Columbia went 9-1 in the regular season, winning the outright Patriot Athletic Conference championship, hosting and winning its first-ever playoff game (39-34 over Archbold) and winning more games (10) and advancing further (regional semifinals) than any other team in the program’s history.
Wednesday, that team was rewarded with one first-team selection (Jay Banyasz) and six overall selections on the Associated Press Division V All-Ohio football squad.
Other Raiders selected were defensive back Justin Reznik (second team), offensive lineman Foster Tucker, defensive lineman Dan Laub, kicker Matt Zelinsky and linebacker Jacob Kleinhenz (third team).
Oberlin had three players — Jason Moore, Kalif Townsel and Mattayo Wyman — get special mention on the Division V All-Ohio team.
Columbia coach Jason Ward was thrilled when he found out about his All-Ohioans, especially his first-team honoree, Banyasz, who was selected as a defensive back, but may have been more known for his play as the team’s starting quarterback.
“That’s fantastic,” Ward said. “It’s funny. Jay sets nothing but team goals and we were talking today in our exit meetings about where we wanted to be as a team. He wants nothing to do with individual stats or awards, but I know he’ll be floored by that announcement. I think his teammates will be happier for him than he will for himself. That’s a big announcement for our program, no question.”
Banyasz, a junior, had 54 tackles, four interceptions, five passes defensed, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and one defensive touchdown from his safety position.
Overall, he was responsible for 32 total touchdowns. Offensively, he gained 1,040 yards rushing on 174 carries (a 5.98-yard average), while completing 122-of-221 passes for 1,549 yards and 14 touchdowns.
“What’s pretty amazing is he didn’t fumble once with all those touches,” Ward said.
Banyasz was happy when the news was broken to him Wednesday night, but was quick to credit his teammates.
“It’s great recognition, but my teammates should know that it shouldn’t just be my name in there,” he said. “It’s definitely a team effort. It all trickles down to defensive line and linebackers doing their jobs so I could do mine. It’s about doing your 1/11th on the field.
“If I would have been selected at quarterback, I’d say the same thing, that our offensive line and receivers should have their names recognized as well. It’s really nice to get these personal awards, but all that matters was the team award.”
Banyasz said that even a first-team All-Ohio selection pales in comparison to the thrill of playing in a home playoff game and winning it.
“Getting that home playoff win was the highlight of my season,” he said. “It doesn’t matter about the personal awards as long as we were able to bring Columbia that home game and win it. That’s the one memory that will stand out from this season.
“No personal stats go without having a great record, too. It’s not about the personal awards. It’s all about the team awards.”
Reznik, a junior, had 61 total tackles with five interceptions and four passes defensed.
“With Justin, the big thing was his tackle numbers,” Ward said. “He was one of those kids that bought into the physical approach immediately. He ended up with over 50 tackles, which for a cornerback is a lot. Five interceptions are not going to blow anybody away, but I’m sure his tackle numbers is what put him over the top.”
Tucker, a senior left tackle and inside linebacker, had 97 tackles on defense, 15 tackles for loss.
Laub, a junior defensive tackle, had 12 tackles for loss and a team-best eight sacks and 54 total tackles.
Kleinhenz, a junior inside linebacker, had a team-high 115 tackles with 53 solos – which was 19 higher than the next-closest player on the team, Banyasz, and eight tackles for loss.
“I’m proud of all those other guys, especially for Foster,” Ward said. “He played both playoff games and most of the Clearview game with a bad ankle. He was one of those guys we couldn’t lose. We could not lose him in those big games down the stretch. I’m sure (making All-Ohio) will make that ankle feel a lot better.”
Ward singled out Zelinsky, who was primarily a soccer player, for his game-winning, last-second field goal in a 16-14 victory over Lutheran West in Week 7.
“We’re talking about a guy who, if he doesn’t make that kick against Lutheran West, the landscape of our season completely changes,” Ward said. “If we don’t get that playoff game at home, who knows what happens or who we play in first round, and that win helped clinch it.
“It was one of the most exciting, if not the most exciting, moments of our season when he put that ball through the uprights with no time left.”
Ward, who will have Banyasz, Reznik, Laub and Kleinhenz back next season, said that winning certainly helped his team get the state recognition.
“Without the wins, who knows how many individual achievements we’re able to garner,” he said. “The more consistently you win, the more honors you get like this. Hopefully, this is a foundation that is set up for all the players down the road. We want it so that if you play football at Columbia, you have the chance to do special things.
“It was a fantastic year for us, it really was. When the state stuff comes out, it’s the icing on the cake and it’s pretty cool. There are only a few teams that win their last game and we were hurting pretty good after that Patrick Henry game. But, a lot of those names on that list are going to have another shot. I don’t know if that’s motivation or not, but it can’t hurt.”
Contact Dan Gilles at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.