Ballpark Frank: Despite a gloomy last three months, it was another wonderful school year for Aurora sports

Aurora's Tony Gramm attempts to break free from the grasp of Barberton's Sonny Fox last fall.

Let’s face it: 2020 has been brutal in all shapes and forms.

Especially these ghastly last three months, which have turned the sports world completely upside down.

Due to a deadly respiratory tract infection known as COVID-19, all forms of athletic competition were mercilessly shut down until recently.

Even though some sports have returned on a limited and restricted basis, life may never be the same again.

As America slowly begins to reopen its country, many questions still remain.

Will we ever get to see packed stadiums on Friday nights like we so often did in the past? And if we do, are we in serious danger of being infected by a second wave of this awful virus?

No one really knows for sure.

Fortunately, there is some silver lining to all of this madness. And for this reporter, that silver lining featured lots and lots of beautiful sights on West Pioneer Trail.

Getting back to Friday nights, remember a certain 14-week period that lasted from August all the way until December?

Sure you do, Aurora fans.

The Greenmen football team, which saw its outstanding run of playoff appearances come to a screeching halt in 2018, rebounded quite nicely with its best season in seven years.

Aurora, led by recent 2020 graduates AJ Barner and Johnny Papesh, will forever be remembered for something that didn’t apply to the Greenmen for more than two decades.


Aurora had its first undefeated regular season since 1998. Amazingly enough, longtime head coach Bob Mihalik was not on the sidelines when the Greenmen had their previous “perfect 10.”

As it turned out, that was only the beginning.

Aurora, which also captured the Suburban League American Conference title, advanced to the Division III state semifinals for the first time since 2012.

Not bad for a team that missed the playoffs the previous year, huh?

Although it may seem like it happened three centuries ago, another Greenman standout also shined last fall.

His name is Matt Singleton, a rising junior who qualified for the Division I state cross country meet for the second consecutive year.

I hope I don’t jinx this talented young man, but if Singleton finds himself on top of the podium this fall or possibly 2021, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised.

Singleton capped his spectacular 2019 season with a 10th-place finish to earn All-Ohio honors.

The girls soccer team wasn’t a slouch either. Despite an up-and-down regular season, Aurora, led by first-year head coach Domenica McClintock, found a way to get to the district final for the second consecutive year.

The Greenmen’s season came to a heartbreaking end when Chagrin Falls scored the lone goal of the match in the final minute.

Aurora’s volleyball team made history during the fall. That’s because the Greenmen reached district play for the first time ever.

They didn’t get any trophies, but I would be remiss if I didn’t include the Greenmen’s efforts on the golf course as well.

Aurora, which came agonizingly close to winning an American Conference championship, finished an impressive 12-0 in dual matches during the fall.

The winter season featured plenty of remarkable achievements on West Pioneer Trail, too.

Sadly, more potential remarkable achievements were ruthlessly dashed away, thanks to the global pandemic.

Although 2020 graduates David Cumberledge and Ethan Anderson, along with teammates Nic Willingham, Ty Lillard, Dylan Fishback, Evan Anderson and Antwan Sagaris, advanced to the state tournament, their opportunity to wrestle on the biggest stage was denied when the competition was canceled because of the virus.

Prior to this abrupt halt, the Greenmen reached the semifinals at the state dual team tournament and also won the American Conference title. Oh, and I almost forgot … Aurora finished 11-0 in dual matches, too.

As for the pool, other than some outstanding individuals, Aurora hadn’t made much of a dent in terms of reaching elite status.

Until this past winter.

Both the Aurora boys and girls swimming and diving teams won outright American Conference championships. Quite a few Greenmen made their way to Canton as well.

Nate Meyer, a 2020 Aurora graduate, and teammates Jon Hybil, Jacob Good and Connor Zamary were part of both the 200-yard medley and freestyle relay teams that reached the Division I state competition.

Divers Schafer Eckerle and Donovan Picone did, too. And the Greenmen’s newest superstar, Alayna Brooker, qualified in the 100 breaststroke as a freshman.

I also must give a shout out to the Aurora girls basketball team, which captured its third consecutive American conference title. Remember when the Greenmen went 90 years without winning a conference or league title?

Me neither.

When the players return to the court one day, they will be trying to extend a 38-game winning streak against conference opponents.

In a word — amazing.

Aurora had a stellar season on the ice as well. The Greenmen ice hockey team won 18 matches for the first time since 2007 and reached the third round of the district tournament for the first time in 12 years.

As for the athletes who expected to compete during the spring, I give my heartfelt appreciation.

Thank you, Aurora, for another great season. Stay safe and I look forward to covering the Greenmen again.

Hopefully, in person.

Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, or @Faceto_Gannett.