The Watkins Memorial High School football team entered its game against Licking Heights on Oct. 25 with a chance to finish with a winning record for just the second time since its last playoff appearance seven years ago.
The Warriors were 4-4 overall and 0-2 in the LCL-Big School Division heading into the Battle for Broad Street. They have finished with a losing record five of the past six seasons since going 10-2 and reaching the second round of the Division II, Region 7 playoffs in 2006. The exception was 2010, when they went 6-4.
Watkins Memorial, which finished 2-8 in 2009 and 2012 and went 4-6 in 2007, 2008 and 2011, plays host to Lakewood in its season finale Friday, Nov. 1.
The Lancers were 1-7 overall and 0-2 in the LCL-Big School before playing Licking Valley on Oct. 25.
"There is always something to play for every week," coach Jeff Severino said. "The first thing is always you play for pride, for yourself and your teammates as well as for your school and your community. We're coming off a nice win (52-30 over Heath on Oct. 18) and we want to carry that momentum to the end. You want the seniors to go out strong and you want the underclassmen to be motivated for the offseason and what lies ahead."
Lakewood lost to Granville 48-0 on Oct. 18 after beating Northridge 42-35 on Oct. 11.
"I don't know how young Lakewood is, but looking at film, you can see them getting better and better every week with their veer-option attack," Severino said. "They played Granville tough in the first half. Their quarterback (Austin White) seems to be a pretty good athlete and they have a good running back (Alex Napier)."
Through eight games, Napier led Lakewood's ground attack with 520 yards and five touchdowns on 125 carries. Running back Brandon Ward had 373 yards and one touchdown on 82 carries and White had rushed for 124 yards and three scores.
White, who was 21-for-61 passing for 244 yards and two touchdowns with nine interceptions through eight games, also is among the Lancers' leaders on defense. Before facing Licking Valley, he had 41.5 tackles as an outside linebacker.
Against Heath, Watkins Memorial quarterback Ben Shroyer rushed for 109 yards and two touchdowns (30 and 31 yards) and was 5-for-9 passing for 136 yards, including a 41-yard touchdown pass to Hunter Holton.
Holton had three receptions for 85 yards, running back Mike Ford had 70 yards rushing on 10 carries, including a 23-yard touchdown. Travis Hall (2 yards) and Kaleb Goad (3 yards) also had touchdown runs, Justin Fown returned a squib kick 51 yards for a score and Jerrod Lyon added a 41-yard field goal.
Through eight games, Holton was among area receiving leaders (35 catches, 459 yards, 7 TDs), Ford had a team-high 436 yards rushing on 85 carries and Shroyer was 67-for-146 passing for 818 yards and eight touchdowns with nine interceptions.
Girls runners return to regional
The girls cross country team reached its top goal by qualifying for the Division I regional meet Oct. 26 at Pickerington North.
Watkins Memorial had its streak of four consecutive regional-qualifying seasons end last year. Led by junior Josie Woosley and freshman Samantha Hyme, the Warriors finished fourth in the district 3 meet Oct. 19 at home.
The top four teams and top 16 individuals at regional advanced to the state meet Saturday, Nov. 2, at National Trail Raceway.
At district, Watkins Memorial scored 121 points to finish behind Upper Arlington (64), Dublin Jerome (112) and New Albany (114) as 17 teams scored, with the top six teams and top 24 individuals advancing to regional.
Woosley led the Warriors, finishing fifth of 120 runners in 19 minutes, 21.20 seconds, and Hyme placed 13th (19:54.18). Also competing were freshman Raechal Schoenberger (23rd, 20:18.02), senior Natalie Watson (31st, 20:51.46), junior Claire Snode (49th, 21:16.72), freshman Lauren Miller (65th, 22:05.09) and sophomore Josie Cotugno (66th, 22:12.73).
Woosley was a state qualifier last year, finishing 97th (19:46.23) of 150 runners.
