With 11 seniors and five returning district qualifiers on the roster, members of the Thomas Worthington High School wrestling team aren't afraid to talk about their aspirations.
"We want to win OCC, sectional and district championships and we think we have the potential to do that," said senior Andrew Shackleford, who returns at 182 pounds after being a Division I state alternate last season. "We had some good wrestlers here last year, but that didn't help with our OCC record. This year, we have everyone back and we have no real gaps in the lineup. That should make the difference."
The other returning district qualifiers are seniors Kasey Ackley (120) and Brooks Gilmore (heavyweight) and juniors Will Coleman (126) and Noah Messerall (132). Coleman, who competed at 113 last season, is the only one in that group who has changed weight classes.
Among the other returnees are two district alternates in senior Alex Good (145) and sophomore Nate Good (160).
Also in the early-season lineup are seniors Ben Hoyt (152), Max King (170) and Phil McKinney (195), sophomores James Ford (220) and Ben Hooff (138) and freshmen Martice Johnson (113) and Tyler Norris (106).
Others vying for a spot in the lineup include seniors Juan Cardenas, Tyler Clark, Raymundo Guzman and Nick Harvard and juniors Nick Gaston, Connor Glasgow, Scott Goffin, Wyatt Jarrell and Ben Truesdale.
"We've got 42 wrestlers and (11) seniors who have been in the program throughout (high school) and they're well-seasoned," third-year coach Mark Gundling said. "We are solid from top to bottom, so we should be a real good dual team as well."
The Cardinals opened Dec. 1, winning the 13-team Franklin Heights Invitational by scoring 297 points and finishing well ahead of runner-up Lakewood St. Edward B (176). Hooff, McKinney, Norris and Shackleford won their weight classes, and Ford, Johnson, King and Messerall were runners-up.
Thomas finished 11th (141) in the 18-team Sparta Highland Invitational on Dec. 8 behind champion Medina (336).
Last season, the Cardinals went 1-6 in the OCC-Central Division to tie Central Crossing and Westland for sixth, behind Hilliard Davidson (7-0), Dublin Coffman (6-1), Hilliard Darby (5-2), Worthington Kilbourne (4-3) and Upper Arlington (3-4).
As part of OCC realignment, Kilbourne and Darby moved in the OCC-Cardinal and were replaced by Marysville and Olentangy Liberty. Last season, Marysville won the OCC-Cardinal title and Liberty was second. Marysville also won the Division I sectional and district titles and finished 13th in the state tournament at Ohio State.
Thomas opens its league schedule Thursday, Dec. 20, at home against Westland.
The Cardinals placed sixth (85.5) in the 10-team sectional at Marysville last season behind champion Marysville (257) and finished 29th (12) in the district tournament at Darby behind champion Marysville (174).
Last season, Shackleford won six regular-season tournaments and made first-team all-league. He was sectional runner-up and went 3-2 at district to place fifth, as the top four finishers in each weight class advanced to state. He finished 31-7 last season.
"He put in a ton of effort in the offseason and he's definitely one of the guys we think can advance to state," Gundling said. "I think he can go toe-to-toe with anybody in the state."
Coleman went 1-2 at district a year ago and finished 7-12. Messerall (23-14), Gilmore (17-16) and Ackley (15-18) each went 0-2.
"Messerall has the ability to get to state as well, and Gilmore is in extremely good shape and has really improved," Gundling said. "He's moved to the next level, as has Phil McKinney at 195. McKinney hit the weight room and worked extremely hard in the offseason.
"A lot of our kids really put their work in, got to camps, wrestled in club and some got with personal trainers. I really like what they've done and I think it will pay dividends."
Last season, McKinney went 18-14, Alex Good finished 19-12 and King went 16-11.
Wolves return four district qualifiers
Kilbourne has returned four district qualifiers, but with just two seniors in the lineup, second-year coach Brett Shaut still considers his team to be inexperienced.
"We've got four-to-six good wrestlers who could become great wrestlers if they stay healthy and keep working at it," he said. "But overall, we're young and not very deep."
The seniors in the early-season lineup are Kyle Wahl (145) and Josh Jenkins (182). Last season, Wahl finished 20-11 at 132 and qualified for district, where he went 1-2. Jenkins was a district alternate at 170.
"Kyle Wahl is very talented, but he battles injuries," Shaut said. "I think if he can stay healthy, he's going to make a deep run in the district."
The other three returning district qualifiers are juniors Alex Meehan (220), Austin Oberly (106) and Lucky Shaut (132), the coach's son. Meehan went 2-2 at district a year ago and finished 27-8. Shaut, who competed at 113 a year ago and is a two-time district qualifier, and Oberly both went 0-2 at district
"I'm very optimistic about Austin Oberly's chances of reaching state," coach Shaut said. "He put in a tremendous amount of work in the offseason and he has high expectations for himself, which is important.
"Alex Meehan has gotten a lot stronger and his technique is much improved. He's added some things to his repertoire and he also is more confident in his abilities. I think Alex and Lucky also have the capability of making deep runs into the district, just like Kyle and Austin."
Others in the early-season lineup include juniors Danny Darby (138), Gavin Elifritz (195) and Vincent Wallace (heavyweight), sophomores Grant Chesser (160), Collin Pierce (120), Darius Turner (152) and David Turner (170) and freshmen Andrew Cook (126) and Charlie Osborn (113).
The Turners are twins.
Also vying for a spot in the lineup are seniors Garrett Pauley and Stewart Seely, juniors Kaleb Meloon, Wyatt Robey, Kerry Speed and Daniel Stricker, sophomores Jacob Rastok and Tyler Silverthorn and freshmen Mason Hoover, Trent Plantz, Cameron Wallace, Trey Wallace and Sam Zeid.
Kilbourne opened Dec. 1 in the Lee Spitzer Golden Bear Invitational at UA, finishing third (138.5) behind Olentangy Orange (197) and UA (161).
