The Whetstone High School football team will be looking to bounce back from its first loss of the season when it opens City League-North Division play at home against Beechcroft on Friday, Sept. 20.
The Braves fell to 2-1 with a 32-18 loss to Whitehall on Sept. 13. They led 12-7 at halftime but were outscored 25-6 in the second half, including 18-0 in the third quarter.
"We still have a lot of positives to look at as we begin our league schedule," coach Don Poff said. "We played physical against a good, physical team. Honestly, although we gave up 32 points, our defense played pretty well. We did have a problem covering passes in the seams, but we played without one of our cornerbacks (Aiden Tuttle), who was injured in (a 42-32 win over Columbus South on Aug. 30). So we moved some people around and we didn't make adjustments to their passing game in the seams in the second half.
"What also hurt was our inability to move the chains on offense. We had six three-and-outs and left our defense on the field too long."
B.J. Upchurch got Whitehall's rally started by returning the second-half kickoff 81 yards for a touchdown. After a turnover by the Braves, quarterback Cody Koons threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Davonte Wilkins to give the Rams a 19-12 lead.
"Those two back-to-back series to open the second half really changed the momentum," Poff said. "But we're certainly a whole lot better than we were last year and that's the point we need to remember this week. We're not worrying about Beechcroft because it's more important that we concentrate on executing our stuff better and playing to our potential. We have to take care of ourselves."
Beechcroft, which lost to Walnut Ridge 24-0 on Sept. 13 to fall to 1-2, has been outscored 50-28 through three games. Among the key players for the Cougars are Adonis Davis (RB/LB), Mike Powers (WR) and Scott Scase (QB).
Davis had a 72-yard touchdown run in a 26-14 loss to Dublin Jerome on Sept. 6 and Powers scored on a 68-yard punt return in a 14-0 win over Dayton Dunbar on Aug. 30.
Against Whitehall, quarterback Ramroth Finnegan was 15-for-41 passing for 188 yards with a touchdown and three interceptions and rushed for 84 yards, including a 5-yard touchdown, on 15 carries.
Running back Melek White scored on a 7-yard pass from Finnegan and cornerback Devon White-Revere scored on a 38-yard interception return.
"On defense, Trent Harper and Chris North made big plays at outside linebacker, Justus Barnett did a very solid job at inside linebacker and Demetri Burrell was very physical on the line," Poff said. "(White-Revere) also had some big hits to go along with his interception return."
Golf team preparing for sectional tourney
Boys golf team coach Tom Philip has been working with his players to get them prepared for the postseason as well as the City League tournament.
Whetstone will compete in a Division I sectional Oct. 1 at Granville Golf Course, Darby Creek or Turnberry. The City tournament will be held Oct. 9 at Airport.
"We're working on all the little things that can make a difference in a postseason round," Philip said. "For instance, in our league, sometimes our guys get slowed by the pace of play because of the caliber of some of the City League teams. It's difficult for them at times. But every shot will become more important in the postseason and we have to remain focused.
"Our focus also comes into play in the putting game. We've stressed to them to make sure they mark and clean, step back, refocus and align properly rather than rushing through those things."
At the midway point of the City schedule, Whetstone had three of the league's top four stroke averages. Through five rounds, Dylan Matthews had the league's top average at 40.8 strokes per nine holes. His brother, Carson Matthews, was second (41.2) and Quentin Pruneau was fourth (47.6).
"I think all of them have a chance to advance to the district tournament (Oct. 8 at Apple Valley)," Philip said. "They are working hard on their short games and it's going to come down to if they can make a few more putts (at sectional)."
David Stern is averaging 52, but according to Philip his scores have improved the past few matches.
"It's a team game in the regular season and that's why I'm so happy to see (Stern's) scores coming down," Philip said. "I also am happy with the work of Emily Tuttle and Ethan Evans. They're providing supportive scores and raising the level of competition on the team."
Girls volleyball team seeking to step up
The girls volleyball team is hoping to make up some ground in the second half of City League play.
Whetstone lost to Centennial 25-17, 26-24, 25-17 on Sept. 12 to fall to 7-4 overall and 4-2 in the league. Their other league loss came against Columbus International, 25-23, 25-20, 20-15 on Sept. 3.
Both Centennial and International were 6-0 in the league before facing one each other Sept. 17.
"Those two teams are the top teams in the league, with us and Northland fighting for the third spot," said coach Errole Rembert, whose team played Brookhaven on Sept. 17. "But you never know what can happen. We competed in both of those matches, but in order for us to win, it would take perfection.
"We're just so small (in terms of physical stature), so we have to rely on finesse. We have to be smart with our hits and placements. We played well at times against Centennial, but they've got four girls over 5-foot-10 and we don't have one over 5-foot-8."
Whetstone, which travels to Centennial on Oct. 7 and plays host to International on Oct. 8, recently switched to a 6-2 formation, moving Ali Adelsberger from middle hitter to a second setter spot.
"(Adelsberger is) our leading hitter, but we thought we could switch things up some," Rembert said. "She's doing a real good job. I also think (middle/outside hitters) Katie Elekes and Val Vokac are playing very well."