Andrew Jordan represented the boys team at regional.
The sophomore finished eighth (16:33.87) of 102 runners in the district 2 meet, as the top five teams and top 20 individuals qualified for the regional.
Watkins Memorial finished seventh (159) at district behind champion Jerome (23) as 14 teams scored, with Westerville South (129) securing the final qualifying spot.
Also competing were senior Jordan Rice (27th, 17:15.65), sophomore Tyler Day (38th, 17:36.3), seniors Jared Clark (39th, 17:37.5) and Owen Tennant (47th, 17:52.64) and freshmen Jacob Gero (49th, 17:55.94) and Gerrick Brewer (55th, 18:06.28).
Boys soccer team falls in tourney
The boys soccer team lost to 16th-seeded and host Pickerington North 2-0 in the second round of the Division I district tournament Oct. 19 to finish 8-7-2 overall.
The 25th-seeded Warriors had a first-round bye.
"It was a solid season, but I thought we had a chance to break out and win a tournament game or two," coach Scott Spangler said. "We played a sloppy game against North and it was still 0-0 at halftime. They got the first goal 10 minutes into the second half and then we were pushing up looking to tie and made a mistake, leaving us exposed and they made it 2-0."
Watkins Memorial won the LCL championship, finishing 6-0-1 in league play. Granville (6-1) was second, followed by Johnstown (3-1-3), Heath (4-3), Northridge (3-4), Lakewood (2-4-1), Licking Valley (1-5-1) and Licking Heights (0-7).
"We made the most of our opportunities in the LCL to win the title, but we struggled with a tougher non-league schedule and then it's tough to go from playing some Division II and III schools to playing bigger, more established programs in the Central District," Spangler said.
"But our 12 seniors helped us change the direction of the program and win a league championship."
Among the seniors were five starters in Cole Bartimus (forward), Zak Blumer (defender/midfielder), Jerrod Lyon (defender), Patrick Murphy (forward) and Blake Park (midfielder).
Blumer, Lyon and Murphy were named first-team all-LCL.
"We're losing a lot of talent at forward and on defense," Spangler said.
"You don't normally see a senior class with 12 players because they all don't make it through all four years. But we (will be) returning six or seven guys who were either starters or part-time starters. Plus, we've got 12 freshmen who played on our j.v. team that won nine games."
Expected to return are juniors Chance Abbitt (forward), Hunter Bock (goalkeeper) and Alec Mathew (goalie), sophomores Nick Spangler (defender) and Michael Theibert (midfielder) and freshmen Sam Blum (midfielder) and Patrick Holmes (midfielder).
Spangler and Theibert were second-team all-league and Abbitt was honorable mention all-league.
Volleyball team made progress
The girls volleyball team doubled its win total from 2012 under the direction of first-year coach Amber Harris.
Watkins Memorial finished 6-16 overall after losing to fifth-seeded and host Worthington Kilbourne 25-21, 25-11, 25-13 in the second round of the Division I district tournament Oct. 16.
The Warriors, who had a first-round bye in the tournament, went 3-19 last year.
Watkins Memorial is losing six seniors in Sydney Brock (outside hitter), Mallory Bugala (defensive specialist), Bri Morris (outside hitter), Carley Schmidt (defensive specialist), Mackenzie Springer (opposite hitter) and Amanda Toth (libero).
The Warriors finished 5-13 in the LCL to tie Licking Heights for seventh, behind Licking Valley (16-2), Newark Catholic (15-3), Granville (14-4), Heath and Lakewood (both 12-6) and Utica (8-10) and ahead of Northridge (3-15) and Johnstown (0-18).
Expected to return are juniors Morgan Fitch (opposite hitter), Jamie Hammond (defensive specialist), Kendra Lancia (defensive specialist) and Shelby Seas (outside hitter) and sophomores Liz Fafiade (middle hitter) and Hannah Holton (middle hitter).
Fafiade was honorable mention all-league.