The Wolves then won the 10-team Xenia Invitational on Dec. 8 with 262 points, finishing well ahead of runner-up Greenfield McClain (168). Winning titles were Darby, Jenkins, Meehanm Oberly, Osborn and Wahl.
In their eight-team, dual-format Wolfpack Classic on Dec. 15, the Wolves defeated Coffman 37-35 to finish third. Pickerington Central beat Fremont Ross 46-30 in the championship match to win the event.
Last season, Kilbourne placed third (174) in the 10-team sectional at Central Crossing behind champion Coffman (196.5) and finished 16th (35) at district.
Mike Mayberry, a 2012 graduate, won one match at state at 195 to give the Wolves two points and tie eight teams for 66th behind champion Lakewood St. Edward (223.5). Mayberry won sectional and district titles a year ago and finished 40-3.
Kilbourne is competing in the OCC-Cardinal this season with Darby, Dublin Jerome, Dublin Scioto, Hilliard Bradley, Westerville Central, Westerville North and Westerville South. Its first league dual is Thursday, Dec. 20, at home against South.
Coach Jack Hoogeveen is hoping a signature win by his Olentangy Liberty High School hockey team will help give it confidence against any opponent.
The Patriots defeated perennial state power Toledo St. Francis 5-3 on Dec. 2 at the OhioHealth Ice Haus. Liberty also has won six consecutive games since losing to St. Francis 3-1 on Nov. 25 in the final round of the George DiPaolo Memorial Thanksgiving Tournament in Oxford.
Liberty lost to St. Francis 9-4 in a state semifinal in 2011. The Knights went on to win the title with a 2-1 overtime win over Lakewood St. Edward.
"(St. Francis) beat us in the final four two years ago and beat us last year (3-1 in the DiPaolo tournament) and earlier this year, so it was nice to come back and get a win against them," said Hoogeveen, whose team is 7-2-1 overall. "They're a formidable program and it's nice to get that win so the kids really know that we can play with them.
"We have been winning with perseverance. We were down 3-1 to St. Francis (on Dec. 2) but came back and took a 4-3 lead and scored a late empty-netter to give us the extra goal."
The Patriots open the Parma Padua Christmas Tournament on Friday, Dec. 21, against state runner-up St. Edward before playing Cleveland St. Ignatius and Mentor Lake Catholic on Saturday, Dec. 22. The opponent for the final round Sunday, Dec. 23, will be determined by pool play from the first two days.
Liberty lost to St. Ignatius 3-2 in the DiPaolo tournament Nov. 24 and tied Lake Catholic at 4 the same day. They have not played St. Edward this season.
"I think (the win over St. Francis) sends a message to the Toledo area and northwest Ohio, but we have another tough challenge with four games against some of the best teams in the Cleveland area (in the Padua tournament)," Hoogeveen said. "We're well into the season and our guys are getting a good feel for the game, just like with all teams."
Through eight games, junior forward Chris Bergamesca led the team with 10 goals and seven assists for 17 points. In the win over St. Francis, Bergamesca scored two goals to become Liberty's career leader in points, surpassing 2009 graduate Doug Kouskouris, who had 68.
Senior forward Ethan Hollingsworth had scored six goals with five assists through eight games, and sophomore forward Brock Rumbaugh also had six goals with five assists. Senior defenseman Gus Olmstead had four goals with four assists and senior forward Noah Allmaras had three goals and two assists. Senior forward Kyle Horner and sophomore forward Jack Gainor both had two goals with two assists.
"Our best players have been leading us, and right now we're working on getting more scoring from some of the other guys," Hoogeveen said. "We're off to a good start, but anything can happen. You can have injuries or your goalies can cool off."
Pioneers aim to win division
Despite reaching a state semifinal last season, Orange has yet to win a Capital Hockey Conference title. Last year, the Pioneers finished second in the CHC-White Division at 13-4 with 26 points, behind Upper Arlington (14-2-1, 29).
The CHC-White now includes Orange, DeSales, St. Charles and Thomas Worthington.
Coach Tim Pennington said a CHC-White title is the first goal for the Pioneers, who are 12-3 overall.
"Even though we went to the (state) final four last year, we have yet to win our (CHC) division and we want to win it this year," said Pennington, whose team lost to eventual champion Sylvania Northview 6-0 in a state semifinal at Nationwide Arena. "We would like to get back to the final four like last year, but we also want to win our division and that (started last) weekend."
Orange also had a program-first by defeating Dublin Coffman 5-2 on Dec. 8 in the Adam Allgeyer Memorial Tournament at Chiller Dublin. The Pioneers had lost to the Shamrocks 4-3 in the Gray Division final of the Midwest Thanksgiving Classic on Nov. 25 at Chiller Dublin and had never before beaten Coffman.
"We finally beat Coffman, the only team left in the conference that we had not beaten," Pennington said. "We're getting really good team play and that has been why we have started well."
Through 12 games, junior forward Dino Capoccia led Orange with 22 goals and 10 assists, followed by sophomore forward Brandon Voytus (10 goals, 17 assists) and senior forward Chris Pennington (10 goals, 15 assists). Three senior defenders also had contributed on offense, as Jacob Potts had five goals and five assists and Tyler Brumfield and Mitch Knapp both had one goal and six assists.
Senior goaltender Clay Horvath had a 1.91 goals-against average.
Braves continue to grow on ice
Olentangy fell to 2-9 overall by dropping its first three CHC contests to Dublin Jerome (10-0 on Dec. 14), Gahanna (3-1 on Dec. 15) and Orange (9-1 on Dec. 16).
The Braves play in the CHC-Blue with Dublin Scioto, Gahanna, Kilbourne and Watterson.
"We're scoring goals, but that could be a challenge when we play teams from the Red and White divisions (of the CHC)," coach Mazin Habash said. "When we play in our division, we'll be able to score some goals. Defensively, we have to keep the pucks out of the net."
