BY J. PATRICK EAKEN | MIRROR SPORTS — The Anthony Wayne football team was 12 points away from a 9-0 season, and four points away from a Northern Lakes League championship.
The Generals were 5-4 but had just two league losses – 27-24 to Perrysburg and 28-27 to Bowling Green.
At 7-2 overall and 7-0 in conference, the Yellow Jackets won the league championship, followed by BG (7-2, 6-1) and AW (5-4, 5-2).
AW’s other two losses were to St. Francis, 10-7, in the Division II playoffs and to Fremont Ross, 26-20, in the final game of the season.
“We lost four games by a combined 12 points. That makes you kind of evaluate,” AW coach Anderson Brungard said.
AW was honored with five first-team selections on the All-NLL football team – senior running back Charles Renninger, junior wide receiver Evan Ray, junior tackle Evan White, junior guard Jack Bauer and senior utility player Garrett Pike.
Renninger, at 5-foot-11, 205 pounds, pounded his way to 1,019 yards on 190 carries and 17 touchdowns, averaging 5.3 yards per attempt and 113.2 per game.
He caught 13 passes for 134 yards and led the team with 1,278 all-purpose yards, producing 142 yards per game, and scored a team-leading 102 points on 17 TDs.
“Charles was a great power back for us. I don’t think hardly anybody could bring him down within three yards,” Brungard said.
“We knew we could always drive for three with him and it was nice to see him get his moment after waiting for his turn after Ezra Scott and waiting for that moment as a senior to have your name being called,” Brungard continued.
Scott has moved on to play at Youngstown State, but that does not mean Renninger was alone in the backfield, although he carried the brunt of the load. Renninger was also chosen first-team Division II All-Northwest District.
Joe Caswell, a 6-1, 185-pound sophomore running back, carried the ball 26 times for 122 yards and three TDs; and 6-0, 190-pound junior Chase Saneholtz had 20 carries for 106 yards and one TD.
“We kind of realized after a couple games that we had given him a lot of carries and then had Joe Caswell and Chase Saneholtz step in and start to take some of that workload,” Brungard said.
“It was nice to have that one-two punch with those two guys.”
White, at 6-4 and 255 pounds, and Bauer, at 6-2, 240, were two of the mainstays on AW’s offensive line that created holes for Renninger, Caswell, Sane-holtz and 11 other backs. White and Bauer were also first-team all-district.
Jack Behnfeldt, a 6-1, 225-pound sophomore center, was second-team All-NLL, and White, Bauer and Behnfeldt will all return to the trenches next year.
The 6-2, 180-pound Pike, a three-sport athlete who will play baseball at The University of Toledo after graduating from AW, started the season at quarterback and then was moved to wide receiver and running back.
“Garrett is such a tremendous leader. He is a great athlete, so he was able to play anywhere we needed him to,” Brungard said.
Pike switched positions once 6-1, 195-pound sophomore quarterback Cameron Swiger took over behind center.
“We really felt like after the Springfield game (a 62-21 AW win) that we had really hit a groove. Cam had learned his spot and Garrett had learned how to play receiver and running back,” Brungard said.
“Then you go to the situation going against St. Francis where you have to quarantine 12 kids due to the COVID.
“It felt like sometimes there was a little bit of a revolving door. Garrett has kind of been our unsung hero this year. He just does a lot of little things to make our team better,” Brungard added.
Pike ran for 272 yards on 39 carries, averaging seven per carry, and scored four touchdowns. He also caught nine passes for 128 yards and a touchdown.
At QB, Pike completed 51 of 92 passes (55.4 percent) for 562 yards and six touchdowns with two interceptions for a QB rating of 123.9.
AW was missing Pike and 6-5, 210-pound senior tight end T.J. Winston, who had nine catches for 178 yards and three TDs, because they were sidelined the final game of the season due to injuries.
Swiger completed 49 of 87 passes for 618 yards (56.3 percent) and four TDs with no interceptions for a QB rating of 131.2. He also ran for 151 yards on 21 carries, good for 7.1 yards per attempt.
“Cam Swiger was huge,” Brungard said. “I just did an evaluation with him and we talked about how he wasn’t ready – not having true two-a-days and not being able to spend time in the film room. He really came along at the end of our season.”
Ray, a second-team all-district receiver, used his height as a big target, catching 16 passes for 209 yards and two touchdowns.
Jacob Copley, a 6-0, 170-pound junior, was second-team All-NLL after catching 20 passes for 266 yards and three TDs, averaging nearly 30 yards per game.
Copley, who also ran with the football nine times for 30 yards, and Winston were honorable mention all-district selections.
Other top receivers were junior Ryan Robertson (20 catches, 164 yards), senior Ty Roder (five catches, 48 yards, one TD) and Saneholtz (four catches, 24 yards).