Watkins Memorial Roundup
Runners gearing up for postseason meets
The Watkins Memorial High School cross country teams are entering the stretch run of the season.
The Warriors have three meets remaining before the Licking County League meet on Oct. 12 at home, followed by the Division I district meet Oct. 19 at home. Their final three regular-season meets are the Cuyahoga Valley National Park Invitational on Sept. 28 at Peninsula Woodridge, the Backwoods Two-Miler on Oct. 2 at Thornville Sheridan and the Johnstown Invitational on Oct. 5.
Watkins Memorial played host to the John McGowan Invitational on Sept. 7, and both the boys and girls teams finished in the top half.
The girls team finished sixth (186 points) in the 25-team Division I race behind champion Upper Arlington (48).
"I was very pleased with the girls' effort, especially in a meet the caliber of the McGowan," said coach John Jarvis, whose teams competed in the Galion Festival on Sept. 14. "A top-six finish is a real good sign."
Josie Woosley led the Warriors, placing third of 165 runners in 19 minutes, 13.93 seconds.
"Josie Woosley ran evenly," Jarvis said. "She paced herself much better than (earlier races). She was steady and held together through the finish."
Also competing were Samantha Hyme (29th, 20:44.55), Claire Snode (38th, 21:22.79), Natalie Watson (51st, 21:46.18), Josie Cotugno (65th, 22:09.5), Raechal Schoenberger (67th, 22:10.27) and Lauren Miller (75th, 22:16.54).
"Hyme is a freshman who was competing in her first big meet," Jarvis said. "She handled the big crowd and the level of competition very well. She was one of three freshmen in our top seven. Schoenberger and Miller also handled it well.
"I also thought Snode, Watson and Cotugno did a nice job. They have done well providing a stabilizing influence with the freshmen."
The boys team finished 11th (328) in the 28-team Division I race behind champion Olentangy Liberty (51).
Andrew Jordan led the Warriors, finishing 10th (16:39.78) of 190 runners. Also scoring were Jordan Rice (67th, 18:08.22), Tyler Day (69th, 18:09.69), Owen Tennant (88th, 18:35.5) and Jacob Gero (94th, 18:43.09).
"Andrew Jordan is a sophomore competing in high school for the first season and is still learning how to race," Jarvis said. "He continues to get better each week and I love that he's not afraid of competing against the top runners in central Ohio."
Also competing were Austin Dowis (105th, 18:49.9) and Andrew Triona (111th, 18:55.05).
Football team getting set for LCL opener
The football team will play host to Utica in its LCL opener on Friday, Sept. 20.
"It's going to be nuts," coach Jeff Severino said. "It's the first game back in an old league that has natural rivalries throughout the league.
"In addition, Utica is also our homecoming game and it's our alumni night. It should be quite the atmosphere. Everyone is excited about this."
Utica, which finished 1-9 last year after going 2-8 in 2011, was 1-1 before playing Fredericktown on Sept. 13.
"Their coach, Charlie Smith, came from Big Walnut and he's trying to establish that type of tough, power football," Severino said. "It looks like they struggled the first week (in a 28-0 loss to Centerburg 28-0 on Aug. 30) but put things together (in a 38-30 win over East Knox on Sept. 6)."
Utica's offense runs the power-I and is led by tailback Travis Baldwin and 6-foot-5 sophomore quarterback Mitchell Marston. The Redskins' 4-5 defense includes Baldwin and Zach Edmister at linebacker and 6-2, 250-pound Kevin Bigler on the line.
"It is an important game because it can be a good springboard into the league," said Severino, whose team was a combined 7-14 in the OCC-Capital the past three seasons. "We haven't had much success lately in league games, back in the OCC."
Watkins Memorial, which was 1-1 before playing Mifflin on Sept. 13, lost to host Athens 53-3 on Sept. 6 after beating Briggs 62-0 in its opener Aug. 30.
"We had five turnovers and gave an explosive offense a short field on most of them," Severino said, referring to game against Athens. "I think they took advantage of all five of the turnovers. Against a team like that, you've got to control the ball and the clock and keep their offense off the field.
"But when we fell behind like that, we got out of our comfort zone and tried to make big plays and things snowballed. Athens' quarterback (Joe Burrow) is only a junior, but he's the real deal. He's going to go (to a) big-time Division I (college)."
Despite the blowout loss, the individual play of senior guards Clay Sammons and Patrick Thompson, sophomore wide receiver Alex Miles and senior strong safety Cameron Gilbert caught Severino's attention.
"Sammons played on special teams last year and was a running back, so this is a big change for him and he's handled it very well," Severino said. "Thompson also played well and Miles made some nice plays.
"Defensively, I thought Gilbert did some good things against some of their talented skill-position players."
Volleyball team nets first victory
The girls volleyball team earned its first win of the season by defeating host Northridge 25-13, 27-25, 25-27, 25-21 on Sept. 7.
Watkins Memorial lost its next two matches, falling to Utica 25-15, 25-9, 22-25, 25-20 on Sept. 10 and 25-15, 25-17, 25-17 to Granville on Sept. 12, and was 1-9 overall and 1-8 in the LCL before playing Lakewood on Sept. 14.
"The Northridge win gave us new-found enthusiasm, chemistry and excitement in addition to building some confidence," first-year coach Amber Harris said. "The girls are still adjusting to my coaching style and trying to get comfortable with a new offense and defense.
"I am happy to see our improved serving. The girls know where to be and they're trusting teammates. Now we've got to learn how to finish long rallies, cut down on our hitting errors and finish kills better."
Harris lauded the play of libero Amanda Toth, outside hitters Morgan Fitch and Sydney Brock and middle hitter Liz Fafiade.
"Toth is averaging more than 30 digs per match (through nine matches) and has increased her total in every match, and I've never seen that before in my 10 years of coaching," Harris said. "Fafiade's hitting percentage is improving and she's becoming a smarter hitter and placing balls in better spots now. Fitch and Brock have also stepped up. We moved Fitch to outside hitter in the Utica match and she had eight kills without an error and was our player of the match.
"So, I've seen huge progress, substantial progress from most of the girls. We still have a long way to go, but we're getting better."
The Warriors have league matches Tuesday, Sept. 17, at home against Heath and Thursday, Sept. 19, at Newark Catholic. They lost to the Bulldogs 25-15, 25-19, 25-21 on Aug. 27 and lost to the Green Wave 25-7, 25-11, 25-19 on Aug. 29.