Hilliard Bradley: Jaguars seniors built legacy during postseason run

Scott Hennen
ThisWeek group
Senior quarterback A.J. Mirgon was first-team all-league after completing 92 of 183 passes for 1,100 yards and nine touchdowns. He also rushed for a team-high 1,031 yards and eight scores.

The record for the 2020 Hilliard Bradley football team was no indication of the legacy that it left within the program. 

The Jaguars were just 3-6 overall, but they posted more postseason victories than any previous team. They won two playoff contests, advancing to a Division I, Region 3 semifinal where they lost to top-seeded and top-ranked Pickerington Central 34-7 on Oct. 23. 

Although Bradley entered the postseason at 1-5 overall and seeded 13th, it defeated fourth-seeded Groveport 28-7 on Oct. 9 in the first round and fifth-seeded Reynoldsburg 31-30 on Oct. 16 in a quarterfinal. 

“First, you’re kind of bummed when you look at the record, but then you realize just how much we accomplished,” 10th-year coach Mike LoParo said. “It was a tough season that ended well, and we’re happy with where we were able to finish the season. 

“They had a new offense and defense to learn plus the added stress of everything going on (with the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic). It was a bit of struggle when we were losing, but our kids kept their heads up and kept playing hard.” 

The Jaguars finished 1-4 behind champion Dublin Coffman (5-0) in the OCC-Central Division, which had four of its six teams reach regional quarterfinals and three advance to regional semifinals.  

Olentangy Liberty beat league-rival Coffman 18-15 in the Division I, Region 2 final. 

“I think going through that league prepared us for the postseason,” LoParo said. “When the OCC officials drew up the new divisions, they graduated Bradley to a new level. Now we have to raise the level and expectations to meet the demand.” 

Bradley was led offensively by senior quarterback A.J. Mirgon (first-team all-league), who was 92-for-183 passing for 1,100 yards, nine touchdowns and seven interceptions. He also led the team in rushing with 1,031 yards and eight touchdowns on 191 carries. 

Senior tight end Jack Pugh (first-team all-league and a Wisconsin recruit) caught 16 passes for 240 yards and three touchdowns, and senior Chance Roberts (second-team all-league) anchored the offensive line. 

Senior wide receivers Jake Duffer (15 catches, 202 yards, 2 TDs), Kenyon Richardson (12 catches, 194 yards, 2 TDs) and Justice Ross (23 catches, 248 yards, 1 TD) were key targets for Mirgon. 

Seniors also led the defense, a unit that featured honorable mention all-league lineman Walter Williams (31 tackles, two for loss), linebacker Max Cooper (team-high 84 tackles, 10 for loss, 2 sacks) and defensive back Jordan Thompson (52 tackles). 

“The seniors put together the best playoff run in our history, so that says something about them,” LoParo said. “They didn’t have the best record, but they found another way to leave their legacy.” 

Junior linebacker Caden VanVorhis (second-team all-league) had 82 tackles, three for loss, and three interceptions. He also had three forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. 

“The seniors taught me that we have to adapt to different situations because we had to adapt to COVID all year,” VanVorhis said. “Also that you have to fight with what you have and that you have to keep learning and building.” 

Junior slot Tayshaun Mayfield (second-team all-league) caught 15 passes for 113 yards and also rushed for 175 yards and one touchdown on 49 carries. 

Sophomore running back Trevor Schuler rushed for 222 yards and two touchdowns on 57 carries and caught three passes for 39 yards and one score. Freshman wide receiver Preston Wolfe caught five passes for 49 yards. 

The linebacker corps should make an impact next season. In addition to VanVorhis , also expected back are juniors Payton Murphy (48 tackles, 3 interceptions), Mitch Robinson (76 tackles) and Kieran Vallo (51 tackles) and sophomore E.J. Teah (35 tackles, 7 for loss). 

Junior Matthew Cooper (special mention all-league) and sophomores Saimir Refatllari and Robert Snyder are expected back on the offensive line. Freshman kicker Jake Walter was 19 of 21 on extra points and 2-for-2 on field goals. 

shennen@thisweeknews.com 

@ThisWeekHennen 

•Record: 3-6 overall 

•OCC-Central standings: Dublin Coffman (5-0), Olentangy Liberty (4-1), Olentangy Orange (3-2), Upper Arlington (2-3), Bradley (1-4), Davidson (0-5) 

•Seniors lost: Yaser Awale, Ryan Barkhimer, Brayden Bentley, Andrew Brooks, Derek Brown, Jairid Buchanan, Max Cooper, Jake Duffer, Connor Kennedy, David Kim, Arell Layliev, A.J. Mirgon, Kavin Mottola, Ibrahim Musa, Jared Pallay, Jack Pugh, Kenyon Richardson, Cameron Ridolfo, Chance Roberts, Justice Ross, Matt Sailor, Jack Sandberg, Deacon Sawchuk, Jordan Thompson, Erik Ware, Jackson White and Walter Williams 

•Key returnees: Matthew Cooper, Tayshaun Mayfield, Peyton Murphy, Saimir Refatllari, Mitch Robinson, Trevor Schuler, Robert Snyder, E.J. Teah, Kieran Vallo, Caden VanVorhis, Jake Walter and Preston Wolfe