There might not be a hotter trio of playmakers in central Ohio than the three on the Licking Valley High School football team.
With seniors Grant Garber (QB), Hunter Hartshorn (RB) and Ty Griffith (WR) leading the way, the Panthers entered their LCL opener Sept. 20 against visiting Northridge with a 2-1 record.
Through three games, Licking Valley was averaging 33.3 points.
"We think they can give us some balance," 32nd-year coach Randy Baughman said. "Garber didn't start as a sophomore, but Griffith and Hartshorn both started and played a lot as sophomores. All of them are captains. I don't know that a coach is ever satisfied because I think we can get better, but we get glimpses of what we can do."
Through three games, Garber was 53-for-89 passing for 772 yards, Griffith had 23 receptions for 362 yards and Hartshorn had rushed for 382 yards on 65 attempts.
The Panthers continue league play Friday, Sept. 27, at home against Johnstown, which was 2-1 entering its LCL opener Sept. 20 at Granville.
Licking Valley opened with a 17-14 win over Dresden Tri-Valley on Aug. 30, lost to Duncan Falls Philo 26-21 on Sept. 6 and beat Heath 62-26 on Sept. 13.
The Panthers are looking to make the playoffs for the first time since 2010 after settling for 7-3 finishes each of the last two seasons.
Senior linebacker Craig Prince and senior defensive end Blake Owens have led the defense, according to Baughman.
"It's been a (senior class) that has been successful and got a lot of playing time as sophomores," Baughman said. "I will say that the senior group has worked as hard in the offseason as any I've had. Craig Prince has been doing a nice job. He calls our defense and makes all of the adjustments out there. Blake Owens is a three-year starter."
Aces girls soccer team enjoying start
The Granville girls soccer team has been in uncharted territory this fall.
After earning back-to-back Division II district runner-up finishes, the Blue Aces were 8-0-1 after tying Watkins Memorial at 1 on Sept. 19. The start helped Granville earn its first No. 1 ranking in the state poll.
"It's been quite an experience so far with us setting a new bar for the girls program," coach Scott Forster said. "Two years ago was the first time we'd been in the top 10. It's definitely new for the program and the girls know they have that extra responsibility, but it shows in the way they've been playing."
Sophomore forward Nikki Cox, who made ThisWeek Super 12 honorable mention a year ago, had scored 20 goals through eight games.
She has been complemented by a 12-member senior class that includes defenders Kina McCombs and Ryan Kauchak, forward Chloe Kent and midfielder Riley Rosinski.
The Aces, who feature sophomore Tori Long at goalkeeper, gave up just five goals during their first eight games.
Forster was an assistant with the Granville Christian and Granville boys soccer programs before taking over the Granville girls program last season.
"I had some people let me know when the past coach resigned," Forster said. "I was a soccer trainer up at an Olentangy indoor facility and worked with some girls there and found a little bit of a passion for coaching girls. It's been so fun and awesome (to coach the Granville girls)."
On the coming schedule are games against DeSales (Thursday, Sept. 26) and Division I programs Gahanna (Oct. 5), Pickerington North (Oct. 10) and Westerville South (Oct. 12).
DeSales beat Granville 1-0 in district finals in both 2011 and 2012.
Newark's Hardwick has big running goals
As a junior last season, Newark's Toby Hardwick turned in a 28th-place finish (15 minutes, 54.41 seconds) in the Division I boys state cross country meet and then helped the 3,200-meter relay finish 11th (7:59.45) in the state track and field meet.
Those finishes are just the beginning of what Hardwick hopes to accomplish, according to coach Randy Noftz.
"He's a special runner," Noftz said. "He's been ready to run and is having fun this year. Toby's pretty competitive. He got 28th at the state cross country meet last year and is trying to improve on that. We've got some pretty good goals ahead."
On Sept. 7 in the McGowan Invitational at Watkins Memorial, Hardwick ran 15:41.53 to capture the title in the Division I race.
He followed that by running 15:50.7 on Sept. 14 to help the Wildcats win their 13-team invitational.
Newark, which competed in the Bob Reall Invitational on Sept. 21 at Lancaster, will run in the OCC-Ohio Division meet Oct. 12 at Pickerington Central.
The Wildcats were third (53) behind Pickerington North (47) and Lancaster (52) in the league meet a year ago as Hardwick was first (16:14.3).
Other top boys for Newark include seniors Isaac Wheeler and Patrick Williams, sophomore Zane Romine and freshman Owen Keith.
The girls program has been led by freshman Lauren Fischer, who took third (20:02.5) in the team's home invitational to help the Wildcats finish second (70) behind Canal Winchester (42).
According to Noftz, Fischer's time in the Newark Invitational broke the program's freshman record.
Sophomore Micheala Trawick has been the girls team's No. 2 runner. Other standouts have included senior Stacia Kyler, junior Meghan Roche and freshman Brigit Luecke.