September 16th…just another warm Friday night during the 2022 football season. However, for two Western Ohio Athletic Conference schools, it would be anything but the usual Friday night game. The Ansonia Tigers would make the trip across Darke County to New Madison to play the Patriots of Tri-Village in what would be an epic shootout contest. Two rival schools battling that night, taking it one game at a time, with hopes of a conference championship and an overall memorable season, would later see themselves Co-Champions and eventually still playing in November in the regional semi-finals. Tri-Village that night would eek out the 37-36 victory.
Tri-Village Coach Matthew Hopkins echoed the sentiments about what that week 5 contest with Ansonia meant to his team. “I think it proved to our guys that we could play with any team we faced. Sometimes…all you need is that confidence to get things going.” Neither team realized that night that they were destined to be co-champions and would continue representing the WOAC into mid-November in the playoffs, but there is an appreciation for that contest and the strength of the league in shaping the success they’ve seen in the playoffs.
Coach Adam Hall at Ansonia also noted the strength of the WOAC. “I think it was a competitive year in the conference and overall, I felt we (the WOAC) had a great season with 5 teams making the playoffs and most advancing past the opening round.”
Tri-Village’s Hopkins added, “I think our conference is very competitive. It is diverse enough in its schemes to feel like your team has seen it all by the post season.” Hopkins continued, “I think that the fact that the league’s co-champs are still playing in the sweet 16 prove that point.”
The league’s success however begins with the individual programs, the traditions and the expectations the school’s hold that create the environment for achievement. Although Tri-Village may be the new kid on the block in football, they still have a history of athletic success in other sports. Ansonia on the other hand is a revered program, known for their gridiron success.
Coach Hopkins attributes his success as a first-year coach at Tri-Village to continuity within the program. “Not having a lot of turnovers from the previous staff and the continued high expectations that our kids hold themselves to are major reasons for success,” stated Hopkins. “Continuity in both staff and schemes, specifically defensive schemes, helped our kids feel comfortable and play fast without over thinking.”
Up in Ansonia, it’s the community support that drives this storied program to continue. Coach Hall and his team are very thankful for that support that they receive. “First, our athletic boosters do so much for us and all the teams at Ansonia throughout the year. We have been fortunate to have a great group of parents providing team meals on Thursday nights,” said Hall. “I think the community support this season has been outstanding. We have had huge crowds at both home and away games all season, and our guys look forward to that experience on Friday nights.”
Adam Hall is no stranger to that experience of community at Ansonia, he grew up in it. Coach Hall was not shy about showing his gratitude for the Ansonia community and additionally his mentor, former coach, and now turned assistant coach, Eugene Hoening. “It has been great to have Coach Hoening be on staff this year. I personally would not be a coach or teacher if it were not for Coach Hoening. Pretty much everything I have ever learned about football, managing a team, or leadership has come from him. There is no doubt that we wouldn’t be as good of a coaching staff or football team without Coach Hoening. If you look back at nearly every successful season of football Ansonia has ever had, Coach Hoening has been a part of it, that is not a coincidence. As good of a football coach as he is, he is probably the best person I know.”
Hall continued to share about the joy of working with him on the sidelines and during practice, the respect and presence it provides for the kids, as well as the impact his experience has on continuing the brand of “hard-nosed football” that Hoening had established many years ago. “It’s not possible to overstate the impact Coach (Hoening) has had on me, this season, or Ansonia football as a whole.”
Make no mistake, despite his age and short tenure as head coach at Ansonia, Adam Hall also comes to the table with his own level of experience deserving of respect, especially regarding the state playoffs. As a player at Ansonia, Hall was a part of the 2008 and 2009 playoff teams that lost to Sidney Lehman and Covington in their respective years. As an assistant, Coach Hall saw the playoffs again in 2017 and 2018, losing opening round games to Convoy Crestview and Sidney Lehman.
In 2020, in Hall’s first season as Head Coach at Tri-County North his team would fall short against his alma mater Ansonia. It was upon his return to Ansonia as head coach this season where he would see his first play-off win. This weekend being his now 8th play-off contest all-time, the opportunity never grows dull. “The playoffs in high school football are something special. The teams are obviously better, the crowds are bigger, and the possibility that each game can be your last, make for an exciting atmosphere.”
Coach Matthew Hopkins likewise is no stranger to the playoffs. As an assistant under Ron Neanen at Eaton, they made consecutive playoff appearances, including a 2010 Regional Finals run. Since his days as a Head Coach, Hopkins has made the playoffs every season, including this season’s special run that they are on. And for Hopkins, the opportunity to continue building on this season is not taken lightly.
