Thank you to our Golden Ticket sponsor, Hummel Group Insurance & Wealth Management, for their devotion and support of our area youth.
It’s time for OhioSportsTicket.com to present the highly coveted Golden Ticket of the Year Awards. This was a fantastic school year for high school sports at Garaway, Hiland and West Holmes with plenty of special moments. There were many great efforts by all, and it was a pleasure to promote the dedication, drive and talents of our local teens. The tradition continues here as we hand out our season accolades to the deserving individuals and teams who provided so much entertainment to their respective communities throughout the school year. So without further ado, here are your 2018 Golden Ticket of the Year honorees.
Male Golden Ticket Athlete of the Year: Brayden Chaney a shining star among the all-time greats at WHHS
Every once in awhile, an athlete comes along in high school who makes people sit on the edge of their seats in anticipation that something big is about to happen.
West Holmes senior Brayden Chaney was one of those people. He had a raw intensity, and settling for second was never an option for this gifted athlete who is now bound for Ashland to participate in their hugely successful track and field program.
Chaney snagged both the Golden Ticket Player of the Season titles in fall for football and in the spring for track, and deservedly so, as he dominated on the oval and the gridiron.
It wasn’t that long ago that track was an unknown commodity for Chaney, who kind of came out of nowhere his freshman season to run track. Although his raw speed was evident, finding a slot for him in which to compete was somewhat of a waiting game, although he could have excelled in just about any event.
Chaney’s outstanding senior season in track and field culminated with him earning a silver in Div. II in the 400-meters, where he was edged out for the championship by six-hundredths of a second. He also anchored the 4-by-400 relay team to a thrilling second-place finish, and his anchor effort in the 4-by-200 relay at state helped that team to a fourth-place finish, making him a three-time All-Ohioan in 2018.
It is no wonder Ashland University is so excited to snag such a gifted athlete.
“I am really excited about the opportunity to run at Ashland because they have an amazing track program and I know that their 4-by-400 relay team is really special,” Chaney said. “I just want to go there and compete with the best and improve myself because I know I have a lot more to give and plenty of ways to get better.”
Anyone who knows Chaney or has watched him understands that he will do whatever is necessary to win.
“I don’t have any doubt that Brayden will achieve some great things at Ashland,” WHHS track coach Ty Harris said of Chaney. “He is a special talent, and he is not one of those kids who will be satisfied with anything. If he wins, he wants to run faster. That is the kind of drive he has, and that attitude and effort will make him a great college athlete.
Not only did Chaney rattle the cages of the track world, he also was a pretty gifted football player for the Knights. Chaney played all over the field on offense and was one of those guys who head coach Zac Gardner said created a buzz every time he touched the ball.
“Brayden is one of those special athletes who could break off an electrifying touchdown every time he touched the ball,” Gardner said. “He is special. Teams had to game-plan specifically to stop him, and we made it a goal just to get him as many touches as possible, whether it was out of the backfield or throwing it to him.”
As for his football prowess, Chaney is pretty certain that he has played his last official down on the gridiron, even if the Ashland football coaches do come knocking on his door.
“Yeah, I think I’m done with that,” Chaney said. “I am going to devote myself to running track.”
With no disrespect to all of our other Ticket Country athletes, choosing Chaney as our Golden Ticket Athlete of the Year was an easy pick.
Female Golden Ticket Athlete of the Year: Lady Knights’ Kaylin Martin is a girl for all seasons
Tabbing Chaney as the boys MVP was easy, and conversely the girls side of the ledger was just as difficult. The difficulty was that it seemed as though this year’s crop of girls were dedicated to one sport. West Holmes’ Lauren Park completed a dominant career in volleyball. Hiland’s Kennedy Schlabach capped off a historical career in basketball. We looked at Garaway’s Emma Warkall, who had terrific seasons in both volleyball and track, where she qualified for regionals in the pole vault, before eventually settling into one dominant three-sport star in the area, Kaylin Martin.
Martin is a ferocious competitor. She is athletic as all get-out, and that athleticism helped her carve out a tremendous soccer season for the Lady Knights, where she roamed the defensive end with great abandon. While offensive numbers get all of the accolades, defense is a difference-maker, and Martin made all the difference for West Holmes on the pitch.
