Four games into the season, the Dublin Coffman High School football team didn't appear to be heading toward a winning season, let alone a postseason berth.
However, the Shamrocks recovered from their 1-3 start, winning seven consecutive games before losing to fifth-seeded Huber Heights Wayne 31-10 in the second round of the Division I, Region 2 playoffs Nov. 16 at Kettering Fairmont to finish 8-4 overall.
Seeded 13th, Coffman defeated fourth-seeded and host Centerville 42-14 in the first round Nov. 9.
"It's been a tough year and it's been a great year," coach Mark Crabtree said. "I've been coaching long enough to experience everything in the book, and this is what coaching is all about."
Coffman opened with a 16-14 win over Jerome on Aug. 30 before losing consecutively to three eventual playoff qualifiers in Scioto (30-17 on Sept. 6), Canton McKinley (26-17 on Sept. 13) and Hilliard Davidson (28-7 on Sept. 20).
Davidson and McKinley were ranked fourth and eighth, respectively, in the final Division I state poll, and the Wildcats will play Wayne in a regional semifinal Saturday, Nov. 23, at Upper Arlington.
Coffman went 6-1 in the OCC-Central Division to place second, behind Davidson (7-0) and ahead of Marysville (4-3), Olentangy Liberty (4-3), UA (4-3), Thomas Worthington (2-5), Central Crossing (1-6) and Westland (0-7).
"No one outside the locker room thought that we could do this," senior tight end and linebacker Dalton Maynard said, referring to reaching the second round of the playoffs. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and we wanted to make the most of it."
The Shamrocks' offense was led by running back Dre Kendrick. The 5-foot-7, 170-pound junior rushed for 1,569 yards and 17 touchdowns on 277 carries, breaking the program record for carries in a season, and was named first-team all-district and all-league.
Kendrick topped 200 yards rushing four times, including 240 yards and five touchdowns on 29 carries against Centerville.
Senior running back Aaron Pape finished with 380 yards rushing and five touchdowns on 74 carries.
Junior quarterback Ben Beckett earned the starting job during the preseason and completed 80 of 141 passes for 1,061 yards with eight touchdowns and four interceptions. He missed portions of three games with concussion-related symptoms.
His backup, sophomore Gunnar Hoak, was 36-for-81 passing for 449 yards with four touchdowns and four interceptions.
The Shamrocks' corps of wide receivers included juniors Kyle Marcinick (30 receptions, 596 yards, 5 touchdowns), Chase Granlund (21 catches, 232 yards, 2 TDs) and C.J. Saunders (15 catches, 182 yards, 1 TD).
Maynard had eight receptions for 107 yards and one touchdown and had two interceptions on defense, including one against Centerville.
Marcinick was honorable mention all-district and second-team all-league and Saunders was second-team all-league. Maynard was first-team all-league and second-team all-district on defense.
Other key players on offense were senior lineman Andrew Friend (special mention all-league) and junior linemen Evan Crabtree (honorable mention all-district), Corey Williams (honorable mention all-district) and Sam McCollum (honorable mention all-league).
The only returning starter from last season on offense was senior lineman Jared Nunn.
Key players on defense included senior linemen Kwabena Amponsah and Jordan O'Dell (both honorable mention all-district and first-team all-league), senior back Clay Raterman (4 interceptions; special mention all-district and first-team all-league), senior linebacker Erik Stein (special mention all-district and second-team all-league), junior back Reagan Malas (special mention all-district and second-team all-league) and senior back Tyler Jester (2 INTs, special mention all-league).
Senior John McGue made 12 of 14 field-goal attempts and 38 of 39 point-after attempts and averaged 35.5 yards per punt. He made second-team all-district and first-team all-league as a place-kicker.
"These (24) seniors had it tough with a 1-3 start, but they stayed together and won seven straight games," coach Crabtree said. "They never stopped believing in themselves."
Others expected to return include junior offensive linemen Drew DeNoble, Josh Greenwalt and Matt Hite and junior wide receiver Shaun Rankin.
"I never like to talk about next year, but we recognize we have some good talent coming back," coach Crabtree said.
"We're proud of the way (the underclassmen) played this year, and they have a lot of potential."