Habash said senior defenseman Drew Woitovich has been playing well and helping to lead the team on and off the ice.
"I think our overall attitude has been good and the guys have been willing to work hard to get better in practice," Habash said. "As far as the games have gone, we have a young team and we have been passive at times. We're not as aggressive as we would like to be."
After a three-game losing streak, Grove City High School boys basketball coach Greg Waits re-emphasized his team's basic philosophy -- toughness.
The Greyhounds responded by winning two consecutive games before playing Newark in an OCC-Ohio Division contest Dec. 18.
"We had to work on toughness and just doing those little things that's going to make a difference in games like going down and setting solid screens, coming off screens effectively (and) using your screens," Waits said. "That's what we really worked on because we did not do a good job with that our first four games of the year."
Grove City visits defending Division I state champion Pickerington Central on Friday, Dec. 21. Last season, the Tigers won the OCC-Ohio at 13-1, and Waits said the game would be a good test for his team.
"None of our league games are easy," he said. "When we win one of our league games we're proud of our kids and happy because we think our league, top to bottom, is the best one in the state."
Central was 4-1 before playing Pickerington North on Dec. 18, with the loss coming against Reynoldsburg 53-52 on Dec. 14.
After losing to Reynoldsburg 50-46 on Dec. 7, Grove City defeated Groveport 72-44 on Dec. 14 and non-league Teays Valley 70-45 on Dec. 15.
Against Groveport, senior Brandon Bapst scored 15 points. Senior Christian Meister scored 14 points against Teays Valley.
"We played some tough teams to start out," Bapst said. "Those games will help us down the line. To get two road wins was a big confidence-booster for us. We got to prove to ourselves that we're a good team and we're going to do well this year."
Waits said a key to the turnaround was returning to a regular practice schedule after playing four games in eight days.
"We really didn't have a chance to work on our things," he said. "We were always preparing for that next opponent. We had a chance to practice (last week) and worry about us and get better at what we need to be getting better at. We had a great week of practice."
The Greyhounds' depth took a hit with the loss of senior guard Dominic Moreno, who had season-ending surgery after injuring the labrum in his right shoulder during a scrimmage against Mount Vernon. Last season, Moreno missed action after injuring his left shoulder.
"Dominic was a shooter (and) he could score," Waits said. "That really hurt our shooting because he was one of our better scorers coming back from last year off the j.v. team."
Central Crossing ends losing streak
Central Crossing snapped a 31-game losing streak by defeating Hilliard Bradley 45-44 in the opener Nov. 30.
Matt Dwane scored 17 points.
It was the team's first win since Jan. 7, 2011, when the Comets beat Thomas Worthington 53-51.
Central Crossing went 0-21 last season.
"The kids felt a sigh of relief, a weight off their backs," first-year coach Anthony Mangette said. "They really enjoyed it, to remember how fun it is to win."
Since then, Central Crossing has lost four consecutive games while being outscored by an average margin of more than 28 points.
The Comets play host Friday, Dec. 21, to Dublin Coffman, which was 3-0 before playing Thomas on Dec. 18 and last season tied Thomas for second (9-5) in the OCC-Central behind Upper Arlington (12-2).
"It's not fun losing, but it's fun being with the boys and the coaches," Mangette said. "We're very enthusiastic. We're very encouraging. The effort is there. The three 'Es' that I stressed in May -- the effort, energy and enthusiasm -- are there. The execution, the fourth one, that is a little frustrating, but I know we're going to get it. It's just going to take time."
Trailing Worthington Kilbourne 10-2 after one quarter Dec. 14, the Westerville Central High School girls basketball team appeared to be headed to its seventh consecutive loss to begin the season and 28th in a row over the past two years.
Things also seemed bleak because senior guard/forward Megan Mills fractured her left wrist early in the first quarter. Mills is expected to miss at least a month, according to coach Jamiya Pride.
A pair of underclassmen, however, led a comeback and helped the Warhawks snap their losing streak by defeating visiting Kilbourne 43-39.
Freshman center Emma Stile scored 19 points and sophomore point guard Andrea Hodge scored 13.
"We are definitely getting better," Hodge said. "From last year to this year, we're a very good team now. (The victory over Kilbourne) was amazing. It feels good to finally win a game and my team did really well. When you're losing you always have those doubts in your mind, but it's still good to stay optimistic about things and that's what we did to pull out the win."
It was Pride's first win in his two seasons at Central.
"We all figured the impossible is possible to walk away with the 'W' by playing a complete game," Pride said. "A lot of times in the past we were never able to play three full or three and a half quarters to get a victory, but it's a bright future for the rest of our team for the rest of the year."
Before defeating Kilbourne, the Warhawks' last win came on Feb. 16, 2011, a 56-39 victory over Briggs in the first round of the Division I district tournament under coach Doug Etgen, who resigned following the season.
Against Kilbourne, Central closed to within 21-16 by halftime and outscored the Wolves 12-2 in the third quarter to take a 28-23 lead.
Central carried that momentum into its contest at Hartley on Dec. 15, as it led for most of the game before losing 41-37. Hodge led the Warhawks with 13 points and senior guard Kelsey Merriam scored 10.
Merriam hit a 3-pointer to close the Warhawks to within 39-37 with 1 minute, 20 seconds left, but Ariel Packer's two free throws with 22 seconds remaining sealed the win for Hartley.
"Our girls are playing harder the last couple of games and we're finally playing defense the way we would like to," Pride said. "There are other things on the offensive side, but our success will start with defense and (the Hartley game) proved we can play away in a harsh environment and still be in the game."
Senior Maggie Sabo injured her left ankle at the end of the third quarter and is expected to miss action, according to Pride.
With Mills and Sabo out, Pride expects sophomore guard Imani Steele, who began the season on the junior varsity, to receive playing time.
