Norwalk Reflector: HAZELWOOD: Overtime win at Willard an all-timer for South Central program

HAZELWOOD: Overtime win at Willard an all-timer for South Central program

Mark Hazelwood • Aug 26, 2018 at 8:26 PM

GREENWICH — The last thing anyone wants to do is overstate it.

But I’ll say what many were probably thinking over the weekend regarding South Central football’s wild 32-26 win at Willard on Friday.

Biggest non-league win in school history? While the rest of the 2018 season has to play out to truly judge that, I’m certainly putting it in the conversation at the least.

Firstly, just a few years ago, the idea of South Central playing Willard in football was far-fetched in itself. The Crimson Flashes were at one time in Division III, where they reached the playoffs and competed with programs like Bellevue and Tiffin Columbian for Northern Ohio League championships.

Conversely, the Trojans have long been one of the smallest schools in the Firelands Conference.

“We had never played before for a reason — Willard was a lot bigger than us,” South Central coach Corey Fickiesen said.

But with Willard down to Div. V and nearly Div. VI, the schools located just 13 miles apart finally met on the gridiron.

That did little to change the mindset of most, however.

“It’s not some slight or shock to say that Willard was kind of expected to win this one,” Fickiesen said. “The guys in the locker room with us knew that few expected us to win.

“But the mindset all winter and spring was, ‘We know we can win the game, and we know we will hear a lot of outsiders say we have no chance,’” he added. “That is the culture we’re trying to change here. In the past, when it got to that point — South Central won’t finish the deal.”

The Trojans actually shocked the Flashes by racing out to a 20-0 lead — only to see it slip away entirely. Willard scored 26 unanswered points to take the lead, only for SC to score again and force overtime.

South Central scored first in the extra session, then knocked down a fourth-down pass in the end zone on the Flashes’ possession to seal the win — and set off a celebration.

How much did the win mean to the players and coaches? They listened to the replay of the game on WLKR on the short bus ride home. 

“It doesn’t get much better than that,” Fickiesen said. “I mean, it was a complete roller coaster. You’re at a very high point going into halftime up 20 points. But Willard has a phenomenal QB (Cooper Parrott), and he made big plays and brought them back.

“At the end, I can’t even explain that feeling, almost some relief, then excitement and joy,” he added. “All kinds of stuff bundled into one. But mostly a huge sense of pride in the kids and the effort they gave. We feel like we’re getting to the point where we can believe that we’ll win those types of games.”

In his second year as Trojans coach, and just a young pup at age 25, Fickiesen isn’t burdened with the past history — or lack thereof — at South Central. He’s also from the Marietta area, coming to Greenwich with little knowledge of the past.

The Trojans won the FC in 1963, but shared the league title and only had to play four games. They haven’t won one since.

South Central is the only current FC school to never reach the state playoffs, and have just 12 winning seasons in the last five-plus decades.

The best season is an 8-2 record in 1979, and that Trojans team lost their only FC game in decisive fashion to Edison.

Since 1970, the Trojans have gone winless four times, most recently in 2013, and have had seven 1-9 seasons. Obviously that includes countless coaching changes in the vicious cycle of losing records.

“We all know this is what we’re coming into, the mentality and mindset of the culture here,” Fickiesen said. “We’ve spent the last few years really hard focusing on how we can change that.

“It’s about what we need to do for these kids to understand changing a culture and mentality,” he added. “When things get tough, you have to be able to respond in a positive way. We’ve been preaching that daily for over two years now, so to see them come up on the right side in that situation on Friday was huge.”

The near-misses in recent years hammer home Fickiesen’s point. In 1996, the Trojans were 6-4, but lost to three heavyweights, Monroeville, St. Paul and Crestview, by eight points or less. In 2000, they lost to a 9-1 Crestview team by a point and to 7-win Monroeville by three, again settling for 6-4.

In 2006 and 2007, the Trojans went 5-5 both years — losing five of the 10 games by seven points or less, also to some longtime standout programs.

South Central was 4-6 a year ago, but 2-5 in the FC. None of the six losses were close. With the win over Willard, the Trojans will travel to Danbury and host Crestline the next two weeks — two teams they beat in 2017 by 42 and 35 points, respectively.

It’s honestly a little tough to not view South Central’s 2018 prospects differently after that win — especially if, say, Willard goes on to win a decent share of games in the River division of the Sandusky Bay Conference.

But looking ahead is never a worry — and usually not an option at South Central. We’ve just been over all the reasons why.

“We all acknowledged it was a great win on Saturday morning. We feel good about it, but it’s only one game,” Fickiesen said. “Like I said, we expected to win that game. Now we’re focused on the next one.

“One thing I’ve learned is you can never get too high on a win or too low on a loss,” he added. “You have to reboot and move on to the next one. That’s what we did on Saturday.”

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