Canal Winchester High School football coach Shawn Hinkle knows his team must improve defensively if it is going to turn around its season.
The Indians are 0-3 entering their OCC-Cardinal Division opener Friday, Sept. 20, at home against Westerville South and have surrendered an average of 33.7 points per game.
"Our defense has been a little too timid and too soft on the edges, so we need to improve there in a hurry," Hinkle said. "Westerville South definitely has some good athletes on the field, so we'll need to match up with them on the edges and keep them contained.
"If we make them put together long drives, hopefully they will make some mistakes along the way."
South, which employs a spread offense and is averaging 26.3 points, beat Grove City 17-14 on Sept. 13 to improve to 2-1.
Through three games, quarterback Timmy Bates has completed 42 of 76 passes for 562 yards with two touchdowns and six interceptions and has rushed for 167 yards and two scores on 26 carries.
Running back Darien Miller has rushed for 357 yards and seven touchdowns on 72 carries, wide receiver Torrodd Carter has 23 receptions for 301 yards and one touchdown and tight end Darryl Long has 10 catches for 163 yards and a score.
Penalties and turnovers have hindered South, however. Against Grove City, the Wildcats had 13 penalties for 125 yards and three turnovers.
"Timmy is the best dual threat we've had at quarterback in a long time and we've been moving the ball through the air and on the ground," South coach Rocky Pentello said. "But we're making too many mistakes on offense. Turnovers and penalties have killed us, so we have to improve in those areas."
According to Hinkle, inside linebackers Luke Ford and Lamont Martin have been the Indians' most consistent players on defense, combining to make 15 tackles in a 37-14 loss to Lancaster on Sept. 13.
The Indians' defense is expected to be without linebacker Alonzo Booth for at least five games and may not have end Ryan Oliver available against South, Hinkle said. Against Lancaster, Booth dislocated a shoulder and Oliver injured a hand.
Canal Winchester gave up 327 yards rushing to Lancaster and has allowed an opposing running back to rush for more than 100 yards in each of its first three games. Lancaster's Isaiah Dexter ran for 107 yards and three scores.
"We've run into three big, physical teams and this week isn't going to be any different," Hinkle said. "We're missing some important players, so we need some other guys to step up and play a bigger role."
Among Canal Winchester's concerns on offense is its ground game. The Indians had only 26 yards rushing on 30 carries against Lancaster, with running back Mike Dean gaining 29 yards and a touchdown on nine carries.
William Totten and Nick Hammond have continued to split duties at quarterback since starter Zach Bontempo suffered a season-ending broken collarbone in the first quarter of a season-opening 41-6 loss to Olentangy on Aug. 30.
Against Lancaster, Hammond was 9-for-14 passing for 106 yards, including a 13-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Skyler Scott, and Totten was 5-for-8 passing for 55 yards with two interceptions.
Scott had six catches for 81 yards against the Golden Gales and wide receiver Jalen Smith had four receptions for 66 yards.
"I was pleased with Nick's progression against Lancaster, and we ran the ball well for a couple of series in that game, which we hadn't been doing in our first two games," Hinkle said. "Teams have been loading the box against us and, until we prove we can run the ball effectively, that will continue."
South's 4-3 defense held Grove City to 168 total yards and forced three turnovers.
Volleyball team beats state-ranked Davidson
The girls volleyball team was 6-5 overall and 3-3 in the OCC-Cardinal before playing Dublin Scioto on Sept. 17.
Canal Winchester lost to Big Walnut 25-23, 25-21 on Sept. 14 but bounced back to defeat Hilliard Davidson 22-25, 25-22, 25-19 later that day. The Wildcats were tied for 19th in the Division I state poll last week.
"Our coaching staff has really changed the culture here and we're right there with the big teams right now," first-year coach Kris Kern said. "Our girls still need to learn how to finish games, because when games are close, they still tend to revert to playing not to lose instead of playing to win. But we were aggressive and finished Hilliard Davidson off, so I'm hoping we'll continue to play that way in big matches."
Kern has been particularly pleased with the play of setter Kacey Bingmer, defensive specialist Maddi Porter and libero Haley Webster.
"Casey is turning into a very good setter and the strength of our team has been our defense," Kern said. "Maddi and Haley have bought into our principals and their serve-receive and defense are very good.
"Our Achilles' heel has been our hitting errors. If we shore that up, we'll be tough to beat."
Runners make strong showing in Newark
The cross country teams made a strong showing in the 13-team Newark Invitational on Sept. 14.
The girls team won the meet, scoring 42 points to finish ahead of runner-up Newark (70).
Cassidy Long led the Indians, placing second in 19 minutes, 59 seconds. Also scoring were Joelle Zuberi (fifth, 20:26.6), Julia Cook (seventh, 20:38.5), Ashley Clubb (13th, 21:04) and Megan Tamasovich (15th, 21:07.2).
The boys team scored 77 points to finish second behind Newark (65).
Scoring were Jason Appel (11th, 17:40.9), Bryce Carroll (13th, 17:49.1), Ethan Fusek (15th, 17:52.8), Luke Schirr (17th, 18:00.6) and Nick Sweeney (21st, 18:28.8).