Football: Hartley Hawks pulled together despite off-field challenges
The emotional situations that the Hartley football team had to deal with this fall didn’t keep them from ending up in familiar territory at season’s end.
In addition to having one of their top seniors, Ohio University recruit and offensive lineman Jake Skelly, miss the season after being diagnosed with leukemia, Chuck Wooten, a longtime assistant, died Oct. 13 from bone cancer.
Three days after losing Wooten, however, Hartley began a playoff run that ended with a Division III, Region 11 runner-up finish.
The second-seeded Hawks defeated 15th-seeded Mount Orab Western Brown (65-14 on Oct. 16), 10th-seeded Dresden Tri-Valley (34-14 on Oct. 23) and third-seeded Thornville Sheridan (10-6 on Oct. 30) before falling to top-seeded DeSales 38-7 on Nov. 6 to finish 6-4.
Two of Hartley’s other losses also were to DeSales, including 16-14 in final game of the regular season Oct. 2 when it had a chance to tie for the CCL title.
“I was pleased with everything this season, most of which was the experience that we had as a team,” coach Brad Burchfield said. “It was well-documented that we had several unforeseen challenges on top of the unprecedented challenges that every program faced this season.
“Our kids and coaches were incredible. We were able to get through these things together and grow together. I couldn’t imagine if we’d had to face these without one another. We had the opportunity to be together and so many great experiences came from that. We’ll have memories from this season that will last forever.”
Hartley, which has made the playoffs 11th consecutive seasons, is losing a 15-member senior class led by James Crenshaw (OL), Ryan Hawk (K), Sumo Kesselly (RB/LB), Sam LeMay (DL), Will Miller (LB), Marcelis Parker (RB/LB), Sammy Ray (OL) and Tony Thivener (OL).
Parker finished with 679 yards rushing and nine touchdowns on 135 carries, and Kesselly ran for 370 yards and four touchdowns on 65 attempts. Hawk made two field goals and 31 of 32 extra points.
Thivener was first-team all-district on offense, and Parker was first-team all-district on defense. Kesselly was special mention all-district and Hawk was honorable mention.
“You look back on the season and it was not a normal Hartley season, but it’s promising for the future,” said Daniel Tooson, a junior two-way lineman who was first-team all-district. “It was the craziest year since I’ve been at Hartley.”
Juniors Nyal Johnson (RB), Richard Kenny (WR/DB), Andrew McFeeters (OL/DL) and Trey Saunders (WR/RB/DB) and sophomores Dylan Newsome (RB/LB) and Peyton Underwood (QB) should be among the top returnees on offense.
Underwood completed 41 of 77 passes for 749 yards and nine touchdowns and was honorable mention all-district.
Saunders rushed 56 times for 572 yards and six touchdowns and had 21 receptions for 408 yards and four scores and was first-team all-district on defense.
Johnson rushed 114 times for 838 yards and seven touchdowns and also was first-team all-district.
Kenny had 26 carries for 218 yards and two touchdowns and 15 receptions for 222 yards and three scores and was first-team all-district on defense.
Newsome scored the only touchdown for the Hawks in the playoff loss to DeSales and was special mention all-district.
Junior running back Cherod Bowens added 125 yards and one touchdown on 11 carries.
Defensively, Tooson (DL/OL) and sophomore DeAunte’ Hubbard (LB) and Anthony Murphy (LB) should be among the top returnees. McFeeters and Hubbard both were honorable mention all-district.
Tooson, who had 15 tackles for loss and eight sacks, has offers from Cincinnati and Akron.
Juniors Bryce January (DB/QB), Avion Murphy (OL/DL) and Aidan Turner (WR/DB), sophomore Keilan Smith (OL/DL) and freshmen Donovan Davis (OL/DL) and Joey Wooten (RB/LB) also are expected back.
“We’re beyond excited for the future,” Burchfield said. “We’ll have a plethora of returnees back on next year’s team and everyone can see that. We got a lot of kids quality time on the varsity field against some of the very best in Ohio. A priority is going to be to become bigger and stronger and we’ll be able to do that with maturity. I’m excited to see how different physically we look a year from now. It’s going to be awesome.
“We have returners everywhere and I can’t wait to see them take the next step from being really good to being the very best. … It’s exciting to even think about what these guys can become.”
•Record: 6-4 overall
•CCL standings: DeSales (4-1), Hartley (3-2), Watterson (2-3), St. Charles (0-3)
•Seniors lost: Travis Bowie, Nick Chovan, James Crenshaw, Ryan Hawk, De’Andre Hodge, Sumo Kesselly, Sam LeMay, Deron Maina, Will Miller, Marcelis Parker, Sammy Ray, Shawand Saunders, Jake Skelly, Kason Sunderland and Tony Thivener
•Key returnees: Nyal Johnson, DeAunte’ Hubbard, Richard Kenny, Andrew McFeeters, Anthony Murphy, Dylan Newsome, Trey Saunders, Daniel Tooson and Peyton Underwood
•Postseason: Defeated Mount Orab Western Brown 65-14; def. Dresden Tri-Valley 34-14; def. Thornville Sheridan 10-6; lost to DeSales 38-7 in Division III, Region 11 final