The Gahanna Lincoln High School boys soccer team used the memory of a painful loss to help it become one of the Central District's four champions.
A year ago, the Lions couldn't hang on to a 2-0 lead over Worthington Kilbourne and lost 3-2 in a Division I district final.
They weren't about to let that happen again Oct. 27 at Westerville South, as they led Hilliard Darby 1-0 at halftime and added a goal to win 2-0 for their third district title in four seasons.
Gahanna played Dublin Coffman in a regional semifinal Oct. 31 at Westerville Central, with the winner to face Olentangy Liberty or Westerville North in a regional final at noon Saturday, Nov. 3, at a site to be determined.
"We said in the locker room before the game that if we go up 1-0, we want to keep pushing and we can't let up," senior Andrew Schwall said. "We went up quick (against Kilbourne) last year and ended up losing. It does feel great, especially since (Darby) came after us."
The Lions were 15-1-3 before playing Coffman in a rematch of a scoreless tie Sept. 29.
Heading into the regional Liberty was 18-1, with its only loss coming to Thomas Worthington 2-1 on Oct. 9. Westerville North was 12-5-2.
Liberty beat North 1-0 on Oct. 11 and Gahanna 4-0 on Aug. 25.
The regional champion will play Huber Heights Wayne, West Chester Lakota West, Mason or Cincinnati St. Xavier in a state semifinal at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 7, at a site to be announced. The state final is 7 p.m. Nov. 10 in Crew Stadium.
The Lions, who opened the district tournament with wins over Columbus West (10-0 on Oct. 20) and Canal Winchester (5-0 on Oct. 24), made it 1-0 against Darby on a goal by Caleb Gruenbaum with 34 minutes, 9 seconds left in the first half.
A penalty kick by Schwall went off the post with 14:55 remaining, but he took a pass from Chad Barrick and sliced it into the goal with 4:50 left for the game's final score.
"We did a great job against them defending set pieces," coach Todd Keenan said. "Nine of the 11 goals we've given up this year (through 19 games) have been on set pieces, and I have to give credit to my assistant, Tim Poitinger, for that.
"Schwall showed his heart. He's going to give his heart for the team no matter what. They had us on the ropes at times, but we didn't break. That's probably the best team Darby has ever had."
Girls volleyball team falls in district final
The girls volleyball team came up short in its pursuit of a fourth Division I district championship when it fell 25-18, 25-23, 25-20 to Westerville Central in a district final Oct. 27 at Big Walnut.
The Lions, who beat Westerville Central 25-18, 25-17 on Aug. 25, were the sixth seed for the district tournament and finished 17-7.
"Central played a phenomenal (match)," coach Scot Holmes said. "We just had some weak points and just started falling apart in our blocking."
Gahanna beat Chillicothe 25-21, 25-12, 25-14 on Oct. 25 at Big Walnut to advance to the district final. It was the furthest the program has gotten since it was a district runner-up in 2009.
The loss marked the final match for Holmes, who is stepping down after six seasons.
Football team comes up short
The football team forced five turnovers, including two that it turned into 10 points, but it was the Lions' inability to pass or run with much success during the second half that contributed heavily to a 28-23 loss to visiting Pickerington Central on Oct. 26.
During the first quarter, Gahanna got fumble recoveries by Connor Prusz and A.J. Butler and led 17-0.
A fumble recovery by Granyl Smith on the second play of the second quarter gave the Lions the ball at the Central 24, but the Tigers forced a field-goal attempt and Collin Blaney missed from 36 yards.
Central made it 17-7 by halftime and scored a pair of third-quarter touchdowns to take a 21-17 lead. Geoffrey Helms II ran in from 1 yard for Gahanna with 1:46 left in the third quarter for a 23-21 lead, and Malon Smith intercepted a pass on the final play of the third. Central scored the winner with 6 minutes left on a 30-yard pass from Colby Simkins to Taco Charlton.
Gahanna punted on the possession before the Tigers' final score and failed to move inside Central territory on either of its final two possessions.
The Lions were held to minus-6 yards rushing and Alec Tuohy completed 17 of 38 passes for 204 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Gahanna totaled just 90 second-half yards.
"I'll never forget how hard these kids played," coach John Snoad.
The loss gave Gahanna a 7-3 finish and kept it out of the playoffs for the fourth time in five seasons. The Lions would have made the postseason with a win but finished 11th in Division I, Region 3, three spots from the playoffs.
Central improved to 7-2 and clinched the fifth spot in Region 3.
Seasons end for cross country teams
Neither the boys nor girls cross country teams advanced to the state meet Saturday, Nov. 3, at National Trail Raceway.
On Oct. 27 in the regional at Pickerington North, the girls team placed seventh (201) of 16 squads as Hilliard Davidson (50) was first and Upper Arlington (113), Coffman (115) and Dublin Scioto (129) also advanced.
Sophomores Rylee Tanner (25th, 19:59.13) and Kelsey Sandlin (26th, 19:59.33) were the Lions' top finishers, as the top 16 individuals also advanced.
Others competing were freshmen Kelsey Thompson (35th, 20:14.2) and Kearstin Turner (56th, 20:44.02), sophomore Heather Kincaid (80th, 21:16.59), freshman Allison Holahan (92nd, 21:30.42) and senior Katie Baker (101st, 21:46.1).
"We ran a good race," coach Ernie Ziegler said. "We knew we had a shot. Our fifth runner was just about 20 places back from where we were hoping, but we weren't going to get fourth anyway."
The boys regional was the last meet for coach Larry Schwade, who is retiring after leading the program for 25 years.
Gahanna placed 12th (294) of 16 teams behind champion Westerville North (79) as well as state-qualifiers Davidson (88), Liberty (108) and New Albany (114).
Senior Trent Champlin was 43rd (17:07.02) to lead the Lions, followed by freshman Aaron Schaller (49th, 17:12.22), sophomores Matt Ridinger (50th, 17:12.44), Kieffer Whiteman (89th, 17:43.48) and Ryan Leppert (98th, 17:50.9) and juniors Chris Blakely (110th, 18:12.66) and John Fife (122nd, 18:44.33).
"I thought we ran real well for what we have, which is a very young team," Schwade said.