After beginning the season 2-1, the Dublin Jerome High School football team had hopes of contending for an OCC-Cardinal Division title and a Division II, Region 5 postseason berth.

After beginning the season 2-1, the Dublin Jerome High School football team had hopes of contending for an OCC-Cardinal Division title and a Division II, Region 5 postseason berth.

The Celtics, however, were hit hard by injuries and went 2-5 the rest of the way to finish 4-6 overall and 2-5 in the league.

Coach Mark Hundley said the team played without eight starters in its season finale, a 40-3 loss to Westerville Central on Nov. 1.

"I would have to say that injuries were a big part of this," Hundley said.

"We had eight starters not playing in the last game, so it's kind of hard to win when you don't have the best guys out there."

A key loss to injury was leading rusher Steve Kidwell, who missed time with a high sprain to his right ankle. He was injured in week four, a 20-0 loss at Hilliard Bradley on Sept. 20, and returned in week eight to help the Celtics defeat Canal Winchester 30-13 on Oct. 18.

Kidwell, however, missed the week nine game against Westerville South, a 21-0 loss Oct. 25, before returning for the game against Central. The junior finished with 659 yards and six touchdowns on 112 carries.

Another key loss was sophomore running back Zack Hazlett, who injured an ankle in a 42-20 loss to Dublin Scioto in week seven and missed the remainder of the season. He rushed for 300 yards and three touchdowns on 60 carries.

Hundley was optimistic about the play of junior quarterback Alex Cline, who completed 79 of 169 passes for 825 yards with seven touchdowns and nine interceptions.

"Alex is a kid who has a real strong arm (and) he has a good head on his shoulders, so it's going to be fun to see (what he can do next season)," Hundley said.

Defensive lineman Nate Fairand, who was one of 27 seniors, was named first-team all-league. Senior linebackers James Hanson and Louis Torchio were second-team all-league.

Senior defensive lineman Matt McCarty was special mention all-league and senior defensive back Juan Jennings was honorable mention all-league.

"Obviously, I wish we had a better record, but I was super happy with the way everyone worked this year and all the effort the guys put in," Torchio said. "I love my teammates. I had a fun year."

Senior Connor Kerns began the season as a tight end, but moved to running back because of the injuries and rushed for 317 yards and two touchdowns on 53 carries.

Junior Nate Szekely led the team in receiving with 18 catches for 238 yards and three touchdowns.

Other key players expected to return are junior offensive linemen Emilio Paesano and Court Zeppernick, who missed time because of knee and back injuries, respectively.

"I had more fun working with this group this year than I've had in the 10 years before, and we've had some good football teams before," Hundley said. "The improvement that I saw in this team from last year to this year, but even more so than that, the improvement from the beginning of the season to the end of the season with some of the players individually and the defense even collectively was just so fun to watch."

Jerome finished sixth in the OCC-Cardinal behind Central (7-0), Hilliard Darby (6-1), Bradley (5-2), Scioto (4-3) and South (3-4) and ahead of Westerville North (1-6) and Canal Winchester (0-7).

The Celtics averaged 16.2 points and allowed 19.6 per game. They rushed for 1,825 yards on 406 carries.

After a 16-14 loss to visiting Dublin Coffman in the opener Aug. 30, the Celtics defeated Beechcroft 26-14 on Sept. 6 and Delaware 41-0 on Sept. 13 for their only winning streak of the season.

In addition to its victory over Canal Winchester, Jerome also defeated North 21-0 on Oct. 4.