That tenacity on the pitch oozed over on to the hardwood, where Martin played a key role for the Lady Knights’ basketball team. Martin never took plays off, and her ability to slash to the bucket from the guard spot and her ability to defend both bigger and small players because of her strength and quickness made her a valuable part of rookie head coach Lindsy Snyder’s team.
Finally, when spring rolled around, Martin continued to excel as an athlete, where she found her way to regionals in the long jump and the 100-meters. Her leadership on a very young Lady Knights team and her work ethic and expectations she put upon herself to succeed made Martin a three-sport star who will only move on to bigger and better things next season.
“Kaylin is a special kid who is such a hard worker that you can’t imagine her not being successful,” WHHS track coach Ty Harris said.
Coach of the Year: Mark Schlabach of Hiland boys basketball
It seems as though every season Hiland head basketball coach Mark Schlabach would lament about how far his team has to go, pointing out all of the team’s shortcomings, and then his Hawks would go out and bash their way to a state title, like they did in 2011 and 2012.
Yet since that time the coach who oftentimes gets overlooked has struggled to get his team out of districts. Last season the Hawks finally broke through to make the regional finals, but after losing several key components to that team, not many people like Hiland’s chances of coming anywhere near the 20-plus win plateau the Hawks have enjoyed so much the past eight seasons.
However, Schlabach talked early on about his 2018 team having something special, something unique, something that would have people underestimating the team.
It isn’t often that a basketball coach can sell his kids on devoting themselves to just going out and winning with defense, but that is exactly what Schlabach did in guiding his Hawks to a state tournament berth and a fantastic 23-6 season.
Hiland’s crowning achievement may have come in its two regional tilts, where the Hawks went on a 44-3 run to overwhelm Fairfield Christian and then took down a great 21-5 Peebles team with a devastating 47-8 run. While they scored a lot of points in both of those efforts, it was their defense that paved the way.
Rookie of the Year Team:
This year’s crop of rookie athletes was really, really outstanding and deep. The youngsters were providing valuable efforts across the board in many different sports, and it should be fun to watch these youngsters develop over the coming years. And these are just to name a portion of the youngsters who delivered some important efforts in Ticketville sports this school year.
- Katie Sprang – West Holmes girls track/cross country/basketball
- Megan Jones – West Holmes volleyball
- Zehnder Gibson & Rendall Weaver – Garaway boys golf
- Zoe Miller, Brynn Mullet, Kelsey Swihart and Morgan Yoder – Hiland girls basketball
- Peyton McKinney – West Holmes boys basketball
- Brooklyn Frey – Garaway volleyball
- Hunter Sommers – Hiland boys basketball
- Paige Race – West Holmes girls basketball
- Lane Graham & Brady Taylor – West Holmes boys track
Leading this pack of youngsters was Katie Sprang. An injury curtailed Sprang’s basketball season and the latter part of her cross country campaign, but her comeback in the spring in track saw her carve out her spot on the Knights’ Wall of Fame with a seventh-place All-Ohio finish at state in the 800-meters.
Jones came on late in the year in volleyball, but once she arrived, she made an instant impact as she showed off a great game at the net.
Gibson and Weaver’s play landed them varsity roles, and they showed that Garaway’s incredible golf program will be in good hands for years to come.
The quartet of Miller, Mullet, Swihart and Yoder played key roles in yet another unbelievable Lady Hawks’ basketball campaign. Miller’s play in the paint was incredibly impressive for a freshman who played beyond her years.
McKinney’s role grew as the season progressed, and by the end of the year he showed a great deal of promise that he will step into a leading role sooner rather than later for the Knights’ basketball program.
Frey looked like anything but a freshman on the floor for the Lady P’s volleyball team. Her all-around game makes her look like a big-time player for the next three years.
Sommers was thrust into a big role for the Hawks’ basketball team, and while he took some bumps and bruises, he arrived on the other side of his freshman year looking like a key piece in Hiland’s team.
Night after night Race was usually the smallest kid on the floor, but come the fourth quarter, the diminutive one was a major force, where she seemed to do most of her scoring when the Lady Knights needed a big bucket.
West Holmes’ track team had a record-setting spring, and Graham threw his weight around in the discus and shot put to show he is going to be a force to be reckoned with. As for Taylor, he looks like the heir apparent to the mid-sprint world and was a member of the All-Ohio 4-by-200 relay team.
