Postseason banquet held Thursday; Brett Shaffer announced as Shawn Trager Memorial Scholarship recipient
By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor
Although no quite the closing chapter of the 2017 season, the traditional postseason dinner-program honoring and celebrating the Chillicothe High School football teams took place Thursday at the school.
The recognition event has become significantly-more low-key in recent years with delays in the announcement of player postseason honors, such as all-conference and all-district teams, and the decision by long-time head coach and his staff a few years ago to dispense with internal individual honors.
The individual highlight of the night now is the annual announcement of the recipient of the $1,000 Shawn Trager Memorial Scholarship, given by the family of the late CHS gridder and multi-sports standout who died in a traffic crash in Kansas while attending college early last decade. It goes to a senior football player who demonstrates the dedication and leadership traits the former Hornets football player, track-and-field star, and wrestler exhibited in his life.
As usual, Shawn’s father Matt and older brother Aaron were on hand to make announcement, presenting it to Brett Shaffer.
With all-Midland Empire Conference and all-district selections for 2017 yet to be made (both will occur this week and should be announced in the next 10 days), the still-21⁄2-hours event featured a brief recap by coach Willard of each of the games in the Hornets’ 10-2 campaign and introduction of and remarks on each varsity regular by the various members of the coaching staff.
This year’s Hornets produced CHS’ first MEC football championship (shared with Smithville) and first double-digits-wins season since 2008.
“Things didn’t always go perfect,” the head coach reflected. “… We learned some lessons along the way, including me, as old as I am.”
The 2017 grid Hornets not only shared the league crown – rallying to defeat co-champion Smithville 14-7 on the road on a touchdown in the final 25 seconds, but, in the process, dethroned 6-times defending champion Maryville. CHS’ 24-0 home win over MHS in the third week of the season was the foe’s first league loss since 2011.
“You provided us with a season I’ll never forget,” saluted the head coach.
Addressing the underclassmen present, coach Willard asserted, “It is your time to step up now.
“This senior group has done a great job of showing the way. That example needs to be carried on.”
Noting the daunting task of practicing against the talented, experienced seniors all year, he stressed, “You’re going to be a heck of a lot better player as a junior and senior because you went through that.”
Three Hornets broke program records this year, according to records researched and updated by local media member Randy Dean.
Senior Josh Kille shattered the marks for points scored (230), touchdowns scored (37), and rushing touchdowns scored (37) in a season, all of which had stood for at least 20 years. He also matched the record for rushing touchdowns in a game (six) set in 1909.
Jack Willard broke the records for kick scoring in a career (140 points) and average kickoffs yardage (54.6) in a season.
Br. Shaffer reset the mark for average yards per career reception (25.85).
Junior-varsity and freshman players also were introduced and comments on their collective seasons were shared, too.
In addition to another highly-successful varsity season, in terms of wins and losses, the development-level squads also had promising performances. The junior-varsity team won six of its seven games, including against all of its MEC opponents, and the 25-members freshman squad which had only one player who signed up for the team last May not stick with the team throughout its campaign, was 2-3 on its own and joined with the junior-varsity in two of its wins against programs which didn’t have enough players for separate JV and ninth-grade squads.
All told, 2017 CHS pigskin teams won 17 of 23 games this fall and 37 players – 13 of them seniors – earned varsity letters. Another 11 frosh who continued to practice with the older players the last couple of weeks of the varsity season after their own had concluded were given provisional letters. Those would transform into full varsity letters next year if they participate in the varsity-level program in 2018, according to the program’s current standards.
Of the 24 underclassmen earning varsity letters, 18 are sophomores and six juniors. While that gives next year’s team a reasonably-healthy number of upperclassmen to build from, only three of those two dozen were ’17 regulars, all three starting on defense. A handful of sophomores also were on kickoff coverage unit.
Of the 13 senior players, seven – Walker Graves, Adler Marshall, Trace Staton, Dylan Munson, J. Willard, Jonathan Burk, and Shaffer – were 4-years letterwinners. Graves started every game of his high school career.
Members of the fall dance squad and football cheerleading squad also were presented their letters by Dan Nagel, CHS director of athletics.
To begin the program, coach Willard extended verbal thanks to a long list of individuals and groups who assisted the program in a myriad of ways.
That list included, among others:
• Parents, especially various moms who helped organize special events, fundraising, treats, etc.
• The assistant and development-level coaches and their wives, as well as his own.
• School administrators and office staff.
• 7-on-7 tournament and golf tournament donors and help.
In addition, he presented a signed ball for ball boy Bo Smith and signed team photos to Matt Trager, Hilary Rasmussen, and “Butch” Shaffer.