Central plays host to Westerville North on Thursday, Dec. 20.
The Warriors are 6-1 overall and 4-0 in the OCC-Cardinal Division, with the loss coming against Pickerington Central, 52-47 on Dec. 11.
Last season, North beat Central 60-30 and 70-41.
"North hasn't lost a whole lot," Pride said. "I know they're going to bring it. It's a rivalry game and we expect them to bring their best and we're going to give our best and see what happens."
OLENTANGY ORANGE, OLENTANGY, NEW ALBANY
Olentangy Orange is the overwhelming favorite to win a third straight championship. The Pioneers return four starters: point guard Taylor Agler, guards Maddy Joseph and Kierstynn Myers and forward Mya Walker. Reliable center Kelsey Lewis was lost to graduation, but 6-foot-2 Indiana recruit Sarah Sagerer is a good Plan B. Sagerer is a foreign exchange student from Austria. Walker (12.5 points), Joseph (7.7) and Myers (6.0) take the heat off Agler. Olentangy returns three starters: 5-11 Malone recruit Brooke Zwayer (11.1 points), 6-2 Wheeling Jesuit recruit Lydia Hyburg and 6-0 Megan Beidelman. The biggest addition will be 6-0 senior Emma Hardesty. The Braves are moving from the Cardinal Division, where they won the previous three championships. New Albany is led by Akron recruit Hannah Scipio and 6-2 Duquesne recruit Kyasia Duling. Seniors Chrissy Harris, Meghan Jayes, Emily Rolwing and Cheyenne Hartley-Carr will be in the rotation. Freshman guard Mechela Cobb will play a lot. Big Walnut will be led by 6-1 center Skylar Fleak (7.1 points, 9.2 rebounds) and 5-9 Emily Chucta (8.2 points).
DUBLIN SCIOTO, DUBLIN JEROME, WESTERVILLE SOUTH
Coaches in the division agree that the race is wide open. Dublin Scioto, which finished second the past two seasons, boasts five seniors: guards Anna Buhigas and Casey Suich and forwards Katie Kollins (5-10), Kathleen Thorndal (6-0) and Bri Pritchett. Coach Matt Fisher could have a deep bench, led by guard Abbie Moore and forward Alex Mielke. Opponents will look up to Dublin Jerome, which has four players 5-11 and taller. Guard Kaitlin Miller was all-conference last season for a team that finished 11-10. Forward Sarah Auker averaged 7.2 points and 7.6 rebounds. Westerville South has only three seniors, but guards Breyonia Hearn (6.1 points, 3.0 steals per game) and Gabie Pace should form a slick backcourt. Forwards Symone Simmons (11.0 points, 7.6 rebounds) and Devin Jackson (8.4 points, 7.0 rebounds) are sophomores with experience.
DUBLIN COFFMAN, UPPER ARLINGTON, HILLIARD DAVIDSON
Dublin Coffman was one of the surprise teams of central Ohio in 2011-12, winning the division championship and compiling a 19-3 record despite having only one senior. That snapped a string of championships at two straight for Upper Arlington. Both teams should contend again. The Shamrocks, who lost one conference game, return three players who received honorable mention all-district: senior guard McKenzie Bailey, 6-1 sophomore center Sade Olatoye and sophomore guard Kamerine Taylor. Olatoye averaged 9.4 rebounds. Upper Arlington, which finished 16-6, returns 6-0 guards Andi Norman (9.1 points) and Chiara Paradiso (4.9). Kortney Eisenman, a 6-2 freshman, should see time at center. The task for the Golden Bears will be replacing five seniors, particularly guard Michela Paradiso. Hilliard Davidson returns 5-10 senior Lauren Bates, an all-district honorable mention choice. The biggest loss was guard Madie Long. Central Crossing returns forward Jalynn Graham (14.7 points, 4.5 assists) and adds Teays Valley transfer Brooklyn Wooten, a 5-9 senior.
This could be the best division of any conference in the state. Reynoldsburg (26-1) reached the Division I state tournament for the second time in three seasons, Gahanna has won three district championships since 2006 and two in the past three years, and Pickerington North won eight straight district championships until last season. Reynoldsburg features 6-3 junior center Alyssa Rice, 6-1 senior forward Destini Cooper (10.0 points, 7.5 rebounds), senior point guard Yamonie Jenkins (99 steals) and 5-9 senior guard Shiloh Murphy (6.3 points). Cooper and Jenkins have signed with Ohio University and Murphy with Morehead State. Gahanna has four major college recruits: Quiera Lampkins (Ohio), Maddison Blackwell (Xavier), Zenobia Bess (Illinois State) and Krishna Butler (Cleveland State). The Lady Lions return 90 percent of their scoring and rebounding from a team that finished 18-7. Pickerington North has never had more questions. Dayton recruit Christy Macioce is a solid defender and ballhandler. Morgan Bassett-Smith, a 6-1 junior transfer from Olentangy Orange, has great promise. Replacing guards Jaila Kee-Bryant and Taylor Jones will be difficult. Newark has one of the most dynamic players in the division in 5-7 junior guard Maggie Mitchell, who averaged 18.0 points last season.
TAYLOR AGLER, OLENTANGY ORANGE
Agler averaged 15.6 points in being voted Division I all-district but she doesn’t have to score a point to help the Pioneers win. Her playmaking ability is on par with Alexis Peterson of Northland. She averaged 6.8 assists last season. She is also a trusty three-point shooter.
HANNAH SCIPIO, NEW ALBANY
Scipio, who will be a four-year starting point guard, was a second-team all-district choice. She averaged 14.0 points, but is known more for her ballhandling ability and directing the offense.
ANNA BUHIGAS, DUBLIN SCIOTO
Buhigas, a 5-9 senior, averaged 16.2 points. She was a second-team Division I all-district choice.
