Much has changed for the Gahanna Lincoln High School football team since Sept. 13 when it lost 31-7 at Upper Arlington to fall to 0-3.
The Lions have been a tougher team to score on since giving up an average of 42.7 points during their non-league schedule, and personnel changes on offense also have contributed to them winning their first three OCC-Ohio Division games.
Just as important to coach John Snoad is his team's resolve.
The Lions avenged a 21-7 loss to Reynoldsburg last season by beating the Raiders 31-14 on Oct. 4, improving them to 3-3 overall and 3-0 in the OCC-Ohio.
The next two teams on Gahanna's schedule -- Lancaster on Friday, Oct. 11, and Grove City on Oct. 18 -- also have 3-3 records.
Despite their rough start, the Lions could find themselves in the thick of the league title race and with a shot at a Division I, Region 2 playoff berth if their recent success continues.
"They were as down as they could be when we huddled after the Upper Arlington game," Snoad said. "I told them that night that the only thing that counts is our football family. They kind of bought into it and have been very focused. And winning makes you feel good."
So does moving the ball, which the Lions have done the last two weeks.
Junior quarterback Ronald Robinson was battling an injury as his team prepared for its game Sept. 27 against Newark, according to Snoad.
Sophomore Mason Blancett was inserted in Robinson's place and completed 16 of 20 passes for 169 yards and three touchdowns as the Lions won 48-10.
Blancett followed that performance by completing 17 of 28 passes for 213 yards and two touchdowns and rushing for 74 yards and one score on 16 carries against Reynoldsburg.
Another boost has come from senior Boomer Lowe, who had eight catches for 143 yards against the Raiders. Lowe began the season as a tight end and backup quarterback but has since earned playing time at wide receiver.
Although the Lions gave up 336 yards to Reynoldsburg, including 198 on the ground, seniors Emile Camm (DB), Tyshon Holden (DB) and Kevin Randolph (DB) and junior Blake Baker (LB) all had one interception.
Snoad expects to see another power running team when it faces Lancaster, which is led by senior offensive lineman and Ohio State recruit Kyle Trout.
The Golden Gales rallied from a 14-7 deficit to beat Groveport 20-14 on Oct. 4 as they ran for 275 yards.
"Our defense has really stepped up a lot," Snoad said. "We've had better fundamentals and we've also been putting kids in the right places. We've made a lot of personnel changes.
"Two years ago (Lancaster) kind of gravitated away from their traditional mid-line veer and wing-T (running offense), but from what I've seen they've gone very much back to their roots."
Golfers Byas, Hughes advance to district
For the second season in a row, the boys and girls golf teams each had one individual qualifier for the Division I district tournament.
On Oct. 8, senior Aaron Byas competed in the boys district tournament at Apple Valley, where the top three individuals not on qualifying teams advanced to the state tournament Oct. 18 and 19 at Ohio State's Scarlet Course.
Also on Oct. 8, junior Emily Hughes played in the girls district tournament at The Links at Groveport. The top two individuals not on qualifying teams advanced to the state tournament Oct. 18 and 19 at Ohio State's Gray Course.
Byas shot a 75 in the sectional Oct. 1 at Granville Golf Course to earn one of three individual district berths. Gahanna settled for fourth (313) of 13 teams as the top three -- Dublin Jerome (300), St. Charles (301) and Upper Arlington (304) -- advanced.
Sophomore Alex Vegh, who qualified for district a year ago, shot a 76 but lost in a playoff to Lancaster's Maxim Boone for the final district-qualifying spot.
Also competing for the boys at sectional were sophomore Kyle Pottorf (80), junior Ryan Beachy (82) and senior Lucas Pottorf (89).
The girls team placed sixth (373) in the 11-team sectional Oct. 1 at Westchester as Hughes shot a 77 to finish second overall and earn one of three district-qualifying berths. Pickerington North (338) won the team title.
Also competing for the Lions were sophomores Alyson Johnson (96), Catie Rogers (99), Kelly Roberson (101) and Svitlana Yakim (102).
A year ago, Hughes shot a 79 at district to miss advancing to state by five strokes.
"(Hughes) was really happy with how she was striking the ball (at sectional)," coach Patty McQuirt said. "I was really pleased with how well she played. She recovered nicely after a double-bogey and hit the most unbelievable iron shot."
Doubles team moves on to tennis district
The doubles team of seniors Emily Merickel and Rachel Zink made it to the Division I district girls tennis tournament for the second time in three seasons.
Merickel and Zink will compete Friday, Oct. 11, and Saturday, Oct. 12, at Hilliard Davidson. The top four finishers in singles and doubles advance to the state tournament Oct. 18 at Ohio State and Oct. 19 at Davidson.
Merickel and Zink beat Dublin Coffman's Jessica Flynn and Annie Yang 6-4, 6-3 in their sectional quarterfinal Oct. 3 at Pickerington Central to advance.
The duo teamed to reach district two years ago, but Zink wasn't able to compete last season because of injury.
Merickel and Zink were trailing 3-0 in the second set to Flynn and Yang.
"Both of them were very nervous after obviously making it (to district) as sophomores and wanting to get back there," coach Chris Schwinnen said. "Rachel and Emily are best friends and I know Emily really wanted it since Rachel wasn't able to play last year."
Merickel and Zink lost to Pickerington Central's Isis Thomas and Kyah Thomas 6-0, 6-0 in their semifinal Oct. 5 but defeated the Tigers' Maddie Bechert and Madi Schott 6-1, 6-1 in the third-place match.
Also competing at sectional but failing to advance to district were freshman Kristen Zink (lost in quarterfinal), senior Claire Slater (lost in first round) and freshman Kathleen McGuff (lost in second round).
In doubles, the team of senior Riley Crowe and junior Elizabeth Sullivan lost in a quarterfinal.