PDT Sports Writer
PIKETON — When moving on to the next step in life, it helps to have some form of familiarity.
In the case of Piketon senior Aaron Ward, hometown ties make the transition into college football as a member of the NCAA Division II Tiffin University football program seem a little more familiar. Ward, a Special Mention Division IV All-Ohio last season as a defensive lineman for the Redstreaks, will have 1999 Waverly graduate Josh Ison as at least one local connection. Ison finished his second season as the Dragons’ special teams coordinator, linebackers coach and head strength coach.
Tiffin earned Ward’s services over the University of Findlay, a Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference rival, and Division I Football Championship Subdivision member Morehead State. He was regarded as the school’s top defensive lineman recruit and will start the fall as a freshman with an undeclared major.
“I was really impressed with their athletic facilities,” Ward said. “Also I really like the offer they presented me and I feel like it’s somewhere I can (become) a better person and further my education.”
While a part of the school’s first-ever playoff win last fall, Ward finished with 32 tackles (seven for loss), one sack and one forced fumble. While his numbers were down as a defensive lineman, Piketon coach Tyler Gullion chalked it up to teams scheming away from the 6-foot-4 Ward, who will move to a defensive end as a part of a 4-3 scheme.
“We moved Aaron around (from) defensive end to defensive tackle and just whatever needed to be done, he did,” Gullion said.
The trip to the Division IV, Region 15 Semifinals was something Ward agreed to as a reason for the spiked interest from schools. In just the school’s second playoff appearance, the Redstreaks defeated Minford 49-27 — eight weeks after they lost to the Falcons 19-14 in the regular season — before bowing out to St. Clairsville, the eventual state runner-up, 59-27 the following week.
Gullion felt one reason for his team’s success came in large part to the work Ward put in.
“The sky’s the limit for him,” Gullion said. “I’ve been telling him for three years he doesn’t know how good he could be. He’s really a humble kid.”
The future Dragon did say afterwards that looking to play football beyond the high school level was a goal of his for quite some time.
“It’s something that I felt like I could achieve and I’m glad that I put in all of the work that I did to get where I’m going,” Ward said.
The coaching staff has told Ward the biggest thing he needs to do between now and the time he steps onto campus is to tune up what he has and get into the right shape. Ward doesn’t expect to redshirt.
Cody Leist can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 294, or firstname.lastname@example.org.