The Licking Heights High School football team hopes the "perfect storm" that resulted in a 33-14 loss at Licking Valley on Oct. 18 has blown through and no damage was left in the aftermath.
The Hornets, who had their 19-game regular-season winning streak snapped by the Panthers, played Watkins Memorial on Oct. 25 and close the regular season Friday, Nov. 1, against visiting Johnstown.
"I think we still have a good chance of playing some more football on Friday nights, as long as we take care of our business," coach Darren Waters said before the Watkins Memorial game. "The one thing we need to do is take that Licking Valley game and learn from it.
"First, their coaching staff did a much better job preparing them for a game of that magnitude than we did. ... Plus, their kids executed their game plan and we didn't execute."
The Hornets also used tailback Kendall Bradley sparingly because of a hamstring issue, while fellow tailback Ron Carruthers-Kimball had been sick during the week and safety Mershawn McMahan suffered a concussion during practice the day before the game.
"Basically, it was the perfect storm," Waters said. "I saw a lot of them on film and they never showed the ability to throw the ball that well. They played great. It was probably their best game of the year. It was our worst game. ... It was the first time an opponent went toe-to-toe with us in terms of intensity and we didn't respond."
The Hornets were seventh in the Division II, Region 5 computer ratings through eight weeks. The top eight teams qualify for the playoffs.
Johnstown doesn't have the balance on offense that Licking Valley possesses, but it does have a strong running game led by Cody Farley, who had rushed 202 times for 1,107 yards with 15 touchdowns through eight games.
Quarterback Josh Kirkpatrick had passed for 573 yards and run for 327, and running back Alex Workman had 262 yards and five touchdowns on 37 carries.
Linebacker Harrison Johnson (91 tackles, 17 for losses), end Clayton Bullard (85 tackles, 16 for losses, 8 sacks) and linebacker Ethan Clift (65 tackles) have led the Johnnies' defense.
Licking Heights' running game had been led by Bradley (81 carries, 801 yards, 8 touchdowns), Robbie Moore (61 carries, 527 yards, 6 TDs) and Carruthers-Kimball (46 carries, 238 yards, 3 TDs in three games).
Fullback John Neary had 421 yards and four touchdowns on 79 carries. Quarterback Martell Davis had thrown for 181 yards and rushed for 141 in five games, and Douglas Benniefield (8 catches, 101 yards) was the top receiver.
Volleyball team had 'one of those years'
The girls volleyball team knew its first season in the LCL would be an eye-opening experience, but coach Amanda Mosely couldn't have envisioned the number of situations that arose and played a role in her squad's 5-17 record.
"It was one of those years where everything that could go wrong did," said Mosely, whose team lost at sixth-seeded Westerville Central 25-15, 25-9, 25-9 in the second round of the Division I district tournament Oct. 16. "It started last spring when we weren't sure if our levy was going to pass. I'm a business teacher. That's an elective course and I was the lowest on the totem pole. I didn't even know if I would have a job. We didn't have girls getting to open gyms.
"Then, the girls had played in a summer league the previous three seasons, but they didn't do it last summer. When we got started (in the fall), you could tell the communication was poor and the camaraderie was missing."
What followed was an early season injury to 6-foot senior middle hitter Jemiah Powell, who was the main cog at the net the previous two seasons when the Hornets won MSL-Cardinal Division championships.
Powell's return coincided with a four-match winning streak after the Hornets opened 0-6.
Then an illness passed through the program, keeping Mosely guessing as to who would be able to practice and play.
"I don't know if we were ever at full capacity or put out the lineup we had intended to use," she said. "I have never had a season like this before. We never got into a rhythm because there was no continuity. It was a confusing, shocking and hard season to know the team had talent, but we were never able to get everything together."
The Hornets went 5-13 in the LCL to tie Watkins Memorial for seventh, behind Licking Valley (16-2), Newark Catholic (15-3), Granville (14-4), Heath (12-6), Lakewood (12-6) and Utica (8-10) and ahead of Northridge (3-15) and Johnstown (0-18).
Licking Heights loses seniors Brooklyn Fink (right-side hitter), Becca Malone (defense), Powell, Alexis Sanidad (libero), Mya Suggs (defense) and Kelsi Wilson (right-side hitter).
Powell was first-team all-league and Sanidad was honorable mention.
Expected to return are juniors Iyana Coleman (outside hitter) and Frankie Golden (setter) and sophomores Cassidy Green (outside hitter) and Mikayla Powell (middle hitter).
"Now that the girls see what it's going to take to compete in this league, I think they're going to be motivated and work harder," Mosely said. "I can't wait to see how many are serious enough to join club teams."
Soccer team dealt with 'learning curve'
The boys soccer team lost at fifth-seeded New Albany 8-0 in the second round of the Division I district tournament Oct. 19 to finish 3-14.
"It was a rebuilding year and it was a big learning curve for all of us," coach Zach Grubb said. "We started the season with one senior, but we added a couple after the first few weeks. We were so young, and I think we improved as a team across the board. I thought we got better at possession, seeing the field and communicating.
"The kids realize what they have to do to get better and to compete against teams in our area now. We need better commitment, more consistency, and we have to maintain our aggressiveness."
The Hornets finished last (0-7) in the LCL behind Watkins Memorial (6-0-1), Granville (6-1), Johnstown (3-1-3), Heath (4-3), Northridge (3-4), Lakewood (2-4-1) and Licking Valley (1-5-1).
Licking Heights loses seniors Sulayman Ceesay (midfielder), Robel Gebremichael (forward/midfielder) and Mesfin Yeshak (forward/midfielder).
Among the expected returnees are juniors Caleb Hilderbrand (defender), Gauthier Murat (midfielder) and Cameron Sadilek (defender), sophomores Dylan Billingsley (midfielder/forward), Cameron Christian (midfielder), Zach Coverdale (defender), Nate Hasson (goalkeeper/defender) and Ben Hunkler (midfielder) and freshmen Lincoln Chifamba (midfielder) and Carrick Duffey (forward).
Season ends for runners at district
The boys and girls cross country teams competed in the Division I, district 2 meet Oct. 19 at Watkins Memorial but failed to qualify anyone for regional Oct. 26 at Pickerington North. The top five teams and top 20 individuals advanced.
The girls finished 13th (357 points) of 14 teams behind champion Gahanna (39).
Freshman Paige Hartley finished in 20 minutes, 43.07 seconds to place 28th. She was followed by Tessa Kenney (71st, 22:59.16), Kirsten Reed (86th, 24:35.65), MacKenzie Myers (87th, 24:55.32), Ashton Malicoate (89th, 25:18.16), Rachel Shemenski (91st, 25:32.15) and Christina Garrett (92nd, 26:07.38).
The boys finished last (391) of 14 teams behind champion Dublin Jerome (23), as Anthony Haist (60th, 18:31.7) led the Hornets. He was followed by Vince Masoni (76th, 19:22.41), Tysson Olverson (80th, 19:38.52), Alex Wilcox (84th, 19:58.57), Brandon Haist (91st, 20:39.09), Taylor Woolard (93rd, 21:40.25) and Ethan Myers (95th, 22:40.8).