For two years Jay Banyasz led the Columbia Raiders on the field. On Tuesday, he led a contingent of six area players who earned first-team honors when the Associated Press announced its All-Ohio teams for Divisions III, IV and V.
The Raiders senior quarterback was joined by his favorite target, Columbia senior wide receiver Tyler Edmisten, and Elyria Catholic senior offensive lineman Dakota Tallman on the Division V offensive first team. Lutheran West junior Andrew O’Hara punted his was onto the defensive first team.
A pair of Clearview players — sophomore wide receiver Lance Billings and junior punter Roger Engle — made the Division IV first team. Engle was named to the Northeast Lakes all-district first team as a quarterback last week.
“I am really excited. It is a great honor to be named first team All-Ohio and see your name next to all of the great players in the state at the end of the season,” said Engle, who averaged 33.4 yards per punt while landing three of his 24 punts inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. “This is something that will push me even harder in the offseason to get our team back to where we want to be. During the season I never think of individual goals, I am just focused on the team.”
Billings caught 57 passes for 881 yards and nine touchdowns. He added two rushing touchdowns, four kick returns for scores and seven 2-point conversion catches.
He said he was driven by the fact that many people doubted that a sophomore could put up All-Ohio numbers.
“All I kept hearing was what I couldn’t do as a sophomore and that it would take me two more years to get to the top, but that just motivated me to work harder every day,” said Billings, who was the only sophomore on the Division IV first team. “After basketball season I am going to work on getting faster for next year, I’m going to be working out three times a day. Roger Engle and a lot of people are working hard now so I am going to have to play catch-up. We have a lot of great players in my grade and next year is going to be Roger’s senior year, so we should be ready to do big things.”
Tallman, a 6-foot-5, 300-pound Eastern Michigan recruit, worked his way up from the third team as a sophomore and second team as a junior to finally crack the first team. He graded out to 95 percent effectiveness on the offensive line and had 40 tackles on the defensive side of the ball.
After the Panthers finished the year 6-4, Tallman described individual honors as being “bittersweet” but he said the most important thing about the award to him was that he now becomes a part of the Elyria Catholic football tradition.
“It’s a real good feeling to know that I will have a helmet on the wall in the weight room for the future players coming through the program to see,” Tallman said. “The tradition of EC football will be the best memory of my high school years.
Playing football at Elyria Catholic means being part of a special community where I know I will always be welcomed back.”
O’Hara played linebacker, tight end, punter and kicker for the Longhorns during his junior season, but it was a 37.2-yard average and 17 punts inside the 20 that earned him All-Ohio honors. While he considers himself first and foremost a tight end — he caught seven touchdowns this year — he thought of the practical applications of being named as a first-team punter.
“Usually when I am punting I am just thinking kick the ball as hard as I can,” he said. “I feel very humbled to receive this honor, especially as a junior, but now I am thinking I want to put in a lot more work as a punter. What the heck, maybe I can be recruited to be a college punter.”
Edmisten led the Raiders in receiving with 37 catches for 660 yards and nine touchdowns. He also led Columbia in tackles.
“When Coach (Jason) Ward called and told me, I was like, ‘Wow, I really didn’t believe it,’” Edmisten said. “A year ago I was only second team all-conference so every time Coach Ward told me I won another award this year — all-county, all-district — I was really surprised. I wasn’t sure this was possible. I worked hard in the offseason before my senior year and it really paid off.”
Banyasz, the only two-time first-teamer in the group, earned the award on the offensive side of the football this year after being selected as a first-team defensive back as a junior. He threw 28 touchdowns and zero interceptions as Columbia ended the regular season 10-0 for the first time in school history. He credits all of the great Columbia football players that came before him, including his brother John, for paving the way for him and Tyler to earn first-team honors.
“We had an amazing season this year, but it was the players that played before that got the name of Columbia football out there and made this possible,” he said. “When my brother was a senior a lot of players got like third-team and honorable mention, but they created the tradition that made it easier for every current Columbia player to get higher on the list. I have no regrets about my high school career. I would do it the same way if I had to do it over again. It’s been too much fun with my teammates, coach Ward and the great support we’ve received from our community.”