Bradley learned from challenging schedule
Tommy Horn learned a lot during his first season as the starting quarterback for the Hilliard Bradley High School football team.
The junior not only found out what it was like to stand behind center on Friday nights, but the importance of teamwork.
The Jaguars finished 4-6 overall and went 1-6 in the OCC-Cardinal Division to finish seventh, behind Darby (7-0), Dublin Scioto (6-1), Westerville South (5-2), Westerville Central (4-3), Dublin Jerome (3-4) and Worthington Kilbourne (2-5) and ahead of Westerville North (0-7).
"You go through a lot of ups and downs as a team during the season, and you have to fight through that as a team," Horn said. "Football is a team sport and everything has to do with how you handle things as a team."
The Jaguars won their first three games, defeating Marysville (17-10 on Aug. 24), Teays Valley (31-6 on Aug. 31) and Westland (42-0 on Sept. 7), but they lost their next four, falling to Jerome (28-26 on Sept. 14), South (28-16 on Sept. 22), Central (33-10 on Sept. 28) and Kilbourne (34-14 on Oct. 5). All four of the losses came in league play.
Bradley ended the skid with a 44-14 win over North on Oct. 12 but closed the season with consecutive losses to Scioto (28-27 on Oct. 19) and Darby (42-0 on Oct. 26). North has lost 45 consecutive games.
The Jaguars nearly upset Scioto, which made the Division I, Region 3 playoffs and finished 8-3. Bradley scored a touchdown on the final play of the game to pull within one point. But instead of attempting the extra point that would have sent the game to overtime, coach Mike LoParo opted to go for the two-point conversion and the win. However, the pass attempt fell incomplete in the end zone, giving the Irish the win.
As part of OCC realignment, Bradley moved from the OCC-Capital to the OCC-Cardinal before the start of the season. In addition to Scioto, Darby and South made the Region 3 playoffs, and Central was ninth in the region, missing the postseason by one spot.
"It's unfortunate to be thrown into that kind of conference as a young school," said LoParo, who completed his second season leading the fourth-year program. "But the thing about that is, if you want to be a good program, you have to play those kind of schools.
"(Having a challenging league schedule) taught us a lot. If there is a silver lining, it's that this is a junior-laden team and those players are ready to take over the leadership roles. It will be hard to replace some of these seniors, who gave our younger kids a lot of push this year."
Bradley loses 14 seniors, including linebacker C.J. Wall, who had 103 tackles, seven tackles for loss, five sacks, six forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries and was named first-team all-district and all-league.
Senior Matthew Bryant (RB/DB) rushed for 321 yards and five touchdowns on 32 carries and had 43 tackles on defense and was special mention all-district and second-team all-league. Senior Bradley Spelman (TE/LB) had three receptions for 67 yards and a touchdown and was honorable mention all-league.
Senior wingback Reilly Butz had five catches for 132 yards and rushed for 135 yards and a touchdown. He also played defensive back.
Horn completed 65 of 115 passes for 894 yards with seven touchdowns and four interceptions and led the team in rushing with 677 yards and five touchdowns on 136 carries. He was honorable mention all-district and second-team all-league.
Horn suffered a spinal-cord bruise during the third quarter of the loss to Darby. He was carted off the field and taken to Riverside Methodist Hospital. He was released from the hospital Oct. 29, three days after the game.
His primary targets are expected to return in junior wide receivers Zack Popovec, who had 27 catches for 299 yards and three touchdowns and was special mention all-league, and Ryan Reffitt, who had 20 catches for 266 yards and a touchdown.
"I had a chance to learn a lot of things and I learned to believe in myself and the things that I can do," Horn said. "By starting on Friday nights, I found out how quick the game can be. I need to work really, really hard in the offseason to make the team and myself better."
Others expected to return include juniors Ryan Beveridge (OL/DL), Andrew Bradley (K), Josias Cruceta (OL/DL), Walker Hamilton (RB/DB), Skylar Hartley (OL/DL), T.J. Martin (RB) and Daniel Tepe (RB/DB).
Martin had 505 yards rushing and nine touchdowns on 99 carries and Bradley made 18 extra points and three field goals.