BY YANEEK SMITH, BEACON CONTRIBUTOR
DANBURY TWP. — One of the best seasons in school history ended on a high note for Danbury as it defeated visiting Toledo Christian, 52-14, at Biro Field.
It was a fitting end for the careers of five seniors — Kaden Conrad, Cole Shortridge, Will Tibbells, Nate Fratarolli and Brandon Wunder — all of whom played well in their final game.
Conrad accounted for three touchdowns, including two on the ground. Shortridge carried the ball 23 times for 185 yards and a score. Tibbels ran 13 times for 156 yards and three touchdowns. Fratarolli caught a touchdown pass, and Wunder was a force on the offensive and defensive lines.
The win clinched a league title as the Lakers won the Northern 8 Football Conference in its first year.
When the two teams played earlier in the season, Danbury won, 82-64.
“It means everything, it’s something we haven’t done since 1981, I believe,” said Danbury coach Keith Mora of winning a conference championship. “It’s our first undefeated season in school history. I hope it means we have a new expectation, a new standard and get more kids out. Hopefully, it’s more of a sign of things to come and establishes success year in and year out.”
After falling behind 8-0 early in the first quarter, Tibbels tied the score on a touchdown run and a conversion, and put the Lakers (8-0) ahead for good with a score in the second.
“We had a good night against them the first time, we were pretty efficient. It was a lot of the same stuff again, our bread and butter stuff where we try and get 3 to 4 yards per carry, and if you wear somebody down, those 3-4 yard gains turn into 7-8 yard gains,” said Mora. “It was a lot of us running power and belly and some buck sweep stuff, and trying to wear on their defense. We also felt like the more they widened it would open up things on the outside for us. They had to balance out their defense.”
Mora had high praise for his five seniors.
“I can’t say enough about them, I started all of those kids as freshman. When they were freshmen, when they failed, I said, ‘You’re not supposed to make this play right now as freshmen.’ It’s been a long time with these guys,” said Mora. “I told Kaden, ‘You’re like a 35-year-old, you’ve been our quarterback for four years.’ They never gave up, it was so impressive. I’m super proud of these guys. It would’ve been very easy for any one of them to hang it up. They’ve had some injuries, they could’ve said, ‘I’m done.’ They really deserve what they got at the end.”
Mora hopes to build on the team’s successful season.
“The state of the program is great right now. I know our numbers are low, but we already know they’re going to go back up. I attribute some of that to the Covid-19 situation. Our numbers are going to go back up,” he said. “Our numbers are low at the junior high because of some small classes. We’ll start to weather that storm, and behind that, we’ve got great numbers. We had 31 kids in third and fourth grade, those were the ones we got to sign up. Our numbers will go back up at some point, and I hope that success drives the numbers in the mean time with some small classes.”
It was a tough decision to go from 11-man football to 8-man football, but one that likely had to be made.
“People like to win and see teams that they once played for win. Our community sees what they can do, it feels pretty overwhelming about where we’re heading. I’m sure there are some that wish the move hadn’t happened, going from 11-man to 8-man football,” said Mora. “The support has been pretty overwhelming. Some of the classes from the ‘60s or ‘70s that are watching and they’re excited about what we’re doing. We had 13 guys on the team this year. At one point, we had two kids out with injuries. That’s not the way that you keep a program going.
“It’s a different version of football. People saw it for what it was.”