There was understandable disappointment for the Bexley High School football team after its 35-14 loss at Zanesville Maysville in the first round of the Division IV, Region 13 playoffs Nov. 8.
Still, it was far from a disappointing season for the Lions.
Bexley opened 5-0, something it last accomplished in 1982, and won its final two regular-season games to bounce back from a three-game losing streak and clinch its first playoff berth since 2008.
Bexley finished 7-4 overall and tied Columbus Academy for second in the MSL-Ohio Division at 4-2, behind West Jefferson (6-0) and ahead of Whitehall (3-3), Grandview (2-4), Madison Plains (1-5) and London (1-5).
The Lions beat their biggest rivals, Whitehall 35-34 in two overtimes Sept. 27 and Academy 24-7 on Nov. 1. The win over the Vikings snapped a four-game losing streak in the series and clinched Bexley's postseason berth.
"I think it was an extremely successful season," said coach John Smith, who completed his seventh season. "It was a lot of fun, we had that little lull, but the kids responded.
"It was just a great overall team effort."
Against fourth-seeded Maysville, the fifth-seeded Lions trailed 14-0 in the second quarter and 28-7 in the fourth.
"You feel bad for the kids. They have worked extremely hard and they have done everything that we have asked them to do," Smith said. "Our kids played great and I thought they were in a great frame of mind going into the game.
"There were opportunities. We just weren't able to take advantage of them."
The Lions were plagued by four turnovers but trailed just 14-7 at halftime after junior quarterback Andre Stewart's 60-yard touchdown run with 7 minutes, 15 seconds left in the second quarter.
Sophomore safety Corbin Thompson recovered a Maysville fumble in the end zone with 5:34 to play, cutting the Lions' deficit to 28-14.
Stewart rushed 18 times for 139 yards but was 2-for-10 passing for 15 yards and an interception. For the season, he was 28-for-82 passing for 341 yards with five touchdowns and eight interceptions and rushed for 1,284 yards and 17 touchdowns on 199 carries.
Stewart and junior running back Javell Gray headline the expected returnees. Gray broke a thumb in an intra-squad scrimmage, according to Smith, and made his first start in week nine against London before rushing for 134 yards on 27 carries against Academy.
The Lions lose a 16-member senior class led by Eric Maxwell (OL/DL), Greg Miller (RB/DB), Rasheed Morgan (RB/DB), Jack Needles (OL/DL), Jacob Old (RB/DE) and Zach Ward (LB).
"We'll miss them a lot. They have set the standard on how a senior class should be," Smith said. With the freshman team going undefeated and the junior varsity losing just twice, Smith likes the future of his program.
"I feel like we have some very good classes coming up," he said. "We don't have as many question marks that we had at this point last year."
Miller, Morgan, junior Jeffery Nicosia (WR/DB) and Stewart were first-team all-league. Senior Dan Lee (OL/DL), junior Jacob Mittman (CB) and Ward were second-team-all league. Old, Thompson and junior John Yee (OL/DL) were honorable mention all-league.
Slow start didn't hurt boys soccer team
Coming off a Division II state-semifinal appearance in 2012, the boys soccer team started 1-3.
From that point, however, the Lions lost just once more before falling to Cincinnati Indian Hill 3-2 (5-4 shootout) in a regional semifinal Oct. 30 at Bellbrook to finish 12-5-3 overall.
Bexley won its first league title since 2009, going 5-0-2 in the MSL-Ohio to finish ahead of Academy (5-1-1), Worthington Christian (5-1-1), Grandview (5-2), Grove City Christian (2-5), London (2-5), West Jefferson (1-5-1) and Whitehall (0-6-1).
The Lions were seeded sixth in the district tournament and defeated fourth-seeded Granville (2-0 on Oct. 17), 11th-seeded Mifflin (2-1 on Oct. 22) and third-seeded Big Walnut (2-0 on Oct. 26) to win their third consecutive district title.
"The Indian Hill game was really a microcosm of our season," said coach Greg Kullman, whose team scored a pair of goals in the final six minutes of regulation to tie the game. "We probably weren't the most skilled team this year, but the guys really understood what each of us brought to the table individually and ultimately found a way to make that work."
Sophomore Cole Heilman and junior Adam Hirsch tied for the team lead with eight goals, with Heilman also leading with 11 assists. The midfielders were first-team all-league with senior defender Alex Eikenberry, who was named first-team all-state.
Senior midfielder Nate Meizlish (5 goals, 7 assists), senior goalkeeper Eli Feuer (42 saves) and senior midfielder/forward Dan Loeser (7 goals, 3 assists) were second-team all-league.
"Every year is a new challenge as you lose good players to graduation and it's exciting as a coaching staff to see who will step up to fill roles," Kullman said. "We will lose a lot of valuable players who have helped us win three consecutive district championships."
Heilman, Hirsch, junior midfielder Carl Pohlman (4 goals), junior midfielder Noah Appelbaum (6 goals), junior defender Chase Roddy and freshman defender Josh Jones all are expected to return.
"We have some quality players coming back and a lot of players who got valuable minutes on (j.v.)," Kullman said.
Kellogg sets pace for cross country program
Senior Ian Kellogg highlighted the cross country season by becoming the first Bexley boys runner to advance to state since 2009.
On Nov. 2 at National Trail Raceway, Kellogg placed 81st of 149 runners in Division II in 17:28.9.
The rest of the boys team saw its season end Oct. 26 in the regional at Troy. The Lions placed sixth (156 points) of 16 teams behind champion Tipp City Tippecanoe (88) as the top four squads and top 16 individuals advanced.
Kellogg was fourth (16:25.31), followed by junior Patrick Lape (36th, 17:18.78), freshman Peter Hayden (48th, 17:30.63), senior Cole Keny (52nd, 17:33.85) and senior Alex Meyer (53rd, 17:34.3).
At district Oct. 19 at Watkins Memorial, the Lions placed fourth (97) of 21 teams behind champion Sparta Highland (52).
On Oct. 12 at London Country Club, Bexley (38) won the MSL-Ohio meet ahead of Academy (58), Grandview (66), Whitehall (102), Worthington Christian (117) and London (140).
The girls team's season ended at regional, where the Lions were seventh (223) of 16 teams behind champion Tippecanoe (67).
Senior Regan Detwiler was 21st of 125 runners in 19:51.26. Sophomore Meg Rhoads placed 55th (20:58.54), followed by freshman Veronica Mendivil (57th, 20:59.29), senior Meghan Hayden (62nd, 21:11.92) and senior Jocie Steinke (95th, 22:18.53).
At district, the Lions placed third (130) behind champion Granville (48).
In the league meet, Bexley finished second (48) behind Academy (45) and ahead of Grandview (57), London (85) and Worthington Christian (136).
"Our team will miss the senior leadership that we experienced this year," coach Eric Acton said. "It was an honor to work with all of the athletes this past season."