB), Jacob Nelson (OL/DL) and Dennis Ritlinger-Nirider (WR/DB).

Shaul believes the future is bright for the program, as the freshman team finished 9-0 and the junior varsity went 4-3.

Shaul is a math teacher at the school and had been an assistant coach in the program since 2014.

“It was an easy transition,” Allmon said. “He did a great job. Everybody listened to him and cooperated. There were no problems like in the past. Everything went how it should.”

fdirenna@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekFrank

Record: 3-7 overall

OCC-Ohio standings: Pickerington North (5-0), Westerville Central (4-1), Gahanna (3-2), New Albany (2-3), Grove City (1-4), Westland (0-5)

Seniors lost: Bobby Adams, Austin Allmon, Cole Becker, Tyler Biddle, Carter Binford, Justin Catalfina, Dennis Chadeya, T.J. Franklin, Nick Getz, Robert Getz, Caden Gordon, Lukas Hamilton, Michael Hooffstetter, Tyler Lantzy, Nick Leavens, Alec Olshefski, Jaden Smith, Riley Smouther, Hunter Stansell, A.J. Stoll and Hayden Yerian

Key returnees: Isaac Carter, Zach Combs, Christian Isaacs, AJ Jones, Trevor Mills, Jake Nelson, Dennis Ritlinger-Nirider, Xavier Rose and Zakk Tschirhart

Postseason: Lost to Pickerington Central 49-0 in first round of Division I, Region 3 playoffs