Among the outcomes of the Gahanna Lincoln High School football program enduring its worst record since 1999 was that numerous underclassmen got their share of experience.
The Lions lettered eight sophomores, including a quarterback who started the final six games, during a 3-7 season that contributed to coach John Snoad losing his job.
"We played a ton of young kids," Snoad said. "At the end of the day, the table is set to build off that experience. They're excited about the future, I'm sure."
The Lions, who went 3-7 in 1999 but made the playoffs six of the next seven seasons, went 32-30 overall with one playoff appearance in six seasons under Snoad.
This year, Gahanna opened with back-to-back losses to eventual Division I, Region 2 playoff qualifiers Huber Heights Wayne (62-28 on Aug. 30) and Fairfield (35-24 on Sept. 6) and closed the non-league schedule with a 31-7 loss Sept. 13 at Upper Arlington.
The Lions followed by beating Groveport (20-13 on Sept. 20), Newark (48-10 on Sept. 27) and Reynoldsburg (31-14 on Oct. 4) to begin OCC-Ohio Division play but couldn't hold a late lead against Lancaster in a 22-19 loss Oct. 11.
In a 27-20 loss to Pickerington North in its home finale Oct. 25, Gahanna was driving for what would have been the tying touchdown but sophomore quarterback Mason Blancett threw incomplete on fourth-and-6 from the Panthers' 11-yard line.
Snoad's last game was a 48-28 loss to Pickerington Central on Nov. 1. The Lions have been in the process of finding a replacement.
Blancett completed 103 of 187 passes for 1,077 yards with 10 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Junior Ronald Robinson, who started the first four games at quarterback, completed 58 of 111 passes for 719 yards with five touchdowns and seven interceptions.
The leading rusher was junior Vasean Davis (560 yards, 7 touchdowns) and the top receivers were senior Boomer Lowe (37 catches, 529 yards, 4 touchdowns), Davis (27 catches) and senior Tank Davis (25 catches).
The Lions tied Reynoldsburg and Lancaster for fourth in the OCC-Ohio at 3-4, behind co-champions Pickerington Central and Pickerington North (6-1) and Grove City (5-2) and ahead of Newark and Groveport (1-6).
Seniors Adam Davis (OL/DL), Emile Camm (WR/DB) and Lowe (WR) were first-team all-league.
Vasean Davis (RB), sophomore Jonathan Cooper (DL) and senior Victor Spencer (LB) made second-team all-league and junior Carter Hall (OL) was special mention. Blancett made honorable mention.
Juniors Blake Baker (LB) and Brad Coburn (DL) are other key players eligible to return.
Baker and Spencer led in tackles with 80, and Baker had a team-best 10 tackles for loss.
Senior defensive back Kevin Randolph led in interceptions with four.
Girls volleyball team to lose seven seniors
Despite getting a new coach in the offseason, the girls volleyball team made it to a Division I district final for the second consecutive season.
A veteran cast led by senior setter Amy Bott, who was first-team all-league and all-district, helped the Lions go 16-10 overall.
"We had a blast with the kids and it was a good bunch of kids," first-year coach Alisa Franklin said. "They bought into the system and were successful. We were just a senior-dominated group this year and they all played key parts."
Gahanna finished fourth (8-6) in the OCC-Ohio behind Grove City (14-0), Lancaster (12-2) and Pickerington North (10-4) and ahead of Newark (6-8), Pickerington Central (3-11), Groveport (2-12) and Reynoldsburg (1-13).
After earning the 15th seed for the district tournament, the Lions beat Olentangy Orange 25-7, 25-17, 25-13 on Oct. 15, Thomas Worthington 22-25, 25-13, 25-19, 25-18 on Oct. 17 and Hilliard Bradley 25-19, 20-25, 20-25, 25-23, 15-13 on Oct. 24.
Then in a district final Oct. 26 at Whitehall, the Lions lost to seventh-seeded Lancaster 25-14, 20-25, 25-16, 25-11.
The Golden Gales also beat Gahanna twice during the regular season.
Other key seniors were middle hitter Aleese Butler, who made second-team all-league and honorable mention all-district, and senior outside hitter Morgan Wrona, who was honorable mention all-league.
Eligible to return are juniors Melissa Martin (setter), Alaina Monroe (outside hitter), Madison Mundy (middle hitter/right-side hitter), Brittany Reynolds (right-side hitter/outside hitter) and Ciara Williams (middle hitter) and sophomore Diana Shamroski (right-side hitter/outside hitter).
Several top runners eligible to return
Based on what each team expects to return, both the boys and girls cross country teams could improve on their strong finishes from this fall.
The girls team won its third consecutive OCC-Ohio title with 29 points Oct. 12 at Pickerington Central. It followed by winning the 14-team Division I, district 2 meet with 39 points Oct. 19 at Watkins Memorial and the 16-team regional with 90 points Oct. 26 at Pickerington North.
It marked the Lions' first regional title and first appearance at state as a team, and they responded by finishing seventh (235) in the 16-team event Nov. 2 at National Trail Raceway behind champion Mason (76).
All seven of the Lions' postseason runners, including junior Kelsey Sandlin, who won league and regional titles and was second at district, are eligible to return.
Also coming back should be freshman Ally Wharton, who led the way at state by placing 46th (19 minutes, 23.35 seconds), juniors Rylee Tanner and Allison Matney, sophomores Kelsey Thompson and Kearstin Turner and freshman Ivy McKee.
"Right after (the state meet) the girls were really visibly upset, and that's a good sign because they weren't satisfied," coach Ernie Ziegler said. "That bodes well for next year."
The boys team earned a runner-up finish in the league with 74 points, behind Lancaster (30), as sophomore Aaron Schaller was ninth (17:11.08) and junior Keiffer Whiteman was 10th (17:11.2).
The Lions then were fourth (122) in district 2 behind champion Dublin Jerome (23) as Whiteman placed 15th (16:54.97).
At regional, Gahanna was 10th (271) behind champion Jerome (66) as Schaller led with a 43rd-place finish (17:04.76).
Other key runners eligible to return include junior Matt Ridinger and freshman Andrew Ray. Seniors among the Lions' postseason competitors were Chris Blakely, John Fife and Connor Roll.
Junior J.P Salopek was another key contributor.
"We had a lot of question marks coming into (the season) and for the first time since 2004 we were as high as second in the league," coach Ryan Beck said. "We were 10th in the region, which also was our best since 2004. I thought it was a pretty good result and a good way to go out. We've got a good nucleus for next year."