The 2018 senior class didn’t have a track record that was nearly as impressive as previous senior classes.
"They didn’t have success in youth league and when they were freshmen, they went 2-8," 18th-year Aurora head football coach Bob Mihalik said.
With a modest résumé heading into the 2018 season, it’s safe to say a number of people were skeptical of the Greenmen.
Aurora didn’t accomplish its ultimate goal. But the Greenmen, particularly their senior class, proved a lot of naysayers wrong with a successful season.
Aurora concluded 2018 with its third straight win after earning a lopsided 41-6 victory over Mifflin Friday evening in Columbus.
With the win, the Greenmen finished 7-3. They also posted a 4-2 record in the rugged Suburban League American Conference.
Aurora finished with one more win than last year’s squad, which rebounded to a six-win season despite an 0-3 start.
All of those facts are certainly good news. Unfortunately, despite everything they accomplished this fall, there was some terrible news for the Greenmen.
Aurora will not be playing after Halloween for the first time since 2004. The Greenmen, who were ranked eighth in the computer ratings heading into Week 10, did not advance to the playoffs.
The top eight teams from the Division III, Region 9 bracket qualified for the postseason. Thanks to a number of upsets in the last two weeks, Aurora’s 13-year playoff streak, the ninth best streak in state history, came to a heartbreaking end.
By the time the Greenmen got home from the state capital, the news was out.
And that made their final appearance together, which took place Saturday morning, an extremely difficult and emotional meeting.
"Most of the kids already knew when we brought them in Saturday morning," Mihalik said "We made it a voluntary lifting session and the kids, including the seniors, decided to lift weights together one last time.
"That’s the kind of kids we have at Aurora. They are solid young men from solid families. They made the coaches feel better."
The Greenmen settled their business on the field in what turned out to be their last game of the season.
By the time the contest reached halftime, Aurora had a 41-0 lead.
Senior quarterback Colin McNamara, who emerged as the starting quarterback early in the 2017 season, capped off a stellar career with two touchdowns.
He completed a 56-yard TD pass to senior wide receiver Kyle Obly and also had a 20-yard TD run. McNamara completed 8 of 9 passes for 154 yards and Obly also booted five extra points.
Junior tailback James Austin and senior fullback each had 1-yard TD rushes and junior wide receiver Anthony Gramm added a 3-yard TD run.
Senior defensive back John Papesh gave the Greenmen defense a rare six points with a 17-yard fumble return for a score.
Aurora outgained the Cowpunchers 298-122 and forced three turnovers. Mifflin, which reached the Division II playoffs last year, struggled to a 2-8 season in 2018.
"It was a great way to end the year," Mihalik said. "We dominated in all three phases of the game. Everyone got to play in the second half. You usually don’t get to end your season with a win. It was great for our seniors."
If you play football for the Greenmen, taking the field in November has been the norm ever since George W. Bush was elected for his second team as the President of the United States.
During its impressive run, Aurora won the state title in 2008 and reached the Final Four three other times.
The 2018 squad’s three losses took place against three playoff teams. The Greenmen lost to Division I powerhouse Solon and the American Conference’s top two teams, Barberton and Highland.
On top of that, Aurora played in one of the more competitive regions in the state.
"We would have been in the playoffs in other regions," Mihalik said. "Our region was very difficult. Our losses were to opponents who had a combined 26-4 record."
Mihalik said goodbye to McNamara, Obly, Arnold and senior classmates Graham Aldredge, Javonte Douglas, Hunter Cook, Kobe Coachman, Jesse Haley, Mitch Levanduski, Justin Lovell, Seth Stojetz, Evan Dockman, Ryan McBride, Joe Catena, Will Owens and Alec Houston.
"I’ll remember this season as a successful year," Mihalik said. "Our seniors did a great job of leading us. They continued to work hard and believe in themselves and they were rewarded with a 7-3 season. I think this is a life lesson they will take with them into the future."
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org or @FrankAceto_RPC.