Nov. 24—The transformation from running back to lineman for Johnny Haeseler happened after his freshman season.
"It was definitely the coaches'idea," the Geneva senior said. "I just wanted to get on the field."
A captain, Haeseler was a starter for three seasons. He anchored an Eagles offensive line that rushed for more than 3,000 yards this season, and advanced to the Division III, Region 9 playoffs for the second time in the last three seasons.
Haeseler was also chosen as the county lineman of the year for the 2022 season as selected by the coaches.
"There's a lot of people that are deserving and I feel like I'm one of them," he said. "I'm grateful."
After being injured and lost for the season after Week 2 in the 2021 season, Haeseler came back with no issues.
"I had no problem this year," he said.
After a 13-7 season-opening loss to Madison, Geneva got on a roll with three consecutive wins. The Eagles fell to Kirtland 43-13 in Week 5, then won three straight.
Geneva then dropped a 32-7 decision to Perry and ended the regular season with a win over Chagrin Falls to grab the ninth seed in Division III, Region 9.
The Eagles attained a thrilling 49-48 win over Gilmour Academy in a first-round playoff contest, before closing the season with a 35-7 loss to Chardon.
"Going into Madison, we were practicing pass sets," Haeseler said. "That fell apart and went back to what we know. The offensive line does most of the lifting. We were able to get enough room and get wins."
Haeseler credits his teammates along the line for helping to achieve a successful season.
"It's the first time we worked together," Haeseler said.
Haeseler, the Eagles' left guard, was flanked by junior John Alley at left tackle and senior Matt Hoover at center. When Hoover got injured, junior Jason Thrower moved from right guard to center.
Sophomore Jamil Douglas was inserted at right guard when Thrower switched and junior Jackson Furlan rounded out the line at right tackle.
"Johnny worked his way back, and was a tremendous leader for us in the offseason," Eagles coach Don Shymske said. "He got himself in better shape, he's a 1,000-pound lifter, has a great personality and is agile and can move."
Haesler opened his school career at fullback, before switching to the line in the 2020 COVID-19 season.
That year, the Eagles went 8-2 in the regular season and defeated Harvey 37-0 and Hubbard 22-19 in the first two rounds of the playoffs, before falling to eventual state champion Chardon 57-13.
"I credit the players around me in my sophomore year," Haeseler said of the line. "I had Matt Gruzinski to the left at tackle and Gavin Juodenas at center. We wanted to uphold what Sam [Davis] and Brandon Thomas did the year before."
Haeseler said defeating Lakeside (20-13) and Edgewood (41-8) were especially important wins this season.
"We look forward to those games," Haeseler said. "Those games are exciting."
The win over Gilmour was also exciting, considering the Eagles kept fighting back and scored a touchdown and extra point in the closing seconds.
"Gilmour is the best game I've ever played in," Haeseler said. "The offense just kept driving. Logan Queen made a speech at halftime. We were not ready to lose."
In the 2021 season, Haeseler was lost after Week 2 with a torn meniscus.
He had hurt the knee over the summer.
Haeseler is getting ready for Geneva's indoor, then outdoor track and field seasons.
He participates in the shot put and discus and is slated to throw indoor weights.
Haeseler also comes from an athletic family.
His grandfather is Mark Debevc, a Geneva graduate who is the Ashtabula County Track and Field Hall of Fame and played football at The Ohio State University for four years and was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals.
Debevc won the Class AA state discus title in 1967 with a throw of 189-11.
After the outdoor track season ends, Haeseler has aspirations of playing a sport in college, but not football.
"I think track is the way to compete at the next level," he said.
Haeseler said he would like to major in wildlife biology/environmental science.