ALYSSA RICE, REYNOLDSBURG
Rice, who averaged 12.0 points and 7.5 rebounds, is one of the most highly coveted underclassmen in the nation. She was Division I all-district last season.
PAIGE CASHIN, NEWARK
Cashin, a 6-4 center who has signed with South Florida, is beginning her fourth year as a starter. She averaged 10.3 points, 8.1 rebounds and 4.9 blocked shots last season.
• Scipio had knee reconstruction surgery after being injured in a tournament game and won’t play until late December or early January.
• Robert Dunsmore, who has more than 20 years of coaching experience, has succeeded Matt Martin as Dublin Jerome coach.
• Big Walnut coach Bob Scott has won 152 games in 12 seasons.
• First-year New Albany coach Jeff Blunt was an assistant for four years at Otterbein. He succeeds Jamie Puryear.
— Mark Znidar
DAYTON -- With hopes of advancing to its first Division I state championship on the line, the Pickerington High School North football team made sure the ball got into the hands of senior running back Godwin Igwebuike.
Facing Cincinnati Moeller on Nov. 24 in a state semifinal in Dayton Welcome Stadium, the trust the Panthers had in Igwebuike — the Central District Offensive Player of the Year — seemed on the verge of paying off.
Igwebuike took a direct snap and ran toward the end zone on fourth-and-goal from the Crusaders’ 5-yard line, but the ball got knocked from his hands as he was getting tackled just short of the goal line.
Moeller’s Ethan Frericks fell on the loose ball to preserve a 26-21 victory that ended the greatest season in the history of North’s program.
The Crusaders, who have won all 12 of the state semifinals they’ve played in, improved to 11-3 and will play Toledo Whitmer for the state championship Dec. 1 at Canton Fawcett Stadium.
North finished 12-2.
“I thought I’d crossed the (goal line),” Igwebuike said. “That was our go-to play and we gave it all we had. I don’t regret anything about it. We had a hell of a season and a hell of a game.”
The Panthers, who posted shutouts in two of the past three weeks, fell behind 3-0 on a 32-yard field goal by Matt Reiniger with 8:40 left in the opening quarter.
North answered on the ensuing drive when Mason Olszewski scored on a 1-yard run. The score was set up by a 34-yard run by Igwebuike that included a spin move just past the line of scrimmage. Igwebuike also had runs of 10 and 27 yards during the drive.
Moeller’s Joe Eramo ran in for an 11-yard score with 7:29 to go in the first half for a 10-7 lead.
The Crusaders nearly added another score on the final play of the first half, but North’s Warren Stoddard forced a fumble by Keith Watkins on third-and-goal from the Panthers 1 to keep it at 10-7.
After Reiniger made a 20-yard field goal with 8:02 left in the third quarter, Igwebuike broke free for a 76-yard run on the third play of the next possession to give North a 14-13 lead.
Eramo gave the lead back to the Crusaders on the ensuing drive with a 34-yard run, but North answered again early in the fourth quarter.
Zeph Miller passed to Justin Childers amid heavy traffic in the middle of the field and Childers ran for a 55-yard score that made it 21-20 with 11:23 to go.
Moeller scored the game-winning points with 3:50 remaining on a 7-yard run by Watkins. The Crusaders, who failed on a two-point conversion pass, had the drive set up by an interception by Logan Kelleher at the North 44.
The Crusaders began three of their five scoring drives inside Panthers territory.
Igwebuike finished with 194 yards and one touchdown on 16 carries. Olszewski was 9-for-18 passing for 99 yards and North finished with 388 yards of offense.
Although Watkins had 33 rushes for 117 yards, Eramo burned the Panthers for 153 yards and two scores on 16 carries for a 9.5 average.
“What I liked about it was that we had the lead, we lost the lead but then we got the lead back,” coach Tom Phillips said. “We had a chance to go to Canton.
“They won the field position battle and had control offensively. They beat us on the running game. We had the big plays but our defense was challenged with multiple formations. I thought they were a very solid football team.”
CM--Reiniger 32 FG
PN--Olszewski 1 run (Holland kick)
CM--Eramo 11 run (Reiniger kick)
CM--Reiniger 20 FG
PN--Igwebuike 76 run (Holland kick)
CM--Eramo 34 run (Reiniger kick)
PN--Childers 55 pass from Miller (Holland kick)
CM--Watkins 7 run (pass failed)
PIQUA — The momentum that the New Albany High School football team gained by erasing a 10-point deficit in the Division II, Region 7 final carried over to its state semifinal against Trotwood-Madison on Nov. 23.
However, the Eagles didn't take advantage of enough of their scoring opportunities to derail the defending state champion Rams.
Among the chances was a missed 27-yard field-goal attempt by Joe Rolwing with 30 seconds left, as New Albany lost 33-32 at Piqua's Alexander Stadium to finish 11-3.
Two two-point conversion tries failed and Rolwing, a freshman, also missed two extra-point attempts as the Eagles’ 11-game winning streak was snapped.
Trotwood-Madison improved to 12-2 and advanced to play Toledo Central Catholic (13-1) in the state final at 7 p.m. Nov. 30 at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium in Massillon.
“You can’t put it all on a freshman kicker,” New Albany coach Mark Mueller said. “We missed plenty of chances. We left a lot of points on the board.”
The teams combined for 612 yards rushing, with New Albany outgaining Trotwood-Madison 309-303. Rams running back Isreal Green, a 5-foot-8, 202-pound senior, led the way with 221 yards and three touchdowns on 26 carries. He scored from 2 and 1 yards to stake the Rams to a 14-0 lead in the first nine minutes.
Leslie Anokye rushed for 156 yards and three touchdowns on 19 carries to lead New Albany, which was attempting to reach its first state final.
As they did Nov. 16 when they trailed 16-6 in the first five minutes before defeating Marion-Franklin 32-30 in the regional final, the Eagles got back into the game.