Ticket Greatness Awards
Gold Power: Lauren Park – West Holmes volleyball
Lauren Park’s four-year career at West Holmes saw her completely wreck the world as she made a complete rewrite of the West Holmes volleyball record book. She graduated from West Holmes as its all-time kill leader and crawled up the ranks of the state record book as well, finishing in the top 10 in kills in Div. II.
Park’s list of accomplishments is staggering. She exploded on to the high school scene as a freshman, racking up 325 kills on her way to earning First-Team All-Conference and Second-Team All-District honors. As a sophomore she hammered out 335 kills and made Second-Team All-Ohio. Her junior year saw the kill total leap to 492, and she earned First-Team All-Ohio honors. She finished off her illustrious career with 482 kills as a senior, again earning First-Team All-Ohio honors while placing herself in the top 10 in kills in OHSAA history.
Her senior campaign was a carbon copy of her junior year, and she was a force whenever she stepped on the floor. She will show off her craft at Ohio University this fall.
The Golden Touch: Kennedy Schlabach – Hiland girls basketball
If Park is a giant on the floor, Schlabach is the exact opposite. Yet while she may be short on height, the four-year starter for the Lady Hawks is as big as it gets in heart, technique, knowledge and shooting skills. The 1,000-point career scorer had a huge senior season that saw her lead the Lady Hawks to a regional final showdown with state champion Africentric.
Bound for Ohio Dominican University, Schlabach leaves Hiland as its finest free throw shooter ever, and that includes the boys. Her acumen beyond the 3-point arc is legendary, and she is one of the all-time leaders, where she is currently fifth in career 3-pointers with 321.
Schlabach’s terrific season paved the way for her First-Team All-Ohio berth.
Golden Athlete: Shane Jones – West Holmes baseball
At times this past spring Jones didn’t even seem like he belonged on the same field as the rest of the players. A strong 6-foot, 3-inch athlete, Jones was terrific in every aspect of the game. In the outfield he roamed with complete abandonment, never hesitating to charge head-first after a low liner or sprint to the wall to corral a long fly ball that looked destined for a double.
At the plate Jones was the driving force of the Knights’ offense. He often hit early in the line-up, meaning more at-bats, and he hit for both average and power. Once on the bases, he became lethal with his speed and was a huge threat to take off on any pitch. Coupled with a tremendous second half in the West Holmes basketball season, Jones should be a force to reckon with as a senior next year.
Golden Athlete: Andy Miller – Hiland baseball
It’s tough to find fault in Andy Miller’s game. The Hawks’ junior shortstop put together a season for the books and in the process earned All-Ohio honors. With four home runs, a batting average just under .500, tremendous speed and a fielding technique that is textbook perfect, the Malone University-bound Miller is a coach’s dream.
However, being blessed with all of the physical tools combined with a truly athletic body, it isn’t just his God-given talents that made Miller such a sensational player this year. Miller is a workaholic, putting in countless hours of time on the tee, in the cage, fielding ground balls and working on the mental aspect of the game. He is truly a student of the game, and his business attitude on the field and desire to be the best on the diamond and the hardwood, where his defensive skills in basketball are almost scary, has put him in position to enjoy what should be an unforgettable senior season.
In Your Face Gold: Cael Woods – West Holmes wrestling
Sometimes it is easy to forget that Cael Woods is just a sophomore. After all, he already has two appearances at the state wrestling meet. He also owns the school record for best finish for a freshman, where he placed eighth two years ago, and this past year he earned a third-place finish to cap off his second straight All-Ohio effort.
To think that this is only the tip of the iceberg for Woods is mind-boggling.
For a 113-pound wrestler, Woods is mightily strong, but what has carried him to success the most in his career and in his fantastic finish this past year has been his technique. Rarely is Woods ever outwitted on the mat. He is uncanny at finding weaknesses and exploiting them, and once he gets a lead, rarely does he ever give it up.
In Your Face Gold: Sydney Mullet – Garaway girls basketball
A pest. A water bug. A total annoyance. We could find many ways to sum up the impact Sydney Mullet had on the floor for the Garaway Lady Pirates, but undoubtedly the moniker “In Your Face” is a very deserving one. Mullet, who is generously listed at 5-feet, 2-inches in the Garaway basketball program, was one of those tenacious defenders who simple wore opposing guards down.
