For the first time in its nine-year history, the Dublin Jerome High School football team has finished with a losing record in consecutive seasons.
The Celtics headed into the final two weeks at 4-4, but lost at home to Westerville South 21-20 in overtime Oct. 19 and lost to host Westerville Central 24-21 in triple overtime Oct. 26 to finish 4-6 overall and 3-4 in the OCC-Cardinal Division.
Jerome also finished 4-6 last year, with its other losing seasons coming in 2004 (2-8) and 2006 (2-8). The Celtics had winning records in 2005 (6-4), 2007 (7-3), 2008 (6-5) and 2010 (6-4) and finished 5-5 in 2009.
"We knew all season that from one week to the next (in the OCC-Cardinal) was going to be a battle," coach Mark Hundley said. "All the coaches, as we talked, kept saying the same thing."
Jerome placed fifth in the league, behind Hilliard Darby (7-0), Dublin Scioto (6-1), South (5-2) and Central (4-3) and ahead of Worthington Kilbourne (2-5), Hilliard Bradley (1-6) and Westerville North (0-7).
The Celtics were led by senior running back Donovan Wilson, a Georgia Tech recruit who rushed for a program-record 2,068 yards on 383 carries and scored 25 touchdowns. He ran for a program-record 425 yards against South.
A four-year starter, he finished his career with 4,796 yards rushing and 58 touchdowns, both program records.
One of 24 seniors for the Celtics, Wilson shared OCC-Cardinal Player of the Year honors with Darby's Caleb Day and Scioto's Tim Shadoan and was named first-team all-district in Division I.
"This is not an individual award," Wilson said of the league Player of the Year honor. "This award is for the offensive line, Nate Fairand, Carson Richards, Ian Beith, Tyler Iffland, Sterling Streator, Conner Kerns and my fullback, Sam Park, and also my coaches Rich Weidner and Mark Hundley."
Fairand, a junior, was named second-team all-league and special mention all-district. Junior linebacker Louis Torchio also was second-team all-league, senior offensive lineman Eric Brooks was special mention all-league and junior linebacker James Hanson was honorable mention all-league.
In his first season as a starter, junior quarterback Jake King completed 72 of 146 passes for 793 yards with three touchdowns and six interceptions.
"Jake grew so much from his sophomore to his junior season," Hundley said. "I'm pretty excited to see how his growth continues in this offseason and through to next season."
King's primary targets this season were senior wide receivers Mitch Keller and Stephen Romanelli. Keller had 21 receptions for 274 yards and two touchdowns and Romanelli had 23 catches for 185 yards and a touchdown.
"The seniors were so much fun to work with," Hundley said. "Their leadership was spectacular. They were hard workers. You can't ask for a whole lot more out of a senior group than what we got out of these guys."
Other key players expected to return include juniors Beith (TE/WR) and Kerns (WR/TE) and sophomores Steve Kidwell (RB/LB) and Garrett Smith (WR).
Jerome opened with a 48-6 loss to Dublin Coffman on Aug. 24 in the first meeting between the programs.
After losing to Beechcroft 18-10 on Aug. 31, the Celtics bounced back to beat Delaware 49-14 on Sept. 7 and opened league play with a 28-26 win over Hilliard Bradley on Sept. 14.
However, Jerome lost four of its final six games, with its other wins coming against Westerville North (62-14 on Sept. 28) and Kilbourne (20-17 on Oct. 12). North has lost 45 consecutive games.
Jerome, which averaged 24.6 points and allowed an average of 24.4, lost to Darby 20-7 on Sept. 22 and Scioto 42-23 on Oct. 5.
"It was a fun season," Wilson said. "We always played hard and it's been an honor to play football at Jerome."