The Licking Heights and Grandview high school football teams are proof that it's difficult to predict what will happen during the season.
The Hornets were hoping to match last season's win total when they played Liberty Union on Sept. 21, while the Bobcats started 2-2 coming off a season in which they won the MSL-Cardinal Division championship, finished the regular season unbeaten and lost in the first round of the Division V, Region 19 playoffs.
Licking Heights, which went 5-5 a year ago, improved to 4-0 overall and 1-0 in the MSL-Cardinal by beating Harvest Prep 35-13 on Sept. 14.
"High school football is cyclical and there is proof of that every season," coach Darrin Waters said. " It depends on your senior class and how you adapt to what talent your upperclassmen have."
The Hornets will try to avenge last season's 46-14 loss to Grandview when they play host to the Bobcats on Friday, Sept. 28.
Licking Heights, which hasn't won a league title since 1992, entered the Liberty Union game on its best start since 2007. That season, the Hornets won their first nine before losing to West Jefferson 28-14 and finished 10-2 after losing to St. Clairsville 33-17 in a Division IV, Region 15 semifinal.
"West Jefferson has always been the measuring stick for our league, so losing to them doesn't mean Grandview is way down," said Waters, whose team was second in the unofficial Division II, Region 7 computer rankings through four weeks. "They may not have the same team as last year, but Grandview has a very solid program and their coaches do a good job. They switched to the option offense last year and that fit the talent they have."
Grandview also lost to East Knox 30-13 on Aug. 31 after opening with a 42-20 win over Centennial on Aug. 24. The Bobcats also beat Whitehall 33-23 on Sept. 7.
Regardless of the opponent, Waters said Licking Heights spends a great deal of time working on the things it can control.
"We watch film of our games the next morning, but it's never a yelling session," he said. "We give them constructive criticism and they take it pretty well. Film is a very useful tool to help them get better, so they're pretty receptive.
"Where we vary from some other teams is that the first 45 minutes of practices on Monday are going back and correcting, or working on, the mistakes we made the previous game. We're not out there working on the next opponent yet. Thursdays, when most teams do their walk-throughs, we also watch film of our Wednesday practice."
Despite using a different lineup because of some injuries, Licking Heights likely didn't have much to correct after beating Harvest Prep.
The Hornets took a 28-0 lead in the first half. Quarterback Taylor Curtiss scored on a pair of runs (1, 2) and threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to Chuck Aitkens. Ron Carruthers-Kimball added a 1-yard touchdown run and also finished the scoring with a 5-yard run in the fourth quarter.
Curtiss, who also returned an interception 60 yards to set up a score, was 5-for-6 for 81 yards. Carruthers-Kimball ran for 100 yards on 14 carries.
"Taylor Curtiss has really managed the offense well all season, making the right reads and just keeping us patient and poised," Waters said. " (Against Harvest Prep), we were able to get him outside the tackles and let him run and pass a bit. He played a tremendous game."
Waters also was pleased with the play of Carruthers-Kimball and receiver Doug Bennefield, who caught a deflected pass for a 38-yard gain to set up a touchdown.
"(Bennefield) stayed with the play and never gave up," Waters said. "That's the type of focus each of our players has to have. I thought our offensive line played well as usual."
Martell Davis and Jake Foley each had one of the Hornets' three interceptions and Aaron Tiller returned a fumbled punt snap 39 yards to the Harvest Prep 1-yard line to set up a score.
"I think Steven Clum had a big game for us (at defensive end)," Waters said. "We created turnovers and made plays, and that's what we expect from our defense."
Girls volleyball team set for Harvest Prep
A key MSL-Cardinal matchup will take place Tuesday, Sept. 25, when the girls volleyball team plays host to Harvest Prep.
The teams shared the league championship last year at 13-1, splitting their matches. Licking Heights won the first matchup this season, winning on the Warriors' court 25-22, 22-25, 25-20, 22-25, 15-6 on Aug. 30. That was the Hornets' second match of the season.
Licking Heights has lost only one other game in league play since. The Hornets improved to 8-3 overall and 7-0 in the league by beating Fisher Catholic 25-9, 22-25, 25-16, 25-19 on Sept. 20.
"Last season we beat them in the first round (of league play) at our place," coach Amanda Mosely said. "But they got us at their place. We're in a better situation this season because we beat them at their place and now they've got to come here.
"We know it'll be a fight, but we'll have a good home crowd and it should be a great atmosphere.
"Harvest Prep will be ready for us, though, so we need to make sure we come out and bring our energy and effort. We don't want to be too excited, but the girls want to win (the league) outright this year."
In a 25-13, 25-15, 25-10 win over Millersport on Sept. 18, C.J. Wulf had seven aces and Michaela Powell had seven kills.