The Bexley High School football team achieved a feat three decades in the making, but not without drama.
The Lions needed two overtimes and a defensive stand to defeat host Whitehall 35-34 on Sept. 27 and secure their first 5-0 start since 1982.
That year, Bexley won its first eight games.
As the Lions prepare for perhaps their toughest test so far this season, Friday, Oct. 4, against visiting West Jefferson, their confidence is growing.
"For us it means that we are becoming a better football program and we are doing things that we haven't done for the past 31 years," junior quarterback Andre Stewart said. "To tell you the truth, I thought we could be 5-0.
"You just have to work hard every day in practice, work hard in the summer, and all of it has paid off and we have come together as a team."
Stewart, who ran for 169 yards on 24 carries and also threw for a touchdown against Whitehall, fumbled a shotgun snap and turned the ball over in the first overtime, only to score on a 20-yard run in the second overtime. That scoring run, followed by Adam Hirsch's extra point, set the stage for the Rams' Shaquille Alexander, who answered with an 11-yard scoring run for his fifth touchdown of the game.
Instead of going for the potential game-tying extra point, Whitehall opted to give the ball to Alexander for a potential game-winning two-point conversion run up the middle. Linebacker Zach Ward met Alexander and made what coach John Smith said was a "tremendous stop at the goal line."
Bexley also improved to 2-0 in the MSL-Ohio Division and ended its three-game losing streak to Whitehall, which dropped to 2-3 overall and 0-1 in the league.
Lions running back Rasheed Morgan had a pair of rushing touchdowns and an 87-yard kickoff return for a score.
"We thought it was disrespectful that they were going to go for two on us," Stewart said. "I understand their running back ran all over us and if I was their coach I probably would have done the same thing.
"We were in the mindset to stop them at all costs and we did that."
Smith was pleased with the Lions' effort -- and the outcome.
"It was great for the kids and good for the program in general, and it was good to get the monkey off of our back in regards to Whitehall," Smith said. "It feels good. It is the first time I have ever been 5-0 at this point in the season.
"For the kids it just validates the work we did in the offseason and continues to foster a belief in our kids."
The Lions have moved closer to two of their goals, which Stewart said are a league title and being in contention for the Division IV, Region 13 playoffs in weeks eight, nine and 10.
"Some people in our school still think that we're overrated and that we haven't played anybody even though that is not true at all," Stewart said. "I use it as motivation to prove them wrong and to become a great football team.
"We're making history and it feels great to be 5-0."
Smith realizes half of the regular season remains and that West Jefferson, which is 4-1 overall and 1-0 in the league, will be a difficult opponent for the Lions.
"Things have gone our way up to this point that has allowed us to get to this point, and we have continued to improve through the first five games," he said. "We have five more difficult games left on our schedule.
"I am sure (the players) are thinking and talking about the playoffs, but I don't think they are going to lose sight of what is ahead of us with West Jeff."
Stewart said the players are focused.
"We're going to have to play strong, smart football and keep doing what we have been doing for the past five weeks," he said.
Tennis team takes 2nd in league tourney
Despite having to shuffle her lineup for the MSL-Ohio tournament Sept. 28, coach Shelby Cheses saw her girls tennis team finish second in the six-team event behind host Columbus Academy.
Caroline Phillips, who had played first singles the entire season, was out of town during the tournament, which was rescheduled from Sept. 21 because of bad weather.
Highlighting Bexley's re-worked lineup was Allison Meyer and Sarah Gundy, who advanced to finals at second and third singles, respectively. Hallie Wirthman and Maggie Walker reached the first-doubles final.
Academy claimed the team title, as it placed first on every court but second doubles.
Sammi Levy moved up to play first singles for the Lions and fell in a semifinal.
At second doubles, Cheses elevated Maggie Butler, a junior varsity player, to play with her sister, Katie. It was the first time the sisters took the court together, and they posted a quarterfinal victory before losing in a semifinal.
"We did really well and I am pleased with my girls' performances," Cheses said. "This tournament should give us a confidence boost going into sectionals."
The Lions will compete in a Division II sectional Thursday, Oct. 3, and Saturday, Oct. 5 at Academy. The top four finishers in singles and doubles advance to the district tournament Oct. 11 and 12 at Columbus School for Girls.
Phillips, a sophomore, is seeded third in singles at sectional. Levy, also a sophomore, and Gundy, a junior, also will play singles.
Both of Bexley's doubles teams were seeded in the draw. Walker and Meyer, both freshmen, are seeded third, while the senior duo of Wirthman and Katie Butler are fourth.
Boys golf team moves on to district
The boys golf team shot a 332 to place third in an 11-team Division II sectional tournament Sept. 24 at Granville Golf Course, securing the final district-qualifying berth behind Caledonia River Valley (313) and DeSales (318).
The Lions competed at district Sept. 30 at River Greens. The top three teams and top three individuals not on qualifying teams advanced to the state tournament Oct. 11 and 12 at NorthStar.
Hunter Roberts led the Lions at sectional with a 77, followed by Matt Abramson (80), Joss Meyer (84) Cameron Karmia (91).
Weisman advances for girls golf team
Sophomore Liza Weisman of the girls golf team carded a 72 to win medalist honors in a Division II sectional Sept. 25 at Blacklick Woods.
Weisman competed at district Oct. 1 at Blacklick Woods. The top three individuals not on qualifying teams advanced to state Oct. 11 and 12 at Ohio State's Gray Course.
The Lions placed fifth (430) of 10 teams at sectional, behind district-qualifiers Centerburg (394), Madison Plains (399), Lakewood (417).
Weisman won the sectional title by 12 strokes over Alexis Reichardt of River Valley. Rounding out Bexley's scoring were Vahni Kurra (107), Emily Walker (120) and Cassie Ziance (131).