The Bexley High School football team picked the perfect time to play its most complete game of the season.
The Lions rushed for 358 yards and forced four turnovers, leading to a 24-7 win over visiting Columbus Academy in the regular-season finale Nov. 1.
The victory clinched Bexley's second playoff appearance, with the other being in 2008.
The Lions, who improved to 7-3 overall and finished 4-2 in the MSL-Ohio Division, also snapped a four-game losing streak to the Vikings. Academy, which finished 6-4 and 4-2, holds a 21-13-1 lead in the all-time series.
"I'm ecstatic, it's big," coach John Smith said. "We talked about it as a coaching staff that we really haven't put a complete game together and I thought it was as close as we've gotten to one as the year has gone on."
Quarterback Andre Stewart ran for 142 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 22 carries, leading an offense that effectively controlled the clock. Bexley ran 66 plays from scrimmage and limited the Vikings to 39 offensive plays.
The Lions took advantage of a pair of first-half Academy fumbles. Stewart scored on a 25-yard run four plays after Tyler Krumlauf fumbled after catching a pass on the Vikings' first play. Bryce Bailey also fumbled for the Vikings, setting up Adam Hirsch's 28-yard field goal as Bexley led 10-0 at halftime.
Javell Gray, who finished with 134 yards rushing on 27 carries, scored from 2 yards out to put the Lions ahead 17-0 late in the third quarter. Stewart added a 36-yard touchdown run, during which he spun off a pair of defenders, to make it 24-0 with 4 minutes, 36 seconds to play.
The Lions open the Division IV, Region 13 playoffs Friday, Nov. 8. Bexley earned the fifth seed and travels to fourth-seeded Zanesville Maysville (7-3), with the winner playing Licking Valley or Steubenville on Nov. 15.
Maysville made its first trip to the playoffs in 2012.
The Panthers had lost three of four before rallying to defeat Claymont 20-19 on Nov. 1. Maysville trailed 19-7 with 6:37 left. Quarterback Jacob Miller and receiver Couger Clarke connected on a 75-yard pass play.
Chase Roberts scored the winning points on a 2-yard pass from Miller to Chase Roberts as time expired.
"Any time as a head football coach you can find your way into the playoffs is a blessing," Smith said. "(Maysville is) going to be tough and physical and they run more of a wing-T offense."
A couple key players have returned in recent weeks to boost the Lions. Gray, who was projected to be a starting running back, broke a thumb in an intra-squad scrimmage, according to Smith. The junior made his first start in week nine against London. Senior defensive end Jacob Old returned against Academy for the first time since suffering a neck injury, according to Smith, in the first half of the against Grandview in the fourth game.
Kellogg runs in state cross country meet
Senior Ian Kellogg placed 81st of 149 runners in 17:28.9 in the Division II state boys cross country meet Nov. 2 at National Trail Raceway. Thornville Sheridan's Matt Bromley won in 16:04.58.
Kellogg was the first Lions boys runner to earn an individual state qualifying berth since Zach Arace in 2009.
Boys soccer team falls in regional semi
The boys soccer team rallied from a late two-goal deficit to tie its Division II regional semifinal Oct. 30 against Cincinnati Indian Hill at Bellbrook. However, the Lions' season ended with a 3-2 loss after they came up short 5-4 in a shootout.
Coach Greg Kullman's team, which trailed 1-0 at halftime and 2-0 with less than six minutes left in regulation, battled back with its season on the line. Senior Nate Meizlish scored off a pass from sophomore Cole Heilman to make it 2-1 with about 5:30 left. Then with about 2:30 remaining, junior Carl Pohlman headed in the equalizer off a pass from senior Alex Eikenberry.
"Our boys exhibited tonight what we've prided ourselves and our program on over the years, which was an unwavering belief we could find a way to win," Kullman said. "The thing that makes me most proud is the team's willingness to fight to the very end and give everything they had."
Senior goalkeeper Eli Feuer made six saves for the Lions, who finished 12-5-3.
"The guys really played with a lot of heart," said Kullman, whose team reached a state semifinal a year ago.
Girls soccer season ends in regional semi
After capturing its first district title since 2010, the girls soccer team saw its season end Oct. 29 with a 4-1 loss to Granville in a Division II regional semifinal at Zanesville.
Senior Sarah Dawley, a first-team all-league selection, scored for Bexley.
In the district tournament, the fourth-seeded Lions defeated 19th-seeded Columbus East 14-0 on Oct. 19 and 11th-seeded Hartley 3-1 on Oct. 23 before upsetting third-seeded DeSales 2-0 on Oct. 26 at Westerville Central behind goals from juniors Sophie Schottenstein and Addie Cini.
"Winning the district title was a momentous occasion for all of us. It showed how hard the girls had worked all season and it all just culminated that night," coach Jared Dombrowski said. "The girls persevered through a lot of adversity this year, and it made them stronger."
Cini, a second-team all-league selection, led the Lions with 11 goals and freshman Lauren Woodford, an honorable mention choice, was next with nine. Schottenstein was first-team all-league.
The Lions finished 12-7-1 overall and went 4-2 in the MSL-Ohio to place third behind Worthington Christian (6-0) and Grandview (4-1-1).