It was never a stretch to open up the stats for a game and see her with more than six steals, but more than that, she wore on the opposition mentally and physically with her relentless style of play. Not only that, she could handle the rock, and she also could score plenty, becoming another one of the Lady P’s all-time greats to soar past the 1,000-point career mark. Strangely enough, despite her diminutive size, her absence will leave giant shoes to fill next season.
Unselfish Gold: Tyler Masters – West Holmes wrestling
All last season during his freshman year, West Holmes sophomore Tyler Masters played the ultimate team guy. Masters should have been wrestling down around 106 or 113 pounds, but with two All-Ohioans there, he settled in at 120 pounds and wrestled guys much larger than himself.
One might call that a learning moment, but what we saw was a young man willing to do whatever necessary to help his team in a sport that is often viewed as an individual sport.
This year his patience and commitment were rewarded, and he dropped back to his natural weight at 113 pounds. All he did was battle his way to state, where he won his first two matches, thus securing a spot on the podium and on the West Holmes Wall of Fame as an All-Ohioan with his sixth-place finish.
Golden Leadership: Michael Taylor – West Holmes track/football
Whether it was on the football field or the track, West Holmes senior Michael Taylor was a picture of leadership. Taylor is one of those guys who has the uncanny ability to charge guys up around him. While some guys lead by example, Taylor seemed to know how to get his teammates psyched up, and it paid off.
As a defensive back for the Knights football team, he helped West Holmes make great strides in returning to its winning ways. On the track he earned All-Ohio honors along with teammates Brayden Chaney, Brady Taylor, Jonathan Kandel and Travett Boughman as the Knights set an all-time school record for team finishes at state, placing seventh.
Through it all Taylor was right there making an impact with his physical tools, but more than that, earning his stripes as a leader.
Golden Duo: Kim Miller & Madisynn Bryk – Hiland volleyball
While Hiland saw an impressive turnaround in its volleyball fortunes this past fall with a huge team effort, the leaders on the floor were the dynamic duo of setter Kim Miller and outside hitter Madisynn Bryk. Together those two both earned Honorable Mention All-Ohio honors, and so many times they seemed as if they were able to read each other’s minds as they set the stage for another attack at the net.
Both of them are back this year, as is the bulk of a team that finished the season riding high at 20-4. With most of last year’s team members returning, the two All-Ohioans and their Lady Hawks teammates have a chance to go where no other Lady Hawks team has gone before.
Lifetime Gold: Jocelyn Miller- Garaway track/cross country
There is no flash to Jocelyn Miller’s game, only good old-fashioned hard work ethic and a great attitude. Miller came on to the Garaway distance scene as a freshman and never looked back. She proved her worth early and maintained a terrific pace to her career, helping Garaway become a perennial challenger to reach the state cross country tournament. Her senior season saw her place 21st at the state cross country meet, which made her an All-Ohioan as a top 25 placer.
Her final year in track saw her inch to within seconds of securing a spot at state in the 3200. However, all finishes and honors aside, Miller, who is bound to compete at Malone University this fall in cross country, was a shining example of a quality kid who deserved everything she earned.
Lifetime Gold: Thane Kaufman – West Holmes wrestling
Thane Kaufman had a career that most kids can only dream of having. Three times Kaufman found his way to the state wrestling tournament, but state appearances are only the tip of the iceberg for Kaufman.
When this season was over, the senior found himself atop the Knights’ all-time wins list, topping Colt Sponsellor, who was just a three-time state champion. No situation ever seemed to faze Kaufman, and whether he was winning handily, in a bitter batter or being beaten, which was a rarity, it never seemed like his demeanor changed. He was always calm, cool and collected, which kind of hid the fact that underneath burned the drive and heart of a champion who hates to lose.
Golden Attitude: Makayla Miller – Garaway track/basketball/volleyball
Every team needs a Makayla Miller. Is she some uber-athlete who can carry a team? No, but what she does bring to the table makes her a shining example of what it means to be a true teammate. Miller played three sports, and while she didn’t stand out in any, she was a key component on three very successful Garaway girls programs.
