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Shymske named co-Coach of the Year

Nov. 23—Having expectations is one thing, meeting them is another.

The Geneva Eagles entered the 2023 football season with lofty goals.

Last season, they finished 8-4 and reached the second round of the Division III playoffs.

The reason for optimism in 2023 was every one of the Geneva starters started at least one game by the end of the year last season. The Eagles had eight regular starters on offense and defense.

When it all played out, Geneva ended at 10-2 overall, 5-0 in the Chagrin Valley Conference Lake Division, advanced to round 2 of the postseason, and three players earned Ashtabula County special awards.

Don Shymske was also selected co-county coach of the year with Pymatuning Valley's Neal Croston. The coaches voted on the county coach of the year.

"It's a honor to receive this award," said Shymske, who also won the county coach of the year after the 2022 season. "It's the ultimate team award. The coaching staff did a phenomenal job. Every single week, they did a great job of implementing a game plan."

Shymske said the coaches talked to the players about the 2023 season.

"We knew we would have high expectations," he said.

The Eagles opened the season at 4-0, before falling to Perry 36-20. After six more consecutive wins, Geneva saw its season close with a 28-14 loss to Chardon in the D-III, Region 9 playoff second round.

"We had a tough schedule," Shymske said. "That says a lot about how our guys prepared."

The Eagles defeated Struthers 31-22 in the second game. The Wildcats advanced to the D-IV, Region 13 finals, before falling to Canton South 35-13.

The Pirates, in D-V, and Hilltoppers are playing this Friday in state semifinals.

"I told the kids at the banquet it's hard to appreciate what you accomplished during the season," Shymske said. "We have nothing to hang our heads about."

The coaching staff preached being prepared every game.

"We wanted to be uncommon each week," Shymske said. "On Thursday, we wanted them to say that they deserve to win this game. The kids put the work in."

In the Lake Division, the Eagles rolled to decisive wins over Edgewood (49-14), Conneaut (55-0), Lakeside (49-6) and Jefferson (57-13).

In Week 9, the Eagles played at Madison for the conference title, eventually winning 42-21.

It's the type of game Shymske, a Geneva graduate, liked to see.

"It was an awesome experience for our kids," he said. "You can't ask for a better atmosphere at Madison in Week 9. I think that's what has been missing for years.

"The most important thing is the experience. I'm ecstatic we played local teams and we hope we can do so for a long time."

Players, of course, are needed to gain wins.

And Geneva had them.

Senior Luke Smith was selected the county player of the year, Senior Jason Thrower county lineman of the year and sophomore Bryce Peet co-county defensive player of the year.

Smith, Peet and juniors Hayden Diemer and Luke Barbo were keys in the running and passing game. Thrower and senior Jackson Furlan were part of a big offensive line to open holes. Senior Kenny Young evolved at quarterback, while classmates Giavonni Rice was a threat at receiver and Owen Pfeifer was consistent at kicking.

Geneva scored 40 or more points in seven games.

On defense, those players, along with seniors Matt Wright, Logan Queen, Kenny Pavlisin and junior Jamil Daghlas, helped the Eagles hold seven opponents to under 20 points.

With Geneva is losing a good share of talent, the task for Shymske and the staff is to get the returners to be leaders and newcomers to fill voids next season.

But it's a challenge he is looking forward to figuring out.

"We have great skill players coming back, and nice pieces on the offensive line," he said. "Our JV team went 9-0, and some of those guys saw time on the field. We're excited to see what we can develop.

"A lot of guys are eager and willing to improve themselves."

Mike Greco is Sports Editor for the Star Beacon