Anokye scored from 12 yards two minutes into the second quarter to make it 14-6. After Rams freshman quarterback Merritt DeWeaver threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to Breland Cospy midway through the quarter for a 20-6 lead, New Albany needed only four plays to answer. Anokye scored on a 13-yard run to make it 20-12 and Eagles quarterback Darron Lee followed with a 22-yard touchdown pass to Joe Siegenthaler with 46 seconds left in the first half to make it 20-18.
“Joe made some huge plays and we knew we just had to run up the middle and play our game,” Anokye said. “Our last couple games we’ve been down, so we didn’t lose our composure.”
Alan Watson capped the Eagles’ first possession of the second half -- a 13-play, 69-yard drive -- with a 1-yard touchdown run and then scored the two-point conversion on a run to give New Albany a 26-20 lead.
“We stuck to what we did well,” Mueller said. “We got timely stops. In the second and third quarters, we made them punt the ball and, when we ran the ball, we were able to put the ball in the end zone.”
The Eagles couldn’t capitalize on a fumbled punt at midfield, as they turned the ball over on downs after failing to get the first down on fourth-and-5 at the Trotwood-Madison 31. The Rams made them pay, capping a 69-yard scoring drive with a 2-yard run by Cospy to take a 27-26 lead.
Anokye scored on a 49-yard run on a draw play with 5:18 to play, but the Eagles were stopped on the two-point conversion attempt and led 32-27. The Rams answered with a touchdown, as Green scored on a 37-yard run to make it 33-32.
On New Albany's final drive, Lee had a 19-yard run and Watson had a 27-yard run to help get the Eagles to Trotwood-Madison’s 10-yard line with 35 seconds left without a timeout.
“We just needed a couple more plays in the end,” Lee said.
TM--Green 2 run (E. Cospy kick)
TM--Green 1 run (E. Cospy kick)
NA--Anokye 12 run (kick failed)
TM--B. Cospy 4 pass from DeWeaver (kick failed)
NA--Anokye 13 run (kick failed)
NA--Siegenthaler 22 pass from Lee (pass failed)
NA--Watson 1 run (Watson run)
TM--B. Cospy 2 run (E. Cospy kick)
NA--Anokye 49 run (run failed)
TM--Green 37 run (pass failed)
The Hilliard Darby and Pickerington North high school football teams both average more than 35 points and give up fewer than two touchdowns per game.
There also will be star power on display when the teams meet in a Division I, Region 3 semifinal at 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 10, at Gahanna, as Darby's Caleb Day (Illinois) and North's Jake Butt (Michigan) and Godwin Igwebuike (Northwestern) have committed to Big Ten schools.
Each team posted its program's best regular season, and each won its opening-round playoff game against an opponent it also had beaten during the regular season.
However, the teams, which share the nickname Panthers, have found success on offense using different methods.
While Darby has run its triple-option offense as well as any team in central Ohio this season, North has found success with an efficient passing game that supports the running abilities of Igwebuike.
Both teams have shined on defense throughout much of the season's second half.
"We're excited and we know we've got to have a great week of practice," Darby coach John Santagata said.
"Every win is very important," North coach Tom Phillips said. "That's our expectation, and we're excited to be doing it in a playoff atmosphere."
Darby, which is the top seed, defeated Westerville South 28-14 on Oct. 5 to begin a stretch of three games against the other top teams in the OCC-Cardinal Division. Darby followed with wins over Dublin Scioto (28-24 on Oct. 12), which also made the Region 3 playoffs, and Westerville Central (29-7 on Oct. 19) before closing out its first perfect regular season with a 42-0 win over Hilliard Bradley on Oct. 26.
On Nov. 3, Darby got by Westerville South again, this time 31-10, to improve to 11-0. It was Darby's first playoff win since 2007.
Quarterback Chase Longwell, who has rushed for 934 yards and 14 touchdowns and is 48-for-79 passing for 822 yards with eight touchdowns and one interception, rushed for 155 yards and a touchdown and threw for a score in the playoff win.
Day has been a multifaceted option offensively, with 451 yards and nine touchdowns rushing and a team-leading 27 catches for 424 yards and five scores.
Hayden VanKirk has contributed 745 yards and 10 touchdowns rushing.
Defensively for North, Butt and Igwebuike have led a unit that has posted four shutouts after struggling to stop the run early in the season.
North had its hopes of a perfect regular season dashed when it lost to Grove City 13-10 on Oct. 26 and was forced to share the OCC-Ohio title with Pickerington Central at 6-1.
On Nov. 3 at home, however, fourth-seeded North earned a season sweep of Central with a 24-0 victory that improved it to 10-1. It was North's first playoff victory.
While Igwebuike has five interceptions and Roland Ladipo has four, linebacker Dylan Weigel, defensive backs Mason Olszewski and Kody Kasey, defensive tackle Geno Rollo and linebacker Warren Stoddard also have shined for North.
"(Our option) is a little bit different than (Hilliard) Davidson's because of all of the reads, but it all starts with our line and the push that they get," said Longwell, whose offensive line features Stephan Herron and Zach Williams. "It's great having a guy like Caleb on our side. He's a great athlete and it's incredible sometimes what he can do."
Offensively for North, Igwebuike has rushed for more than 1,500 yards and has scored 25 touchdowns. Butt has 52 catches for 707 yards and 10 touchdowns and Olszewski has thrown for more than 1,500 yards with 17 touchdowns and five interceptions.
Offensive lineman Chris Huhn, who has verbally committed to Western Kentucky, missed the first five games with an injury but has returned to join a line led by Grant Glackin and Jordan Grubb.
Cameron Kohl, Trevor Parker and Day lead a Darby defense that forced Westerville South to commit three turnovers in the playoff game.
Although Darby and North have never played, their coaches have a rivalry connection. Phillips is a graduate of New Middletown Springfield and Santagata graduated from Poland Seminary -- rival schools in Mahoning County.
