Coach Geoff Gear didn't know what to expect from his St. Charles Preparatory School water polo team in the postseason.
Entering the North Region tournament just four games over .500, the Cardinals won five of their six postseason contests, including a 17-13 victory over Cincinnati St. Xavier on Oct. 26 in the state championship game at Mason.
"We peaked at the right time," said Gear, whose team finished 21-13 and won its third state title in four seasons. "We were going through a tough stretch (before the postseason) and we just had to dig in and figure out what we needed to do."
Senior utility player Andrew Hoffman scored 11 goals in the title game and 24 in three games during the state tournament. Junior utility player Sam Smith had three goals in the final, while freshman attacker Ben Sugar had two and sophomore attacker Nick Ward scored once. Senior goalie Dylan Hammon had 10 blocks.
Hoffman scored eight times to help the Cardinals beat Upper Arlington 16-11 in the first round Oct. 25 and five times in a 13-11 victory over Thomas Worthington in a state semifinal, also on Oct. 25.
"It was the kind of year that just about any team could have won it," Gear said. "It was a tough, tough weekend."
Ward and junior center-defender Tyler Welty both scored twice against Thomas, and senior center Casey Horan, senior center-defender Franz Kabelka, junior attacker Andrew Alfred and Smith all had one goal. Hammon had 11 blocks.
Ward scored five times against UA, with Horan, Kabelka and Sugar all scoring once. Hammon had 13 blocks.
The Cardinals advanced to state by going 2-1 to finish third in the North regional Oct. 18 and 19 at Napoleon.
Football team earns outright league title
The football team, having clinched its first league championship since 1962, is 7-2 overall entering its regular-season finale Friday, Nov. 1, against Marion Harding.
The game will be played at the high school, the first since a front railing on the home stands collapsed during a 48-8 win over Eastmoor Academy on Sept. 6.
The Presidents are 3-6 after losing to Tiffin Columbian 35-6 on Oct. 25. Senior running back Keyontay Rogers rushed for 84 yards on 28 carries and junior running back Logan Crawford had a 1-yard touchdown run.
"This is a big deal," senior lineman Nathan Puthoff said. "We need to win to get in the playoffs, and that's what we all play for."
The Cardinals are projected to enter the game holding the eighth and final playoff spot in Division II, Region 5.
St. Charles won the outright CCL-Silver Division title with a 20-14 win over host Watterson on Oct. 25. The Cardinals finished 2-0 in the league, followed by DeSales (1-1) and Watterson (0-2).
The Cardinals had a 19-play, 78-yard drive in the fourth quarter against Watterson, capped by senior running back John Quinn's 1-yard touchdown run with 2 minutes to play.
"When we were sophomores, we had a similar drive that was like nine minutes to beat (the Eagles 23-13), and we had the same thing this year," said senior running back Michael Hamrock, who rushed for 95 yards on 17 carries. "It was deja vu for us, and you have to give all of the credit to our (offensive) line."
Quinn also had a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown late in the first quarter.
"I caught the (kickoff) and looked over to the official to see if I was good (and not in the end zone)," said Quinn, who rushed for 42 yards. "I took off and ran a straight line through the gap. Michael Hamrock really had a great block to help me break it."
Junior defensive back Jimmy Holtz intercepted Watterson quarterback Sam Maglicic at the St. Charles 4-yard line with 12 seconds left to seal the win.
"It was special to win this with these guys," Quinn said. "We've been working hard and fighting all year. All of the hard work in practice and the weight room really paid off for something concrete."
The Cardinals played without their top offensive threat in NiQuille Bell. The junior slotback was lost for the season after suffering a broken leg in the fourth quarter of a 37-15 win Oct. 18 over Kings Mills Kings.
Soccer team falls in district final
The soccer team finished 10-5-4 after losing to top-seeded Olentangy Liberty 1-0 on Oct. 26 in a Division I district final at Westerville Central.
Junior goalkeeper Josh Zebula had three saves for the 12th-seeded Cardinals, who reached their first district final since 2004.
"(The Patriots) are a good team and it was just a hard-fought battle," coach Rick Ey said. "There weren't a lot of great chances on either side. The run of play was kind of disjointed, (with) a lot of giveaways from both teams. (The Patriots) were good at finishing the ball and they put it away when they had the chance."
In a district semifinal Oct. 23, junior forward Jack Engert scored with 2 minutes left in overtime off an assist from senior forward Will Walther to lead visiting St. Charles past eighth-seeded Worthington Kilbourne 1-0.
Zebula had six saves.
"We played the best game we played all year (against Kilbourne)," Ey said. "We executed our game plan. We possessed the ball and didn't let (Kilbourne's) physical play affect us."
Runners fail to advance to state
The cross country team finished eighth (239 points) of 16 squads in the Division I regional meet Oct. 26 at Pickerington North as the top four teams and top 16 individuals advanced to state Saturday, Nov. 2, at National Trail Raceway.
Dublin Jerome (66), Hilliard Davidson (100), New Albany (111) and Liberty (118) were the state-qualifying teams.
Freshman Kevin Hennessey led the Cardinals by finishing 21st in 16 minutes, 41.48 seconds. Liberty's Andrew Johnston won in 15:40.8.
Junior Brendan Harty (30th, 16:52.01) was next for St. Charles, followed by junior Nick Marino (62nd, 17:20.6), junior Nathan Herriman (68th, 17:26.69), senior Anthony Schneider (87th, 17:47.82), senior Angelo Rivera (97th, 17:55.5) and senior Eric Taylor (1 01st, 18:00.32).