The final time Miles McCollum and his teammates on the Dublin Coffman High School football team walked off the field last season, they were beaten and battered.
The Shamrocks were throttled by Pickerington Central 55-14 in the first round of the Division I, Region 3 playoffs last fall, but the loss provided McCollum and his teammates a blueprint for what needs to be done to be successful in the postseason.
Now, after an offseason of hard work, the Shamrocks are 6-0 overall and 3-0 in the OCC-Central Division heading into a game Friday, Oct. 5, at Central Crossing. They were ranked fourth in the Division I state poll last week.
"Last year, we thought we were pretty good and I don't think we realized what it would take to go far (in the playoffs) until we got our butts beaten by Pickerington Central," said McCollum, a 6-foot-2, 245-pound senior defensive lineman. "(The Tigers) were at a whole other level and that showed us where we needed to be and how hard we needed to work in the offseason."
McCollum said that hard work has paid off so far, particularly on defense. The Shamrocks are averaging 43.3 points per game and are allowing an average of 10.2 per contest.
"We don't have a big name on defense; we're more of a unit," McCollum said. "I feel like when Coffman is good, we have a good defense. It was that way in 2007 and 2009, and we have been good this year. We have a good offense with a good quarterback, good running backs and good receivers, but the defense is what set them apart."
In 2009, the Shamrocks finished 12-1, losing to eventual state champion Hilliard Davidson 22-7 in the Region 3 final. They had four shutouts and allowed only 7.8 points per game while scoring 31.3 per contest.
In 2007, Coffman finished 13-1, losing to eventual state champion Cincinnati St. Xavier 10-7 in a state semifinal. The Shamrocks had three shutouts and allowed 13.2 points per game while scoring 36.2 per contest.
McCollum has seen time as both an end and a tackle on the Shamrocks' defense.
"They are similar positions, but there is actually more freedom at defensive tackle," McCollum said. "At defensive end, you have more space you have to cover, but you are contained. At tackle, you worry more about beating your man and you have to be creative to do that."
Through five games, McCollum had 15 tackles, including eight solo. He had six tackles for loss, one sack and four quarterback hurries. He also had two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.
"Miles is everything you would want in a player," coach Mark Crabtree said. "He's tough, physical and he's smart. He's dependable, reliable and every adjective that you can think of.
"Miles gets off the ball well. He's explosive and able to play with his hands. He gets good leverage (on the line) and doesn't stand straight up."
McCollum, who has a 4.0 cumulative grade-point average, has been receiving interest from some Ivy League schools and several Mid-American Conference schools. He has yet to decide on a prospective major, but his interests include engineering, architecture and art.
"I've been talking to Harvard and Yale as well as some MAC schools like Bowling Green, Buffalo and Toledo," he said. "I wanted to stay close to home. But whether I'm two hours or 12 hours away, I probably won't be able to come back often, so I guess that doesn't matter."
Crabtree said McCollum will be a great fit with whichever college program he chooses.
"Miles is a combination of both book smarts and he's also smart on the football field," Crabtree said. "He has a high football IQ. When he doesn't know something, he looks to his coaches, and he pays attention to detail."
McCollum did not play on the defensive line until his sophomore year. That season, he started a few games. He has been a mainstay on defense the last two seasons.
"It definitely looks a lot different (on the line)," he said. "As a freshman, I was a fullback and linebacker. I never realized how much you need to know and the types of blocks you have to beat. I need to work on getting better with the fundamentals of the game and different pass rush techniques."
Crabtree said McCollum has embraced the role as a leader on defense.
"Miles is a good leader, though he's not super vocal," he said. "He definitely leads by example, but he knows when it's time to step up and say something."
McCollum said among his responsibilities as a senior is making sure his teammates are ready to perform on Friday night.
"We know what needs to be done," he said. "As seniors, it's up to us as to how far we can go.
"We have the talent and everyone's attitude is great. Everyone knows their role and what they need to do. There aren't any big egos on this team."