Since Santagata took over in 2008, Darby has gone 35-16 and is in the playoffs for the third time in program history. He was an assistant in 2007 when Darby lost in a regional final and led the team to the 2010 playoffs when it lost to Springfield 22-7 in a first-round game.
North is 41-21 since Phillips became its coach in 2007. The only other playoff game in program history came in 2009 when North lost to Pickerington Central 14-12 in a first-round game.
"The goal is to get out of town (for neutral-site playoff games), and it was amazing to have that opportunity against Pickerington Central, our sister school," Phillips said. "We had to share the (OCC-Ohio) championship and this was what I thought was kind of for the championship of our league since we both had the same (OCC-Ohio) record.
"I know Darby's head coach because I'm from Youngstown and he's from Poland. To us back home, that's like what Pickerington Central-Pickerington North is to my children."
The Hilliard Davidson High School girls and boys cross country teams had similar finishes in the Division I state meet Nov. 3 at National Trail Raceway.
Both teams finished fifth of 16 teams and had one runner earn all-state honors.
Senior Lauren Hoover finished 15th of 150 runners in 18 minutes, 21.08 seconds for the girls team and sophomore Colin Burdette was 20th of 148 runners in 15:47.42 for the boys team, as the top 25 finishers made all-state.
Tipp City Tippecanoe's Sam Wharton won the boys state championship in 15:09.95 and Lebanon's Jacquelyn Crow won the girls title in 17:39.31.
The girls team totaled 180 points to place behind Mason (42), Centerville (142), Beavercreek (147) and Sylvania Northview (158). The other area teams were Dublin Coffman (sixth, 201), Upper Arlington (13th, 291) and Dublin Scioto (16th, 333).
"I'm pleased with fifth from an objective standpoint," said coach Nathan King, who completed his first season leading the program. "We were the top finisher from central Ohio and Lauren and (freshman Jane Onders) ran awesome. It wasn't our best performance this season, but it was far from our worst.
"We were aiming to be somewhere in the top four and missed, but there was only 38 points separating second through fifth places."
Onders placed 31st in 18:48.55. Also competing for the Wildcats were sophomore Lilly Saniel-Banrey (39th, 18:55.87), senior Elsa Saelens (90th, 19:35.3), junior Catherine Hildebrand (115th, 19:59.1), sophomore Lindsey Ruff (138th, 20:35.26) and junior Jane Haines (149th, 21:29.31).
"What tickles me is that the girls weren't satisfied with fifth place," King said. "They were not happy. It's good to know that they have higher aspirations. We finished eighth at state last year and now fifth."
The boys team scored 189 points at state to finish behind Cincinnati St. Xavier (71), Mason (123), Cleveland St. Ignatius (139) and Westerville North (151). The other area teams were Olentangy Liberty (14th, 264) and New Albany (15th, 324).
Also competing for the Wildcats were junior Garrett Knapik (37th, 15:59.84), senior Anthony Caviolo (68th, 16:18.55), junior Spencer Schlecht (75th, 16:24.28), senior Lou Takahasi (101st, 16:38.63), sophomore Johnny McKeown (112th, 16:44.24) and sophomore Luke Hoover (117th, 16:46.3).
The girls team won its second consecutive regional title, scoring 50 points to easily outdistance runner-up Upper Arlington (113) in the 16-team field on Oct. 27 at Pickerington North. Hoover led the way, placing third of 118 runners in 19:03.38. The top four teams and top 16 individuals at regional advanced to state.
The Wildcats also won (35) the district 1 meet Oct. 20 at Watkins Memorial, with New Albany (84) placing second.
In the OCC-Central Division meet Oct. 13 at Darby, Davidson won the sixth-runner tiebreaker with UA to finish second (51) behind Coffman (43). Liberty (102) was fourth, followed by Thomas Worthington (107), Marysville (188) and Central Crossing (196). Westland did not have a team score.
The Wildcats lose two seniors in Hoover and Saelens, their No. 1 and No. 4 runners. Hoover plans to compete in college and has narrowed her choices to Miami University and Dayton, according to King.
"We've got a good corps coming back and the girls are committed and excited," King said. "Developing depth will be one key. The younger girls will have to buy into year-around training to continually move this program forward. Onders came on real strong at the end of the year and the sky is the limit for her. Lilly also had a strong year, but we'll need more consistency from Ruff, Hildebrand and Haines. They're the ones, along with the younger girls, who ultimately will determine our success next season."
The boys team finished second (88) at regional behind Westerville North (79). Burdette led the way for the Wildcats, placing fourth (16:00.58) of 125 runners.
Davidson also won the district 2 meet (34) ahead of runner-up Lancaster (59) and the OCC-Central meet (28), finishing ahead of Liberty (39), Coffman (86), Thomas (128), UA (141), Marysville (142), Central Crossing (210) and Westland (226).
The top five teams and top 20 individuals in the district 1 and 2 meets and the top six teams and top 24 individuals in district 3 advanced to regional.
"We always want to be first or second, but no matter what, the emphasis is on being a team," Schlecht said. "It's always about team. When you win as a team, the individual things that you want will just happen."
The Wildcats, who finished fourth at state last season, lose two seniors, including one of their top four runners in Caviolo.
Bradley boys expect to return nucleus
The Bradley boys team expects to return three of its top four runners next season.
The Jaguars' season ended when they finished 11th (282) at regional. They advanced to regional by placing third (99) in the district 2 meet.
Bradley loses two seniors in Nick Christensen and Jon Wagner. Christensen had the team's second-best finish at regional, placing 24th (16:36.87). Wagner had the fifth-best finish for the Jaguars, finishing 103rd (17:56.07).
Also competing at regional were junior Erin McCabe (18th, 16:23.34), freshman John Tejada (84th, 17:38.91), junior Ryan Gross (91st, 17:44.97), junior Luke Rehbeck (120th, 18:28.85) and sophomore Brady Hall (121st, 18:29.59).
