The Licking Heights High School football team will welcome back Heath in its LCL opener Friday, Sept. 20.
Although the teams haven't played since the Hornets won a 13-12 contest in 2002, they are familiar with one another.
"We've scrimmaged Heath for a number of years," coach Darren Waters said. "I have great respect for coach (Mark) Collier and their program. We know every time we line up against them, they'll play hard and physical from the first snap to the last. They may have struggled to start this season, but I have no doubt they'll be ready for this one."
The Hornets, who played Groveport on Sept. 13, improved to 2-0 by beating Hamilton Township 21-13 on Sept. 6. The Bulldogs were 0-2 and trying to adjust to their no-huddle, spread offense when they played Licking Valley on Sept. 13.
Heath lost to Bloom-Carroll 47-16 on Aug. 30 and to Granville 56-16 on Sept. 6.
The Bulldogs have used Aidan Dyer and Aaron Latiolais at quarterback. Wide receiver Bobby Kazar is a big target at 6-foot-6 and Jackson Kaiser is at tight end. Heath also relies on Jaivon Gresham at receiver and Camron Romine at running back. Donny Beistel, Payton Booth and Sam Lunsford anchor the line.
On defense, Booth and Kazar are linebackers, Beistel plays on the line and Erik Williams, Romine and Gresham lead the secondary.
The Hornets displayed their depth against Hamilton Township.
Senior Adrian Myrthil started at quarterback in the opener but injured an ankle. Waters knew Myrthil couldn't play a full game against the Rangers, and junior Curtis Richardson stepped in.
"We thought we could use Adrian some and thought we needed him more (in the secondary) on defense," Waters said. "At one point in the game, I went to Adrian and asked him to take an offensive series if he could. He looked at me and said, 'You should stick with Curtis.' He was truthful with me. He put the team ahead of himself because he really wanted to be out there."
The depth and leadership was displayed by a number of players.
"We didn't have one guy dominating the game," Waters said. "(Linebacker) D.D. Kelso forced a fumble and we recovered in our end zone to keep them from scoring. (Defensive end) Aaron Tiller and (defensive tackle) Mike Hopewell made a key stop on a fourth-and-1 play. (Linebacker) Blake Beaver got an interception to seal the win.
"On offense, (tight end) Tanner Bauer caught a touchdown pass, both our running backs, Kendall Bradley and John Neary, went over 100 yards and Curtis did a good job. Our line was strong. We had a 13-play drive for a touchdown in the first half and a long drive in the third quarter. We didn't score that time, but (Hamilton Township) only had one possession in the quarter."
Neary ran for 134 yards on 23 carries, and Bradley ran for 123 yards on 16 carries and scored on runs of 50 and 5 yards. Bauer's scoring reception from Richardson covered nine yards.
Volleyball team turning page
After starting 0-6, the girls volleyball team beat Northridge 25-17, 26-24, 25-17 on Sept. 12 for its third consecutive victory.
The Hornets were 3-6 overall and in the LCL before beginning the second round of league play Sept. 14 against Utica.
Licking Heights snapped its losing streak by defeating host Watkins Memorial 25-16, 25-13, 22-25, 25-21 on Sept. 5 and followed that by beating visiting Johnstown 29-27, 25-18, 25-14 on Sept. 10.
The resurgence coincided with the return of 6-foot senior middle hitter Jemiah Powell.
"She missed our first five matches with injury," coach Amanda Mosely said. "The morale and confidence improved immediately when she returned, although the girls are still trying to get comfortable with each other."
Against Johnstown, Powell had 12 digs and eight aces and her sister, sophomore middle hitter Michaela Powell, had five kills and four blocks. Junior outside hitter Bailey Carr had eight kills and five aces, and junior setter Frankie Golden had 20 assists.
"Carr has stepped up as a leader and consistent hitter and she's a real hard worker," Mosely said. "I've also been very impressed with Ivana Coleman's passing in the back row. She has exceeded our expectations."
The Hornets also are trying to adjust to a new level of competition in the LCL. They won league titles the past two seasons against smaller schools in the MSL-Cardinal Division.
"We know what we're up against, but we hope to shock a few people in the second round of the LCL," Mosely said. "We've got Jemiah back and most of (our LCL opponents) haven't seen her. Plus, our girls have a better understanding of what these other teams have now."
Cross country teams improving
The cross country teams are looking to make strides as the end of the regular season approaches.
The teams will compete in the Bob Reall Invitational on Saturday, Sept. 21, at Lancaster. They then have just two meets remaining before the LCL meet Oct. 12 at Watkins Memorial, which precedes the district meet Oct. 19 at Watkins Memorial.
The individuals have made recent progress, but the teams have struggled in bigger meets.
The boys team was last (341) of 11 teams in the Asics Hot Summer Bash on Aug. 31 at Hilliard Davidson and 27th (713) in the 28-team Division I race of the McGowan Invitational on Sept. 7 at Watkins Memorial.
In the Hot Summer Bash, Anthony Haist was 67th (19 minutes, 2 seconds), followed by Tysson Olverson (68th, 19:12), Brandon Haist (82nd, 22:05), Alex Wilcox (83rd, 22:19) and Vince Masoni (84th, 23:17).
In the McGowan Invitational, Olverson (100th, 18:48.23), Anthony Haist (101st, 18:48.53), Masoni (165th, 20:52.77) and Wilcox (175th, 21:20.83) dropped time.
The girls team was last (275) of nine teams in the Hot Summer Bash and last (671) of 25 teams in the McGowan Invitational.
In the Hot Summer Bash, scoring were Paige Hartley (44th, 22:38), Kirsten Reed (65th, 25:31), MacKenzie Myers (68th, 27:08), Ashton Malicoate (69th, 27:22) and Tessa Kenney (70th, 27:43).
All improved their times in the McGowan Invitational. Hartley was 82nd (22:22.71), followed by Reed (145th, 25:29.87), Kenney (149th, 25:49.81), Malicoate (150th, 26:11.2), Rachel Shemenski (152nd, 26:21.82) and Myers (155th, 26:53.27).