Football team tops East to end skid
The Whetstone High School football team snapped a three-game losing streak and posted its first victory in the City League-North Division this season by defeating Columbus East 44-26 on Oct. 4.
The win proved costly, however, as the Braves lost quarterback Ramroth Finnegan to a knee injury. According to coach Don Poff, the 6-foot-2, 215-pound senior is expected to be sidelined for at least two weeks.
"He went down early in the game with what we think is an ACL strain," said Poff, whose team is 3-3 overall and 1-2 in the City-North. "The news we got from the doctor (Oct. 5) was that he'll miss at least a couple of weeks."
Finnegan, a Division I college prospect who made special mention all-district in Division II last season, was replaced by freshman Jack Staggs.
Running back Melek White led the Braves' offense against East, rushing for 192 yards and three touchdowns on 22 carries and catching three passes for 31 yards and a score.
"We had a number of guys step up, and that's what I'm so proud about," Poff said. "When your strongest leader and quarterback goes down and the team is impacted one way or another, which way do they respond?
"Our linemen said we've got to protect our freshman quarterback (Staggs) and we've got to open some running lanes. (Guard) Jeremy Polk and (tackle) Demetrius Wade did a great job, Melek White and Austin Davy ran hard, and it was just a great group effort."
Finnegan opened the scoring, connecting with White on a 15-yard touchdown pass. White scored on a 15-yard run and Staggs had a 3-yard scoring run to give the Braves a 22-6 lead at halftime. In the second half, White scored on runs of 3 and 15 yards and Davy added a 4-yard touchdown run.
"I knew Melek was going to have an excellent game by the way he practiced," Poff said. "He was in the right frame of mind. His attitude was great and he showed leadership skills. We're going to need that going forward."
The Braves forced four turnovers against East, including two interceptions by defensive back Darius Bester. Poff also lauded the play of middle linebacker Justus Barnett and defensive back Trent Harper.
Whetstone, which is averaging 29.3 points and allowing an average of 25, will be looking to climb above .500 when it plays host to Linden-McKinley on Friday, Oct. 11, in a City-North game.
Linden, which is 1-5 overall and 0-3 in the league, has lost five in a row, including a 33-0 loss to Brookhaven on Oct. 4. The Panthers have been outscored 142-24 in league play and are allowing an average of 37.2 points while scoring 13.3 per game.
Whetstone defeated Linden 34-0 last year.
"Linden-McKinley always has some good athletes," Poff said. "They've been struggling and we have an air of confidence, but that can change in a hurry if we don't prepare to play well again next week. We want to keep moving in the direction we're heading and, hopefully, we'll get an additional boost when Ramroth gets back."
Girls soccer team eyeing City title
The girls soccer team will face Centennial in the City championship game Thursday, Oct. 10, at Crew Stadium, marking their third matchup this season and their third meeting in the City title game.
The Braves defeated the host Stars 2-0 on Sept. 12 behind a goal by senior forward Marlee Christian and an own goal. The teams met again Oct. 7 at Whetstone in the Braves' regular-season finale.
Whetstone, which entered the week 11-0-2 overall and 8-0 in the City, is looking to defend its City championship. The Braves beat Centennial 3-2 in overtime in the City title game last season after losing to the Stars 1-0 in overtime in the inaugural contest in 2011.
"The two games will be totally different," coach Phil Labuhn said, referring to his team's contest against Centennial on Oct. 7 and the City title game. "We'll be going from playing on our field to playing at Crew Stadium. We're going from (a field that is) 60 yards wide to (one that is) 75 yards wide and from (a field that is) 110 yards long to (one that is) 115 yards long, so the championship game will be played in a lot more space."
Whetstone defeated Circleville 1-0 on Sept. 28 behind a goal by senior defender Hannah Shook. The Braves were tested in their next three games, defeating Columbus International 9-0 on Sept. 30, East 10-0 on Oct. 1 and Northland 9-0 on Oct. 3.
During that four-game stretch, freshman forward Bailey Waitkus had six goals and senior forward Haley Oliver scored four. Christian, Shook, senior defender Maddy O'Malley and junior midfielder Rita Knasel each had three goals and senior midfielder Liz Jackson and freshman forward Callie Umbarger both scored two.
"We've been getting better and better every match since Grandview (a scoreless tie Sept. 14)," Labuhn said.
"We only allowed two shots against them and our confidence ballooned. We followed that with another (scoreless) tie against Coshocton (Sept. 18), but the win over Circleville gave us more confidence that we can compete against non-City teams.
"Our defense can keep us in those games. Our backs are always in proper defensive shape and they cover well."
Labuhn said the return of senior midfielder Emma Van Dommelen from an injury has solidified the defense.
Tennis team ends season at sectional
The girls tennis team ended its season in the Division I sectional held Oct. 3 and 5 at Upper Arlington.
The Braves went 2-3 in first-round matches, with two of those losses coming in three sets.
Competing in singles were senior Taylor Connolly, junior Saoirse Jones and freshman Maggie Prosser. Connolly and Prosser lost in the first round and Jones won a play-in match before losing in the first round.
Connolly replaced senior Alex Myers, who according to coach Bucky Walters was unable to play because of a "school issue."
In doubles, sophomores Sophia Lombard and Brenna O'Sullivan went 1-1 and sophomores Sophia Rizzi and Lily Morris went 0-1.
"I think we had a good draw and I thought every one of the girls had a chance to win a match," Walters said. "As it turned out, we won two, lost two close ones and I gave a senior who played j.v. most of the season a chance to replace our top player, Alex Myers. (Connolly) deserved the opportunity.
"Maggie had a chance (to win her opening match) but made some freshman mistakes and it was her first postseason."
Whetstone finished 12-1 overall and won the City title by totaling 95.5 points in the coaches tournament Sept. 25 and finishing ahead of Centennial (63), Eastmoor Academy (34.5), Independence (22), Columbus West (18), Beechcroft (16.5), Mifflin (15.5), Linden (12.5), Africentric (8.5), Marion-Franklin (5) and Northland (4.5).
In singles in the City tournament, Myers finished second and was first-team all-league, Prosser was a semifinalist and was first-team all-league and Jones was honorable mention. In doubles, Rizzi and Morris won the championship, beating Eastmoor's Symone Taylor and Destiny Wooten 6-3, 6-2 in the final, and were first-team all-league and Lombard and O'Sullivan were honorable mention.
"We're only losing one senior starter (in Myers)," Walters said. "Our other starters were four sophomores, one freshman and one junior. The girls gained a bunch of experience and confidence and will come back older, wiser and stronger."
Boys golfers place 12th at sectional
The boys golf team finished last (389) in the 12-team Division I sectional tournament Oct. 1 at Turnberry.
Pickerington North (299), Hilliard Davidson (309) and Thomas Worthington (311) advanced to district Oct. 8 at Apple Valley.
Junior Carson Matthews led Whetstone with an 83, followed by sophomore Spencer Jordan (90) and juniors Dylan Matthews (91), Quentin Pruneau (103) and David Stern (112).
Securing the three district berths for individuals not on qualifying teams were Granville's Nick Contini (72), Pickerington Central's Rodney Howell (74) and Westerville North's Ryan Pannell (74).
The Braves competed in the City tournament Oct. 9 at Airport.