They had two performers reach perfection, a few others flirt with perfection and some quality teams in their brief history.
However, the Blue Devils had never sniffed the state competition on the lanes.
The Tallmadge boys bowling team finally got a sniff of what the ultimate stage was like.
It’s safe to say it smelled like roses.
The Blue Devils finished 11th with a score of 3,223 at the 16-team Division I state tournament last Friday at Wayne Webb Columbus Bowl.
The top eight teams qualified for head-to-head play. Celina defeated Stow-Munroe Falls in the championship round to win the state title. Centerville placed third.
Tallmadge had its eyes on reaching Columbus since the beginning of the season.
But Blue Devils head coach Scott Krainess made sure his bowlers didn’t get ahead of themselves.
"From the beginning of the season, I told the entire team that our goal, as always, was to be bowling our best at sectionals," he said. "If we did, then it would give us an opportunity to compete at districts with a chance to get to the state tournament. We have been close before."
Tallmadge was far from clicking on all cylinders despite a respectable score of 927 after the first game.
"We had an unusual number of mental errors," Krainess said. "Four times, we did not get a pin count on a spare or a double (two consecutive strikes). That cost us 30 to 35 pins alone."
The Blue Devils ironed out a few things and rolled a 998 in the second game.
"After that game, we were in third place," Krainess said. "I knew it was still a very tough path to make the cut since we had one more regular game and three Baker games. In addition, the gap between third place and ninth was very small."
Tallmadge’s hopes of advancing took a major wrong turn in the third game. The Blue Devils finished with a score of just 789.
"The third game was a tough one," Krainess said. "We had eight splits and several missed spares. That dropped us from third to 10th going into Bakers.
"The challenge going into Bakers is that with only three, you really don’t have an opportunity to make up a lot of ground unless you have a big-three game set."
In the Baker format, each bowler rolls one frame at a time. Tallmadge bowled games of 172, 181 and 156, respectively, and did not advance.
"They didn’t bowl badly, but we just could not string together any strikes," Krainess said.
Senior Gabe Griffith led Tallmadge with a 589 series to place 30th out of 205 bowlers. He rolled games of 187, 210 and 192, respectively.
The highlight of Griffith’s career took place earlier this season when he became the second bowler in school history to roll a perfect game.
"Gabe was consistent all day," Krainess said. "He had very few mental errors and was steady.
"Gabe is an interesting story. He would be the first to tell you that he was trying to be someone else and was not necessarily open to the coaching.
"To his credit, Gabe consistently improved. He came into the state tournament believing in the game plan I told him to focus on. He resisted trying to reinvent the wheel and with his simplified approach, he did well. I’m proud of him."
Sophomore Joshua Parry was next for the Blue Devils with a 569 series (tied for 40th, 197, 219 and 153) and sophomore Robert Wilson rolled a 566 series (tied for 43rd, 212, 203 and 151).
"Both Josh and Robert were on track for big series, but that third game caught them both," Krainess said. "Unfortunately, it was single-pin spares that did them in - something we devote a ton of time to in practice but still challenging."
Also competing for Tallmadge were sophomores Parker Braccio, who rolled a 526 series (62nd, 165, 205 and 156), and Patrick Stachowiak (84th, 166 and 161).
"Parker and Patrick battled all day," Krainess said.
Other key players for the Blue Devils during the season were senior Greg Brown and sophomore Cooper Randolph.
"Greg came in late in game three and did well," Krainess said. "Cooper has worked hard all year. Although he did not bowl in the state tournament, he will have an opportunity for playing time next season."
The Tallmadge bowlers had high expectations for themselves since the season began. But the Blue Devils’ success certainly wasn’t a walk in the park.
"We lost our senior leader in Austin Moore last season and that was big shoes to fill," Krainess said. "We also lost Justin Kennell and David Kisha, who were steady.
"Our three freshmen from last year, Josh, Robbie and Parker, really improved this season. That combined with the improvement of Gabe really helped make up for the loss of our seniors.
"In addition to that, we welcomed Patrick to the team. Patrick had a great season for us. I know he was not happy with how he did at the state tournament, but I know he will work hard over the summer and come back even better next season."
Krainess hopes Tallmadge’s breakthrough season isn’t a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
"The outlook is good," he said. "We lose Gabe, which leaves a hole for sure, but we will return our other four starters.
"We’ll be counting on Cooper coming back strong as well as Logan Hillbish (freshman), Cameron Hill (sophomore) and Andy McGraw (junior). The offseason has already started for them. It’s the work between now and September that will determine how we do."
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org or @FrankAceto_RPC.