One last look back

Girard remembers special season

Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple Girard's Marcus Caudill, left, follows the play after Lakeview's Zach Rogers (15) hands off the ball during last week’s Jack Arvin Football All-Star Classic. Caudill was one of several Girard Indian players who took part in the all-star game.

CANFIELD — Each year when the Jack Arvin Football All-Star Classic rolls around, it becomes time to reflect on all the talent our area has to offer.

For the Girard Indians, they had more talent than anyone thought when the 2017 football season started.

It didn’t seem that Girard would be as good as they were, even with standout quarterback Mark Waid. The Indians went 3-7 the year before, including an 0-5 start with losses to John F. Kennedy, Champion, Niles, Hubbard and Jefferson.

On paper, Girard didn’t look to be much better than the year before. That wasn’t the case in the least.

It all started with a 47-24 win over Niles to start 1-0, then a 39-28 win over Hubbard, both big home wins.

“It was a big change from 2016 into the 2017 year,” said Girard wide receiver Anthony Backus, one of three Indians to play in the Arvin. “We made a big step up and had a better defense. Mark Waid threw the ball real good this year. We had good receivers (Michael) Belcik, Aidan Warga and Nick Malito. On defense, we had Jamil Bannister and Carlos Bach. It was all about leadership this year.”

Backus finished the year with 42 receptions with 621 yards and six touchdowns, and he was just part of a record-setting attack.

Junior quarterback Mark Waid had an incredible year for the Indians. He completed 62.4 percent of his passes for 3,506 yards, 37 touchdowns and just three interceptions.

“I don’t like to take a lot of the credit,” wide receiver Michael Belcik said. “You know Mark is a great quarterback. I credit a lot to Mark Waid and the offensive line. The coaches there are amazing. They help me in school and on the field. Everything at Girard is great and I really appreciate it all.”

The winning kept on rolling for Girard. They won their next seven-straight games, outscoring teams 369-41, and were 9-0 at the time. It wasn’t until a Week 10 loss to Liberty, 41-28, that the Indians woke up a bit about who they were.

“The year before that we went 3-7,” offensive linemen Marcus Caudill said. “Two years ago when I played at (Youngstown) East, it was all downhill. We grinded and grinded. You get out what you put in. The effort that we put in, we got out. We started lowering other teams when we should have given them more credit. When we got to Liberty, we realized what it felt like to get beat again.”

Caudill believes that without that loss, they might not have been able to overcome the deficit they faced against Lakeview in the first round of the playoffs.

Offensively, Girard ran for over 200 yards per game and threw for nearly 300 yards each game, making them a dangerous, balanced team. They finished the year at 10-2, beating the Bulldogs, 33-31, in a classic first-round playoff showdown before bowing out with a 50-21 loss to Perry.