Her huge heart, ever-present smile and incredible attitude to do whatever was best for her team and her teammates made her an invaluable addition to each of the three programs. Ask any of those coaches, and they will tell you how much they will miss Miller, both for her talent and her gift to make people around her better.
Golden Moment: Scott Troyer – Hiland basketball
After struggling through the early part of the 2017-18 basketball season, Hiland senior Scott Troyer found his groove in 37 minutes of showcase hoops. Over the years the Hiland basketball program has had First-Team All-Ohio players the likes of line-up Junior Raber, Keith Troyer, Dylan Kaufman and Seger Bonifant donning the Red, White and Black. However, none of those guys ever did what Troyer did in the Hawks’ game versus Garaway in Sugarcreek.
In a key Inter-Valley Conference rivalry showdown, Troyer broke out in a huge way, scoring Hiland’s first 19 points of the game, spotting his team to a 19-11 lead. No matter what the Pirates did to defend Troyer, he found ways to get his shot, and he rarely missed, ending the night with 37 points. Oddly enough Garaway found a way to win in overtime, putting a damper on this monumental achievement.
Golden Stunner: Brevin Weaver – Garaway golf
Reality check: When you’re playing with the best players in the state of Ohio, you aren’t supposed to play poorly and come away an All-Ohioan. Garaway senior Brevin Weaver apparently didn’t care about what was supposed to happen. He decided to make his own fate at the Div. III state golf tournament.
After shooting a none-too-impressive 83 on the opening day at state, every ounce of Troyer should have led him to the thought that his dream of reaching All-Ohio status was gone. But rather than dwell on the negative, Weaver wanted to make his final round of high school golf memorable. Did he ever.
All he did was go out on day two and post a five-under score through the first six holes, and suddenly the guy with no hope was right in the thick of the hunt. Weaver was lights-out in his final round, firing a one-under par 71 that took him from 34th all the way into the top 10, where he somehow pulled off what was seemingly unachievable: a spot on the Div. III All-Ohio team.
“I don’t think many people shoot an 83 and make it, but even before the day started, after shooting so poorly on day one, I kept thinking to myself, ‘Just go out and play the best you can and see what happens.’ It actually happened. I feel very blessed.”
Play of the Year
Big plays in football are fun. Big plays against great teams are even more enjoyable. Big plays against great teams that are rare are, well, they are inspirational.
Facing a daunting New Philadelphia Quakers defense, the West Holmes Knights had the football on its own 5-yard line, their backs against the wall. Knights’ quarterback Bridger Cline stepped back into the pocket of his own end zone and launched a perfectly thrown spiral, hitting tight end Shane Jones in stride. Jones was roaring up the seam and hauled in the pass just beyond the 20-yard line, where he found high gear in a heartbeat.
There wasn’t wide open daylight as much as little pockets of it, and Jones began picking his way downfield, churning across the width of the field near the 50 and making a beeline down the left side of the field. Jones electrified Quaker Stadium, and 95 yards later, the Knights had set a new school record for the longest TD play in school history.
Game of the Year: Garaway vs. Ridgewood football – Oct. 8
While it was obvious that the Garaway Pirates’ and Ridgewood Generals’ players were physically exhausted in their Inter-Valley Conference football game this fall, it is hard to say who was more emotionally drained: the players or the fans.
This game in West Lafayette had it all, and if any fan in attendance left disappointed with the shear excitement level, inspirational play and gut-wrenching moment, that was on them.
Ridgewood dominated the first half and took a 21-6 lead. The Pirates came roaring back in the second half, led by Dawson Ley and Brady Winters, tying the score at 24. Both teams then had multiple chances to forge a lead, but the defenses stiffened, and as time ran down in a final frenzy of penalties, fumbles and more, the Generals had a chance to win it.
Ridgewood’s Keith Claxon lined up for a 21-yard game-winning field goal, only to see Garaway’s Dillon Donaldson come slashing through the line to block it.
Claxon had been given a second chance, and this time he came through, drilling a 37-yarder in the closing seconds to give the Generals a heart-wrenching victory.
“That was probably fun to watch as a fan,” Ridgewood coach John Slusser said. “Maybe not so much as a coach, but it was one heck of a football game that is kind of exactly what people have come to expect from this rivalry.”