The Africentric Early College football team hopes this is the breakthrough season it has been looking for in the City League-South Division.
After winning their first three games by a combined 106-14, the Nubians downed West 32-21 on Sept. 12 in their league opener. Because of a more experienced cast, coach Glenn Blue believes his team could be competitive for the first time in league play.
"This is my third year, and I now have a bunch of kids who are seniors and who understand what we want them to do offensively and defensively," Blue said. "They just know what I want from them now."
Africentric, which is battling for a Division VI, Region 24 playoff berth and lost to four-time defending City-South champion Marion-Franklin 48-8 last Monday in a game rescheduled from last Friday, has gotten off to promising starts before, only to struggle in league play.
The Nubians lost their first 27 games on the field -- with one of the setbacks later turned into a forfeit win in 2004 over Harvest Prep -- before Blue took over for the 2006 season. In his first year, Africentric beat Belmont 46-6 in its opener for its first on-field win and then downed Linden-McKinley 38-2 the next week. Later in the season, the Nubians defeated Walnut Ridge 16-13 and Briggs 35-8 for their first league wins.
Then last season, Africentric won its three non-league games but lost its final seven -- a skid which saw it score a combined 20 points against league opponents.
The Nubians play host to Independence on Friday in a rematch of a game they lost 19-7 a year ago. The 76ers won three of their first four games, including over South 52-8 on Sept. 12.
Sophomore quarterback Sheldon Akin threw for 455 yards and five touchdowns against West. Victor Graham, who was the quarterback last year, is one of the team's top receivers along with Solomon Wheat, Tajh Jones and Deshon Best.
Africentric hopes its numerous receiving weapons can compensate for the recent loss to of senior running back Breaker Heller to ineligibility.
Defensively, the Nubians are led by junior tackle Eric Clifton, end Jahleel Mullins and linebackers Isa Tate and Best.
"It's going to be tough in these upcoming games," Blue said. "Without Heller we're going to have to have some other guys step up. This year our focus has been 'No excuses.' We've just got to go out and play, especially with the disappointment of last year. We didn't finish the way we wanted."
•CORNLEY COMMITS -- The Northland football program got a piece of good news in the midst of a rough start when senior defensive lineman Javon Cornley verbally committed Sept. 16 to play for Indiana.
The 6-foot-5, 220-pound Cornley, whose older brother, Jamelle, plays basketball for Penn State, chose Indiana over a handful of scholarship offers that also included Marshall.
Cornley had 12 tackles and three sacks over the Vikings' first four games and then returned a fumble for a touchdown last Monday in a 34-0 win over Centennial in their first victory.
Northland will play host to Mifflin on Friday.
•BRAVES PREP FOR LINDEN -- The Whetstone football team will look for its sixth consecutive victory over Linden-McKinley when it travels to face the Panthers on Friday.
The Braves bounced back from their league-opening loss to Brookhaven (30-7 on Sept. 12) with a 44-14 win last Monday over visiting East.
Mike Haynes rushed for 200 yards and one touchdown and Mario Dovell rushed for 116 yards and two touchdowns and also threw for two touchdowns as they improved to 4-1 overall and 1-1 in the City-North.
Coach Jim Worden was surprised when he heard the Columbus Public School's announcement that last Friday's games were postponed three days.
"No. 1, it's the same for everybody and you have to make sure you communicate that to your kids," Worden said. "Everybody has a short week of preparation. I've never been in this situation before as a coach, but we'll just try to figure out the best way to go at it. We'll probably put pads on (today) and do our normal practice routine.
"I thought worst-case scenario that they'd move (last Friday's games) to (last) Saturday morning because you wouldn't need the lights. But one of the coaches I talked to said they weren't sure if everybody even had a chance to practice so maybe not everybody would be physically prepared. There's a lot that goes into these situations."
•VOLLEYBALL NOTES -- Seven-time defending City champion Centennial began defense of its title last Tuesday against visiting Beechcroft.
The Stars were 3-5 overall before the match after having its contests against Mifflin (Sept. 16) and East (Sept. 18) postponed.
There are four returning players from the team that beat West 25-15, 25-17, 25-23 in the City final last year, including three who were starters in senior Lauren Miller (middle hitter) and juniors Abbey Levinsky (middle hitter) and Kaylynn Cuzzolini (outside hitter/defensive specialist). Senior Soschia Owens also is back. Miler and Cuzzolini were first-team all-City last year and Levinsky made the second team.
The other players on the team are junior Mikea Hagains (outside hitter), sophomores Brianna Slaughter (setter) and Janna Cree (libero) and freshman Alyssa Cuzzolini (defensive specialist).
Centennial lost to Licking Valley (25-23, 26-24, 25-20) in the second round of the tournament last year to finish 12-10 overall.
"So far we've been playing pretty tough," coach Gerard Iquina said. "We took Bexley to five games (21-25, 22-25, 25-23, 25-15, 15-9 loss Aug. 25) and we played well against Upper Arlington (25-8, 25-20, 25-22 loss Sept. 8). Those really tough matches exposed where we need to be. Our ultimate goal is to do well (in the postseason) and get to the district tournament (in Division II). We've got a really strong frontline this year."