Watkins Memorial High School football coach Jeff Severino doesn't view Newark Catholic as being an ordinary Division VI team.
"They were in the state championship last year, they have a tremendous quarterback who will play at Illinois, they have weapons at receiver and running back and they have very good size up front for a Division VI school," he said. "That's just the offense.
"They also have a very quick defense that just flies to the ball, and their special teams are terrific."
The Warriors are preparing to face all of those challenges this week, as they will play the Green Wave on Friday, Sept. 27, at White Field. The LCL contest marks the first meeting between the programs since 1990, when the Warriors won 18-7.
Both Watkins Memorial and Newark Catholic were 2-1 before playing their league openers Sept. 20, when the Warriors faced Utica and the Green Wave faced Lakewood.
Newark Catholic is led by 6-foot-4, 220-pound quarterback Chayce Crouch, who threw for 2,077 yards and 18 touchdowns and scored 11 touchdowns last season and also was an all-state punter a year ago.
Crouch was 8-for-8 for 151 yards, including a 33-yard touchdown to wide receiver Hunter Nance, and scored on an 18-yard run in a 42-6 win over Fisher Catholic on Sept. 13. Through three games, he was 36-for-56 passing for 483 yards, was averaging 42 yards per punt and had placed over 90 percent of his kickoffs in the end zone.
Also against Fisher Catholic, running back Anthony Wing scored on runs of 1 and 41 yards and the Green Wave blocked two punts, including one that was returned for a touchdown.
Brenden Jurden (6-2, 260) anchors the Green Wave's offensive line after being named third-team all-state last season.
Newark Catholic employs a 4-2-5 base defense, which allowed 412 yards rushing in a 26-14 loss to Ready on Aug. 30, is led by safety Mike Lohr, linebacker Joe Davis and linemen Cameron DeBevoise, Evan Hartman and Jurden.
Lohr was third-team all-state last season.
Watkins Memorial closed non-league play with a 26-12 win over host Mifflin on Sept. 13.
"Our defense played very well," Severino said. "Our linemen -- Nathan Miller, Kyle Hickin, Preston Jenkins and Shawn Johnson -- did a great job occupying blockers and keeping (linebackers) Travis Hall and Isaac O'Brien free to make plays. (Free safety) Zach Lescalleet intercepted two passes and (had four through three games)."
The Warriors' defense held Mifflin to 114 total yards and forced four turnovers, but their offense had 206 total yards and was fortunate to lose only one of their five fumbles. Quarterback Ben Shroyer completed only four of 13 passes for 51 yards, including a 10-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Hunter Holton, and slotback Mike Ford rushed for 99 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries.
"We're our own worst enemy offensively," Severino said. "To win LCL games, we need to control the ball and sustain drives. Defensively, we have to stop the run and prevent big plays. We can't keep putting our defense on the field and wearing them down."
Boys soccer team closes in on title
The boys soccer team is closing in on winning the LCL championship.
Watkins Memorial is 5-0 in the league with two games remaining: Thursday, Sept. 26, at Johnstown and Oct. 3 at Northridge. The LCL did not acknowledge a soccer title before disbanding after the 1990-91 school year.
Senior forward Patrick Murphy scored two goals and senior midfielder Ari Blumer scored one as the Warriors beat Granville 3-0 in a key league game Sept. 16.
"We're excited to be undefeated in the league, but there's still work to do," coach Scott Spangler said. "No doubt about it, we had this game highlighted on our schedule for a long time because Granville is a good program.
"We came out fast and scored twice in the first 12 to 15 minutes. We had them on their heels and we led 3-0 at halftime. But (Granville) was the aggressor in the second half. They hit the post twice and (goalkeeper) Alec Mathew also had a nice save that bounced away. They jumped on (the ball) and slid it back in and (midfielder) Nick Spangler cleared it off the (goal) line."
Murphy scored three goals in a 3-0 win over Lakewood on Sept. 5 and had a goal in a 6-0 win over Licking Valley on Sept. 12.
Watkins Memorial has outscored its LCL foes 23-3.
"Our sweeper, Zak Blumer, has really stepped up and organized our defense," coach Spangler said. "We moved Jerrod Lyon from left back to the center midfield. He wins a lot of balls and he sees the field very well and has really helped us control the (midfield)."
Watkins Memorial was 5-4 overall before playing Pickerington North on Sept. 21.
"We've lost to some good (non-league opponents), which isn't a bad thing, but we haven't really been too competitive in those matches," coach Spangler said. "But we're putting things together and (the win over Granville) is the best we've played yet. The regular season is all about building for the postseason and I'm hoping we're on the right track now."
Golfers preparing for postseason
Both the boys and girls golf teams will conclude the regular season this week before preparing for the Division I postseason.
The boys golf team shot a 348 to finish fourth in the LCL potseason tournament Sept. 19 at Blacklick Woods behind Johnstown (321), Granville (329) and Heath (347) and ahead of Lakewood (358), Newark Catholic (359), Utica (365), Northridge (370), Licking Heights (386) and Licking Valley (394).
Drew Dixon (81), Jared Worcester (82), Michael Griffin (90) and Cody Stonebraker (95) scored.
Overall, Watkins Memorial was 15-12 to tie Newark Catholic for fourth place behind Johnston (26-1), Granville (25-2) and Heath (19-8). Lakewood (12-15), Northridge (11-16), Utica (6-21), Licking Heights (3-24) and Licking Valley (2-25) followed.
Worcester (40.1 average) was first-team all-league and Dixon (42.2) was on the second team. Griffin was honorable mention all-league.
The boys team will play host to the Watkins Fall Invitational on Wednesday, Sept. 25, at Winding Hollow, is seeded 29th of 39 teams in the district and will compete in the 13-team sectional Oct. 1 at Granville Golf Course.
Among the other teams at the site are second-seeded and two-time defending state champion Dublin Jerome, fifth-seeded Upper Arlington and sixth-seeded St. Charles.
The girls team, which competed in the LCL postseason tournament Sept. 20 at Blacklick Woods, is seeded 26th of 32 teams in the district and will compete in the 11-team sectional Oct. 1 at Mentel Memorial.
Among the other teams at the site are second-seeded Dublin Coffman, fourth-seeded Watterson and sixth-seeded Marysville.