Gridders wrap up 2nd straight stellar season

by MIKE LESKO | REPORTER Published:

Aurora -- A remarkable football season for the Aurora Greenmen ended with a loss in the Division II state semifinals for the second year in a row.

"To reach the final four for the second straight year is very special," coach Bob Mihalik said.

"When you stop to reflect, you realize that out of 120 Division II teams across the state that started the season, you are one of four still playing," he said. "Out of 715 schools across the state in all divisions, only 24 are left. That's around 3 percent.

"As time goes by, our seniors will realize what a special two years they experienced - a 24-4 record, Chagrin Valley Conference champs and regional champs."

The Greenmen finished the 2012 season with a 12-2 record. Their season ended with a 20-13 loss to Toledo Central Catholic.

"It was very disappointing at first because our kids and coaches work so hard year round to get to this level," Mihalik said. "When you are within a few plays of advancing to the state championship, it hurts because our kids put so much effort into our program.

"However, there are many life lessons to be learned through both winning and losing," he added. "I was proud of how our kids represented themselves and our program, both in victory and defeat."

Mihalik said he was also proud of how his players kept battling each game.

"OUR KIDS never give up," he said. "It's because they work so hard. They've invested in our program. They know as long as there's time on the clock, there's a chance we can win. They have a belief in their own talents. Those are great attributes to have."

AHS's year ended with a loss to Toledo Central Catholic. The locals had a 13-7 lead late in the third quarter but fell, 20-13.

"I told them there was nothing I could say to them at that moment to make them feel better -- nothing I could say to ease their pain," Mihalik said.

"However, as time passes, the pain goes away," he added, "but the memories of a great season will never fade. The relationships and friendships -- and brotherhood -- they developed will last forever."

Mihalik is proud of more than just football accomplishments.

"These kids have dealt with a lot of adversity the past 12 months -- things that 15-, 16- and 17-year-olds should not have to go through," he said, referring to the death of teammate Paulie McGhee in a car accident on Thanksgiving Day 2011.

"They have represented themselves, their personal families, the Aurora football program and Aurora High School in a positive manner," he said. "That is a credit to their personal families for raising such fine young men."

Offensive starters included junior quarterback George Bollas, senior fullback Brett Rodgers, senior tailback Zach Quinn, senior wide receiver Jake Czerwinski, senior slotback Frank Sivillo, senior tight end Zach Smierciak, junior offensive tackle Justin Wazbinski, sophomore offensive tackle Brandon Zamary, senior guards Nate Sotka and Geoff Moniz and senior center Jack Bruder.

DEFENSIVE starters included defensive end Wazbinski, junior end Romell Pollard, senior tackle Nick Groth, linebacker Zach Smierciak, junior linebacker-strong safety Kirk Janoch, linebackers Quinn, Rodgers and Nate Sotka, senior free safety Jake McVay and cornerbacks Sivillo and Miles Milner.

Special team members included sophomore placekicker Joey Melchiori, punter Quinn, holder Czerwinski, senior long snapper Alec Wells and returners Sivillo, McVay and Janoch.

Starters sidelined due to injury included linemen Patrick Dougherty and C.J. Suchovsky. Captains were Dougherty, McVay, Quinn and Smierciak.

Bollas was the leading rusher with 1,071 yards, a 7.2-yard average, and 16 touchdowns. Quinn was right behind him with 1,062 yards, a 7.6-yard average and 14 TDs. McVay had 806 yards, an 8.1-yard average, and 12 TDs.

Bollas completed 72 of 129 passes for 1,355 yards, 14 touchdowns and 3 interceptions.

Top receivers were Czerwinski with 24 catches for 381 yards and 3 TDs; Zach Smierciak with 15 catches for 419 yards and 5 TDs; and McVay with 11 catches for 253 yards and 4 TDs.

Smierciak led the team in total tackles with 123, followed by Sotka with 107, Rodgers 92, Quinn 90 and McVay 70.

Assisting Mihalik, who has a 102-40 record in 12 seasons, were Brian Wervey, Vic Ricketts, John Calcei, Nick Kukarola, Jay Price, Mark Dingman and Chad Murawski.

"We tell our kids that if you believe in yourself and are willing to work hard, anything is possible," Mihalik added.

Email: mlesko@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9400 ext. 4187

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