The Canal Winchester High School football team qualified for the playoffs five of the past six years but fell on hard times this season.
The Indians failed to win a game, finishing 0-10 overall and 0-7 in their first season in the OCC-Cardinal Division while being outscored 402-116. It marks their first losing season since 2006, when they went 2-8.
Last year, Canal Winchester finished 9-3 overall, advanced to a Division II, Region 7 semifinal and won the MSL-Buckeye title at 7-0. It had no fewer than seven wins each of its past six seasons.
"I've never been through a season like this in all of my years as a player and coach," said coach Shawn Hinkle, who completed his third season leading the program after serving as an assistant for seven years. "It was definitely a learning experience."
A portent of what lied ahead for Canal Winchester came in the first quarter of its 41-6 home loss to Olentangy on Aug. 30, as senior quarterback Zach Bontempo suffered a season-ending broken collarbone.
"I really like our chances of winning our second game of the season against Delaware (a 23-7 loss Sept. 6 at home) if Zach Bontempo was healthy and, if we won that game to gain some confidence, who knows how much better we could have been?" Hinkle said.
Three other key players missed significant time with shoulder injuries. Freshman linebacker Alonzo Booth missed the final seven games, junior linebacker and punter Elante Moore missed the final four games and junior wide receiver and linebacker Skyler Scott was sidelined for the final three games.
Five of Canal Winchester's 10 opponents finished with a winning record, three finished with a .500 record and two finished with a losing mark. The Indians lost to Dublin Jerome 30-13 on Oct. 18 on the road and lost to Westerville North 30-28 on Oct. 25 at home.
Jerome and North finished 4-6 and 3-7, respectively.
Canal Winchester placed eighth in the OCC-Cardinal, behind Westerville Central (7-0), Hilliard Darby (6-1), Hilliard Bradley (5-2), Dublin Scioto (4-3), Westerville South (3-4), Jerome (2-5) and North (1-6).
"Our conference was tough, top to bottom," Hinkle said. "Our two best games were Westerville North and Dublin Jerome. We played fairly well if you take away our turnovers in those games."
The Indians' spread offense is losing six senior starters in Bontempo, running back Edosa Omoruyi, tackle Anthony Mastracci, guard Tommy Haughn and wide receivers Jalen Smith and William Totten.
Starters expected to return are Scott, junior guard Caleb Bare, junior quarterback Nick Hammond, junior center Ryan Kaser, junior slotbacks and twin brothers Austin and Travis Lynch and junior tackle Ryan Tamasovich.
Sophomore running back Mike Dean and junior running back Lamont Martin also are expected back.
Hammond was 65-for-127 passing for 790 yards with eight touchdowns and eight interceptions and Scott had 19 catches for 376 yards and five touchdowns and was named honorable mention all-league.
Dean rushed for 247 yards and a touchdown on 49 carries and Martin ran for 211 yards and a score on 62 carries.
"Nick matured as the season went on and next season will be the first time in five years that we've had a returning starter at quarterback," Hinkle said. "We've got some experienced running backs returning, too, so we've got to get better on our offensive line."
Canal Winchester's 3-5 stack defense is losing five senior starters in free safety Khari Golden, cornerbacks Jermil Powell and Totten, nose guard Earnest Banks and linebacker Luke Ford.
Ford had 51.5 tackles and was second-team all-league and Golden had 52 tackles and four interceptions and was special mention all-league.
Six starters on defense are expected to return in Martin at linebacker, junior end Ryan Oliver, sophomore end Je'Len Olbrantz, junior linebacker Trace Luckett and sophomore linebackers Ty Luckett and Colin Sotlar.
Martin had 44 tackles, two sacks and nine tackles for loss and was named first-team all-league.
The Indians also are losing senior place-kicker Ryan Miller, but either Moore or Sotlar will handle the punting duties.
"We have a lot of kids coming back with experience," Hinkle said. "We've just got to make sure everyone's getting better between now and the start of next season."