Watkins Memorial's Mikey McKean (16:16.27) earned the final state-qualifying berth.
In the OCC-Cardinal meet Oct. 13 at Darby, Bradley finished third (95) behind Westerville North (34) and Dublin Jerome (51) and ahead of Darby (113), Dublin Scioto (148), Westerville South (150), Westerville Central (164) and Worthington Kilbourne (182).
The girls team finished 15th (311) at regional and placed second (86) in the district 2 meet behind Coffman (31).
The Jaguars finished fourth (100) in the OCC-Cardinal meet, behind Scioto (40), Jerome (66) and Westerville North (72) and ahead of Darby (109), Westerville Central (146), Kilbourne (173) and Westerville South (231).
Bradley loses three seniors in Jenna Bosch, Kayce Pharazyn and Alex Winter.
At regional, Winter had the Jaguars' highest finish, placing 32nd (20:09.94), and Bosch finished 116th (22:54.75). Pharazyn had the team's fourth-best finish in the district 2 meet, placing 22nd (20:53.12), but was not able to compete at regional because of illness.
Also competing at regional were sophomore Sarah Hevener (41st, 20:21.61), sophomore Tes Corea (86th, 21:23.29), junior Elaina Alpeter (88th, 21:24.68) and sophomore Hope Sawchuk (91st, 21:30.12).
Westerville North's Haley Sandvik (19:24.64) secured the final state-qualifying berth.
Bradley expects to return three of its top five runners in Alpeter, Corea and Hevener.
Darby boys, girls lose two of top five runners
The Darby boys team loses two of its top five runners in seniors Lane Hagar and Christian Cunningham.
The Panthers' season ended at regional, as they finished 13th (298). They advanced to regional by finishing fourth (131) in the district 2 meet.
Sophomore Chase Hampton led the way at regional, placing 22nd (16:35.74). Also competing were Hagar (61st, 17:17.07), junior Ryan Baldridge (76th, 17:33.96), freshman Gage Akers (82nd, 17:38.31), sophomore Kyle Fogarty (100th, 17:53.68), Cunningham (108th, 18:11.05) and senior Adam Ruiz (114th, 18:14.93).
The Panthers finished fourth (113) in the OCC-Cardinal meet.
The girls team also will lose two of its top five runners to graduation, including its top runner in senior Julissa Poullet.
The Panthers were last (324) at regional and placed fifth (121) in the district 3 meet won by UA (49).
Poullet led the way for Darby at regional (52nd, 20:38.61) and district (10th, 19:54.51). Also competing at regional were junior Sarah Vermillion (64th, 20:53.48), junior Emily Melnik (66th, 20:57.27), senior Cassady Shultz (71st, 21:04.56), sophomore Morgan Brennan (103rd, 21:47.38), freshman Danielle Deshuk (107th, 21:57.13) and sophomore Denise Dye (110th, 22:04.28).
The Panthers finished fifth (109) in the OCC-Cardinal meet.
BELLBROOK, Ohio — The late-game magic that sent Pickerington North to a Division I state semifinal was conjured again last night in Miami Valley South Stadium.
This time, though, it materialized for Mason, which got an overtime goal from senior forward Jami Pfeifer and sent the Comets to the championship game with a 1-0 victory.
“We came out pretty strong in overtime the last game,” Pickerington North coach Greg VanKannel said. “This one, we didn’t. We came out flat, and you can’t do that. And when you get to this level, you just have to get a little lucky.”
Pickerington North (19-1-2) advanced to its second state semifinal in three seasons with 1-0 wins over Dublin Coffman in a regional semifinal and Dublin Jerome in a regional final last week. Ashlynn Jones scored the winners in both games, striking with 1:45 remaining against Coffman and in overtime against Jerome. Both opponents were ranked in the final state poll.
“Any time you beat two Dublins in three days, that’s a good week,” VanKannel said.
But Jones, a Memphis recruit, had few chances against Mason (20-1-1).
“You have to keep calm and stick with her,” Mason defender Olivia Gaus said. “She’s the fastest girl we’ve played, and she’s very strong.”
A booming, 15-yard shot by Jones was blocked by defender Carolyn Springsteen with 32:30 remaining in the second half.
Mason midfielder Madison Melnick had the first shot on goal of the game, but a quick reaction save by Panthers goalkeeper Heather Laeufer kept it scoreless with 13:28 remaining in the second half.
Jones had another opportunity with 11:30 remaining but couldn’t put a shot on Rachel Weigman’s cross at the goal mouth.
“We did fine,” VanKannel said. “We just didn’t convert our chances that we had.”
Mason had outscored its previous opponents 73-10 but found little room to maneuver in the attacking third. It twice forced Laeufer off her line, but the Central Michigan-bound keeper broke up a pair of breakaways with two well-timed runs.
But Laeufer had no chance to stop Pfeifer’s winner, a shot from 15 yards that sailed inside the near post.
“I wasn’t sure where it was going,” Pfeifer said. “I was in the moment, and it’s one of those things where you don’t know how it happens, it just happens.”
The goal — Pfeifer’s 18th — was only the fourth allowed by Laeufer this season. It came in the second minute of overtime.
Mason came tantalizingly close to scoring seconds after the opening kick in overtime when Jill Vetere sent a shot wide left that appeared to strike the outstretched hand of a Pickerington North defender.
No handball was called, but it mattered little. Pfeifer scored moments later.
“They had a lot of talent, a lot of speed,” VanKannel said. “And they were very aggressive.”
Pickerington North had shut out 10 of its past 12 opponents and advanced to the state tournament for the fourth time since 2007. The Panthers reached the championship game in 2010.
Mason, in its first state tournament, will play Perrysburg (22-0) in Crew Stadium on Friday.
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