By BILL SULLIVAN
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
BOARDMAN -- Typically, high school graduations are a period for families to shed happy tears, an occasion for teachers to rejoice the bittersweet matriculation of students on to places of higher learning.
You'll have to excuse Boardman High School football coach Garry Smith this May, when he becomes particularly emotional watching the Spartan seniors receive their diplomas; arguably his best class of athletes ever will be moving on.
Many high school football teams send no players to perform on the college ranks. Five Boardman seniors will continue their football careers at Division I universities later this year.
"This could be one of the largest numbers, it ranks up there," Smith said. "This was a good crew of athletes."
Smith has coached high school football for 30 years, the last six as Boardman's head coach.
Cast their lots
Mike Villagrana (6-foot-4, 230-pounds) was recruited in August to play defensive end at West Virginia. He'll be joined in the fall on the Mountaineer team by kicker Andrew Good.
Kevin Tuminello (6-4, 285) will play center at Georgia Tech, while another Spartan offensive lineman, John Greco (6-5, 290), is headed to Toledo.
And, quarterback Tom Zetts (6-1, 195) is a Youngstown State recruit.
Villagrana "was our big-play athlete on defense," said Smith.
Smith compared Good to former Boardman kicker Chris Dennis who went on to play for the University of Miami in the 1970s.
Good was spotted at a West Virginia summer camp, and the Mountaineers began recruiting him based on need, Smith said.
Kevin Tuminello is the third sibling to play for Smith in six years. His eldest brother Chris was a lineman, and brother Brian was a Boardman quarterback.
The youngest brother, Nick, who's still in grade school, may play quarterback for Smith one day.
The two elder Tuminello brothers are studying engineering and Kevin is a 3.77 GPA student who will follow suit.
Vanderbilt and Toledo also offered Tuminello scholarships, but he chose Georgia Tech because of its "team prestige."
He said the Boardman seniors worked out a great deal during the summer, and their competition in the weight room translated to a tight-knit group.
"One of our main contributions was competing against each other," he said. "We tried to do better."
Greco, a two-year starter, "was the biggest kid on our offensive line," Smith said.
"He was the kid we ran behind. He's the type of kid who has a lot of upside to him."
Zetts will try to follow in the footsteps of former Spartan quarterback Jeff Ryan, who went straight from the Boardman squad to taking Penguin snaps as a freshman a decade ago.
Despite all the talent, the Spartans failed to reach the playoffs. After beating the defending state champs, St. Ignatius, Boardman was 4-0.
The Spartans then lost four of their next six, bowing in overtime to Warren Harding and then dropping another narrow game to another playoff-team, North Canton Hoover.
"We had a real good team but because of injuries we fell short," said Tuminello.
"When you have the kids, there's high expectations. When you don't have the kids, there's still high expectations," said Smith with a laugh.