LIMA – The Tri-Village football team’s season came to an end in the OHSAA DVII Region 28 Regional semi-finals at the hands of St. Henry 34-0.
It would be a painful loss falling 34-0 to a much bigger, more physical team up front and on this night they were the better team. The loss however doesn’t define the season as the team and program took another step forward in just 6 short years.
Over the last 5 seasons guided by coach Robert Burk the Patriots have gone 3-7, 3-7, 5-5, 7-1 (covid-19 shortened season) and 11-2 this year.
The Patriots won a league title last year qualifying for the playoffs winning their first-round game before falling to Riverside 14-12 in the next round.
The year got off to a rough start for Tri-Village after losing All-State quarterback Layne Sarver in the 1st quarter of the season opener against Troy Christian … but they were able to pull out the win 21-7 with Reed Wehr running for 179-yards to help lead the PATS to the win.
The following week faced off against DV Preble Shawnee with a young sophomore quarterback Braden Keating stepping in to fill the void of Layne Sarver. In a game delayed twice and lots of rain the Patriots never got on track and was held scoreless in the first half trailing 14-0 and eventually fell to the Arrows 26-14.
The Patriots could have folded after that game, but they rebounded and got better and better each week and ran the table with a couple of key wins along the way beating Ansonia 21-7 with Wehr rushing for 195-yards and then beat Arcanum 53-28 where Wehr had a career night with 395 rushing yards and 5 TDs on the ground and 1 TD in the air for a total 6 TDs in the game.
The Patriots stay within reach of Preble Shawnee for a shot at a league title but needed some outside help from the two teams they just beat but the Arrows took down Arcanum 27-18 and Ansonia 48-34 to go on to win the first ever WOAC football league title going 9-0 in the conference.
Tri-Village finished 8-1 in the WOAC and 9-1 for the regular season, good enough to earn the #2 seed in DVII Region 28 for the OHSAA playoffs while finishing 8th in the final Ohio AP State Poll.
The Patriots hosted Miami Valley Christian in the opening round of the playoffs cruising to a 56-6 win to set-up a showdown with New Bremen the DVII defending state champions in the second round.
The Cardinal came to play scoring the first 21 points before TV responded by scoring 32 unanswered points and held on to win the game 32-29. The Patriots lost first team all-league center Wyatt Plush in the first quarter of the game but it was a breakout game for quarterback Braden Keating going 16-20 passing for 265 yards and 3 TDs and once again Reed Wehr would dazzle with his feet for 134 yards, 2 rushing TD’s and a game winning 77-yard screen pass for a TD to help TV advance to the Regional Semi-Final game where they would take on St. Henry.
The Redskins would prove to be a different challenge for the Patriots, one they hadn’t experienced before, a team that was able to line up and impose their will in the trenches as they were just physically bigger and stronger. They were successful bottling up Tri-Village skill players who were never able to get out in space to make plays in the game. A loss to a better team is just another opportunity to measure what it takes to get to the next level.
TV Coach Robert Burk took the time to reflect on the season and his program over the least 5 years and he has plenty of reason to be proud about how far they have come.
“I want to start by saying how proud I am of our team this year. We worked very hard to achieve what we did, and our players earned every milestone reached and every accolade they have coming to them,” Burk stated.
“To measure the growth of our program I focus on our defense. In 2017, my first season with the team, we gave up 38.5 points per game. In 2019 when we went 5-5 and gave up 22.6.
Even last season CCC champs gave up 21.75 points per game. This year we gave up 11.69 points per game in 13 games. During the regular season we only gave up 8.9 points per game. Those stats tell me that we are doing more than just out athletizing people. We are playing a smarter and tougher brand of football,” Burk praised.
“The other factor is our run game. Layne Sarver accounted for 1936 rushing yards in 2019 and 2020, which was 54% of our total run game. To lose him in the first quarter of week 1 was a terrible blow and I feel awful that he was unable to get fully cleared to return and show what he can do. But for the rest of the team to rally, our offensive line to step up, and for us to have 2488 total rushing yards without Layne this season is a testament to how far this program has come. To lose the reigning conference player of the year and 1st team All-State Quarterback and still average 35 points per game is a feat we are extremely proud to have accomplished.”
“Running the ball and playing great defense is a foundation that you can build upon to sustain success. I want to take the time to celebrate the senior class who has helped us build to this point, especially Layne Sarver, Josh Scantland, Wyatt Plush, Jakob Saylor and Seth Wogoman. Those 5 guys have started here since they were 14 years old and have left a legacy. They have set a high level of expectations and we plan to continue to keep those expectations high going forward.”
“As much as we will miss those seniors, we are excited to return the leading rusher (Reed Wehr) in the conference, the second leading passer (Braden Keating), the leading tackler (Austin Rismiller) and the defensive player of the year (Justin Finkbine) next season. And when you add on top of that our junior high football team who went undefeated and won the WOAC championship this year, well the future of football is bright in New Madison,” Burk concluded.
The accolades coach Burk was referring are many for the 2021 Tri-Village Football Team, below is a list of players receiving 1st and 2nd Team All-League and Southwest District Awards.
1. Justin Finkbine, 1st team Wide Receiver and Defensive Back in the WOAC and the League “Defensive Player of the Year”. He was also a D7 1st team All-Southwest District Defensive Back selection and named “The Defensive Player of the Year” in Southwest District.
2. Josh Scantland, 1st team Wide Receiver and Linebacker in the WOAC. He was also a D7 1st team All-Southwest District Wide Receiver selection.
3. Reed Wehr, 1st team Running Back and Linebacker in the WOAC. He was also a D7 1st team All-Southwest District Running Back selection.
4. Wyatt Plush, 1st team Offensive Linemen in the WOAC. He was also a D7 1st team All-Southwest District Offensive Linemen selection.
5. Dillan Plush, 1st team Offensive Lineman in the WOAC. He was also a D7 2nd team All-Southwest District Offensive Linemen selection.
6. Seth Cook, 1st team Defensive Linemen in the WOAC. He was also a D7 1st team All-Southwest District Defensive Linemen selection.
7. Tanner Printz, 1st team Defensive Back in the WOAC. He was also a D7 2nd team All-Southwest District Defensive Back selection.
8. Josh Randall, 1st team Kick Returner in the WOAC.
9. Braden Keating, 2nd team Quarterback in the WOAC. He was also a D7 2nd Team All-Southwest District Quarterback selection.
10. Austin Rismiller, 2nd team Linebacker in the WOAC. He was also a D7 2nd Team All-Southwest District Linebacker selection.
11. Christian Cantrell, 2nd team Defensive Linemen in the WOAC.
12. Blake Weyant, 2nd team Offensive Lineman in the WOAC.
13. Jason Hale, Special Mention Defensive Back in the WOAC.
14. Layne Sarver, Special Mention in the WOAC.
15. Amos Weimer, Special Mention in the WOAC.
The 2021 Ohio Prep Sportswriters Association Southwest All-District Division VII football teams, as selected by a media panel from the district also named Tri-Village Coach Robert Burk “Coach of the Year”.
Coach of the Year indicates progress the TV Football program has made under coach Burk’s guidance as the Patriots set a school record with 11 wins giving them one more measure besides St. Henry to aim for going forward.