“The expectation for each new class that comes into our program is to outwork the class that just left,” stated Hopkins. “We can’t control the athletic ability that walks through our door’s year in and year out. What we can control is the amount of work and the level of intensity that goes into getting the most out of that athletic ability.”
And for Coach Hall at Ansonia, his persistent appreciation remains the narrative. “I certainly hope to be at Ansonia for a long time. Ansonia was and is my dream job. I very much hope to have the opportunity to coach here for as long as possible.”
Coach Adam Hall is carried off the field after the Tigers won the WOAC Football Title. (Gaylen Blosser Photo)
Both programs’ journeys are not yet complete in 2022. Ansonia and Tri-Village have spent all week gearing up for their respective matchups.
“We know that Saturday night will be a tough game and that New Bremen is a good team,” stated Adam Hall. When asked which you focus on, your own skill sets and abilities or taking away your opponents, Hall had this to say. “I think it’s a bit of both. We know they are talented at the skill positions on both offense and defense, and that their line is big and strong on both sides of the ball, and we must be prepared for that. However, at the same time we must do what we have done all season which is run the ball well and play good defense to give ourselves a chance to win this game.”
“We have had a great season so far and all the credit for that season goes to our guys,” stated Hall. “I was immediately impressed by the amount of work they put in the weight room all the way back in June and how that effort and attitude carried over from two a day and throughout the season. Our guys have put in the work all year, we expect a huge crowd, and we are looking forward to the contest.”
Tri-Village’s Hopkins shared the same beliefs regarding strategy in his match-up with Allen East. “I think with any opponent you must do a little of both. You must figure out how to stop the things they do well within the boundaries of our system. And same goes with offense, how can we best attack their defense with what we have in our playbook.” noted Hopkins. “We are just excited to still be playing in November and we hope we can keep this going for as long as we can!”
To catch either of these WOAC titans in their playoff matchups, you’ll need to travel to the neutral site host school.
Ansonia Tigers (11-1)
LAST WEEK: beat Springfield Catholic Central, 46-6
Among D7 schools in regular season:
Scoring: 3rd (45.1 ppg), Pt. Diff: 4th (+30.0 ppg), Strength of Schedule: 42nd
Strong Rushing Game 3319 yards, 415 per game
Lone loss came against Tri-Village in Week 5, 37-36
Has never won a Regional Championship
New Bremen Cardinals (9-3)
LAST WEEK: beat Riverside, 39-8, scored 4 TDs in the 2nd quarter
Dual-threat star QB David Homan with 260 all-purpose yards and 3 TDs
RB Hunter Schaefer took 15 carries for 153 yds and 2 TDs
33rd toughest Schedule in D7
Lost Week 10 to Delphos St. John’s when Homan was out with an injury
Losses to MAC schools Marion Local & Coldwater both still playing
First regional title came in 2020 when they won the State Championship
Ansonia will make the short trek down to Greenville where they will face New Bremen this Saturday at 7:00PM
Allen East Mustangs (11-1)
LAST WEEK: beat Paint Valley, 49-0
RB Jack Hole had 11 carries for 156 yds & 2 TD’s, plus 5 catches for 59 yds & a TD
QB Jacob Hershberger had 180 pass yds and 3 TD’s, plus 10 carries for 75 yards and another score
Only loss was to Elmwood in Week 3, 53-21
Has played the 80th toughest schedule in D6 this year
Most impressive win was beating 10-2 Columbus Grove in Week 5, 7-0
0 Regional Titles in school history in 6 playoff appearances
Tri-Village Patriots (11-1)
LAST WEEK: beat Cincinnati Country Day, 49-7
Varsity football program started in 2016. Made playoffs 1st time in 2020 and now 3 straight years
RB Reed Wehr was 1st-team All-Ohio as a sophomore; 178 carries for 1,790 yds & 23 TDs to go along with 17 catches for 305 yds and 3 more TDs. This year 175 carries for 1,384 yds & 22 TDs to go along with 10 catches for 240 yds & 5 TD’s
DB Justin Finkbine was also a 1st-team All-Ohioan last year as a junior
TV is the highest scoring team in D6, scoring 46.3 ppg in the regular season
Tri-Village will travel to Bellefontaine to square off against Allen East, Saturday at 7:00 PM.
1st year Tri-Village coach Matthew Hopkins gets the surprise bucket bath after his team won the WOAC Football Championship. (Dale Barger Photo)