Jeff Pharion stood near midfield after his St. Charles Preparatory School football team had been shut out by host Zanesville 38-0 in a Division II, Region 5 first-round playoff game Nov. 8.
The fifth-year coach was pleased the Cardinals finished the regular season with their best record since 1983, when they went 8-2, but wasn't thrilled with their performance in their first postseason game since 2010.
"We have a very good football team. I just think we shot ourselves in the foot with some missed tackles and other things," said Pharion, whose team finished 8-3 overall. "But it's a start. It's something for us to build on."
Against the third-seeded Blue Devils, sophomore running back Jacob Nowell led the sixth-seeded Cardinals with 43 yards rushing on 12 carries and senior running back Michael Hamrock had 27 yards rushing on 12 carries. Junior quarterback Jacob Moehrman rushed for 31 yards on two carries and also recovered a fumble at linebacker.
The Cardinals won their first league title since 1962 by finishing 2-0 in the CCL-Silver Division, ahead of DeSales (1-1) and Watterson (0-2).
On Oct. 4, St. Charles defeated DeSales 36-0 for its first win over the Stallions since 1976.
The Cardinals' two regular-season losses came against playoff teams. They lost to Division I Pickerington North 20-0 on Aug. 30 and to Division V Hartley 20-7 on Sept. 20.
"We found out this season what it takes to get (to the postseason)," Pharion said. "Hopefully we can use that to get back next year and make the most of this experience (against Zanesville)."
The Cardinals lost a dynamic playmaker when junior NiQuille Bell, who lined up at wide receiver, running back and quarterback, suffered a broken leg in the fourth quarter of a 37-15 win Oct. 18 at Kings Mills Kings. Bell rushed for 559 yards and eight touchdowns on 61 carries and had 19 catches for 179 yards and two scores. He also had a 68-yard punt return for a touchdown against DeSales. As a defensive back, he had 30 tackles and one interception.
The Cardinals had 24 seniors, including Division I recruits Ben Hale (WR/DB), David Heil (OL) and Nathan Puthoff (OL). Hale (57 tackles, 2 fumble recoveries in regular season) has committed to Bowling Green and Puthoff has committed to Kent State. Heil has not made a college selection.
Other seniors included second-year starting quarterback Ryan Bailey, Najm Babatunde (DE; 39 tackles, 4 sacks), Andy Deak (LB; 60 tackles, 1 sack), Hamrock (who also played linebacker), Sean Hennessey (TE/DL; 36 tackles, 3 fumble recoveries), Gabe Klingler (DL; 54 tackles, 8 sacks), Joseph Montgomery (WR/DB), Graham Plageman (WR/DB) and John Quinn (RB/LB; 114 tackles, 1 sack).
Key players expected back include juniors Bell, Jack Billman (WR/LB), Jimmy Holtz (WR/DB) and Moehrman (QB/LB) and sophomores Will Groeber (K/P), Nowell (RB/LB) and Otis Smith (QB/LB).
Seniors drove water polo team
Led by its four seniors, the water polo team finished 21-13 and won its third state title in four seasons by defeating Cincinnati St. Xavier 17-13 on Oct. 26 at Mason.
The Cardinals started the postseason at 16-12, but won two of three games in the regional tournament and all three games in the state tournament.
Also at state, they defeated Upper Arlington 16-11 in the first round and Thomas Worthington 13-11 in a semifinal.
St. Charles advanced to state by going 2-1 to finish third in the North Region tournament Oct. 18 and 19 at Napoleon.
Seniors Dylan Hammon (goalie) and Andrew Hoffman (utility player) were named all-state and all-region. The other seniors were Casey Horan (center) and Franz Kabelka (center-defender).
Hoffman scored 11 goals in the state final and 24 in the state tournament. He finished with 150 goals, 44 assists and 62 steals.
Hammon had 10 blocks in the final and 34 total at state.
"Our senior class was extremely valuable with all four seniors starting and playing the majority of the minutes," said coach Geoff Gear, who completed his seventh season.
"They were also crucial to our success at the end of the year. Three of the four seniors had state experience from our championship in 2011 and that experience helped the team when we were in tough spots at state."
Expected to return are juniors Andrew Alfred (attacker), Adam Gryzbicki (utility), Joey Hickman (attacker), Brian Landers (goalie), Jack Lumpe (goalie), Noah Miller (attacker), Sam Smith (utility) and Tyler Welty (center-defender), sophomores David Allen (attacker), Austin Beam (utility), Colin Hawes (attacker), Joe Heller (utility), Adam Lieser (center-defender), Bryce Long (attacker), Derek Nguyen (attacker), Vincent Sears (goalie), Connor Timmons (attacker) and Nick Ward (attacker) and freshmen Jack Carlin (goalie), Stuart Decker (attacker), James Grodesky (attacker), Hannes Kalbeka (attacker), John Kostas (attacker), John Lewis (attacker), Patrick McCafferty (attacker), Wil Price (attacker), Alex Roderer (center) and Ben Sugar (attacker).