Each season, the Dublin Scioto High School football program designs a poster to help recognize its seniors.
The poster includes a theme selected by the seniors. This season, the theme is "The wait is over."
After failing to qualify for the postseason the past six seasons and finishing 2-8 a year ago, representing the worst record in program history, the Irish believe they have the potential to reach the Division I playoffs.
"We came up with that ourselves," senior wide receiver and defensive back Tim Shadoan said of the team's theme. "We thought this was our big year to get back to the playoffs, so 'The wait is over' is what we came up with at the beginning of the year."
Scioto improved to 5-1 overall and 3-0 in the OCC-Cardinal Division with a 42-35 win over previously unbeaten Westerville South on Sept. 28 at home, marking its best start since 2004 when it won six of its first seven games. That season, the Irish went 9-3, losing to Worthington Kilbourne 17-13 in a Division I, Region 3 semifinal.
Scioto's last playoff appearance came in 2005 when it was in Division II. Now in their 18th season, the Irish have qualified for the postseason six times, winning the Division II state title in their inaugural season in 1995.
Next up for Scioto in its pursuit of a playoff berth is Dublin Jerome, which the Irish visit on Friday, Oct. 5.
Jerome is 3-3 overall and 2-1 in the OCC-Cardinal. The Celtics opened with back-to-back losses but have won three of their last four, including a 62-14 road win over Westerville North on Sept. 28.
The all-time series between Scioto and Jerome is tied at two, but the Celtics have won the last two meetings, including 24-12 last season.
"They won the first two, we've won the last two, so the series is even right now," Jerome coach Mark Hundley said.
"With the season that (Scioto coach Karl Johnson) had last year, he's gunning for this season to be better and beating us would be one of those things that would allow that to happen. They're off to just a terrific start."
"Scioto is a good football team this year," Celtics senior offensive lineman Tyler Iffland said. "There's no doubt about that, we know that. But if we work hard, I know we're a good team, too, and I know we can definitely (win)."
Scioto, which is riding a four-game winning streak, is tied with Hilliard Darby for first in the OCC-Cardinal, one game ahead of Jerome, Westerville Central and Westerville South. The Irish, whose only setback was a 34-14 loss to Dublin Coffman on Aug. 31, travel to Darby on Oct. 12.
Last year marked only the fourth losing season in program history for Scioto. Its other losing seasons came in 1998 (3-7), 1999 (3-7) and 2006 (4-6).
"We knew that we'd have a good team this season, but we knew we had a really tough schedule," Johnson said. "We didn't know how everything was going to come together, but we knew we had the pieces to have a good team. The kids have done a good job. They're working hard and things are going well."
Against Westerville South, senior quarterback Evan DeMars passed for 274 yards and two touchdowns and senior running back Will Houston rushed for 123 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries.
Scioto, which runs a no-huddle, quick-tempo offense, is averaging 39 points a game and has amassed 2,426 total yards. DeMars has completed 138 of 196 passes for 1,675 yards with 14 touchdowns and four interceptions, with his primary target being Shadoan, who has 45 receptions for 592 yards and seven touchdowns.
Against Westerville South, Shadoan had nine catches for 146 yards and two touchdowns and carried the ball seven times for 35 yards and three scores. He also recovered an onside kick late in the contest to help preserve the win.
Houston, who is 6-foot-1, 250 pounds, has rushed for 613 yards and eight touchdowns on 129 carries.
"They have that big Houston kid who is in the backfield," Hundley said. "He's bigger this year, he's stronger this year. The quarterback (DeMars) is just so much more poised this year. He is really running the offense and they have two little slot-, wing-back guys (Shadoan and Mason Matheny) that just can get outside of you in a moment if you're not there. They're doing a nice job over there this year."
Senior running back Donovan Wilson led the Celtics against Westerville North, which has lost 41 consecutive games. A Georgia Tech recruit, Wilson rushed for 262 yards and a program-record seven touchdowns on 30 carries. For the season, he has run for 1,068 yards and 15 touchdowns on 186 carries.
"I know they're going to run Donovan a few times," Johnson said.
"He's a heck of a player. They're 3-3 and they did some good things against Coffman (in a 48-6 loss on Aug. 24). Jerome is an opportunistic team, so for us it's going to be a matter of doing what we do offensively: taking care of the ball, moving the chains, keeping the defense off the field. Our defense is going to have to be about fundamentals: tackling, getting to the ball and executing."
Directing Jerome's spread offense is junior quarterback Jake King, who has completed 51 of 95 passes for 526 yards with two touchdowns and four interceptions. Among his top targets is senior running back Mitch Keller, who has 15 receptions for 198 yards and a touchdown.