Last season, the Marysville High School football team laid the foundation for its first playoff appearance in seven years with a 3-0 record in non-conference play.

Last season, the Marysville High School football team laid the foundation for its first playoff appearance in seven years with a 3-0 record in non-conference play.

It turned out to be the Monarchs' longest winning streak of the season.

"We strung three together, we couldn't string four," coach Jeff Gafford said. "We went three wins, then lost two. Won two, then lost one. Then we won two more and lost our playoff game. Part of that was we started four sophomores that season. We started five (in 2007)."

Gafford expected to start only two sophomores last Friday against Marion Harding. More upperclassmen among the starting 22 has Gafford confident of more consistency.

"Since we're not starting as many young players, hopefully we won't be in positions where we had to dig ourselves out of holes a couple times," he said. "We allowed huge plays. There was a turnover or we gave up a big play on defense and we couldn't get an opponents' momentum stopped.

"This year we can't let that affect us. If you're going to win four or five in a row, you have to have that ability."

Marysville's non-conference schedule features the same three teams. After the Monarchs home opener against Harding, they travel to Groveport on Friday before playing host to Bellefontaine on Sept. 11.

Last season against Groveport, Marysville dug itself into one of those holes. The Monarchs trailed 14-7 late into the first half before rallying to win 25-20. Groveport's LeVeon Bell's rushed for 101 yards in the first half, but only 38 in the second.

Bell, a 6-foot-2, 200-pound running back, leads the Cruisers offense. Groveport, which finished 4-6 overall and 3-4 in the OCC-Ohio last season, turned the reigns over to freshman quarterback Shane Denney in week eight and he responded with two wins in the Cruisers' last three games. Denney (6-5, 200) turned the ball over just once in those three starts.

Marysville's offense behind three-year starter Luke Fleming will be tested against Groveport's base 3-5 defense.

"We simplified things and they understand it now that they've been playing it a little bit longer," Groveport coach Tim Brown said. "We're going to read a little bit. We're going to cut down on the amount of things we do an try to get better quality on the things we do."

•The boys and girls cross country teams reached the Division I regional meet last season and coach Tom Borawski hopes to make a return trip.

Sophomore Brooke Brown returns and leads the girls team. Last season, she finished 32nd in 20 minutes, 18.27 seconds at the regional meet.

In addition, Brown was sixth (19:37) at the district meet as the girls finished sixth (142) behind champion Hilliard Davidson (39) in district 2. The top four teams and 16 individuals advanced. At the OCC-Cardinal meet, Brown finished third (19:14.91) as the girls finished eighth (160) behind champion Dublin Scioto (44).

"From what I understand Brooke had a really good summer," Borawski said. "She ran with Brendan White who just graduated and they put in good mileage. She is going to have a good base."

Senior Elaine Dietsch joined Brown at the regional meet. She finished 82nd in 21:27.31 and was 13th (20:04) at the district meet.

And junior Kailynne Tangeman is back for her third season. According to Borawski, she was hampered last season with hip problems.

"We're pretty strong with our top three," said Borawski, whose team graduated two runners. "There's question marks after that. If we can pull some other runners up there, that will determine if we're a good team or not."

Also expected to contribute are junior Mariah McConaha, sophomores Mallory McConaha, Emily Mueting, Holly Nowlin and Samantha Patrick and freshman Emily Fitzgerald.

On the boys side, depth is a strength despite the graduation of top runners Ben Karn and White.

"We have a chance for five or six guys to break 18 minutes," Borawski said. "Some have already done it."

Senior Jim Stammen and junior John Applegate are the two runners already below 18 minutes and lead the battle to make the top seven along with senior Brandon Lewis and Pat Sampsel, juniors Nathan Dickson, Logan Plumb, Joe Stammen and Logan Whitley, sophomore Michael Reed and freshmen Aaron Cingle and Nathan Wasik.

"We're not going to have someone like Ben finishing in the top 10," Borawski. "So I'm pushing them to run in a pack. Although we don't have that 16-minute kid, if we can get as many 17-minute kids in there, we're going to make a run at getting to regionals as a team."

Karn reached the regional meet last season where he finished 68th in 17:27. At the district meet, the boys finished eighth (204) behind champion Hilliard Davidson (31) in district 3 as Karn was 11th (16:26). In the OCC-Cardinal, the boys tied Olentangy for sixth (159) behind champion Jerome (42).

•The girls tennis team won its first two matches of the season against Bellefontaine (4-1 on Aug. 17) and Grandview (3-2 on Aug. 18). It was a much needed confidence boost for the Monarchs.

Last season, they finished 4-12 overall and 0-7 with five points in the OCC-Cardinal behind champion Dublin Jerome (7-0, 76 points).

"We haven't won our opener in quite a while," said coach Stephanie Schupp, whose in her 14th season. "Winning the first two matches had the girls pretty pumped."

Marysville followed with losses in its first two OCC-Cardinal matches to Olentangy Liberty (5-0 on Aug. 20) and Olentangy (4-1 last Tuesday).

"We're going to need the confidence we got from those first two wins," Schupp said. "The OCC is tough. If we can finish in the middle of the pack, we consider that a huge accomplishment."

Early in the season, Schupp has the singles courts set with senior Sarah VanVoorhis at first singles, senior Ashley McDonald at second singles and junior Hannah Stubbs at third singles.

"We're still working out doubles," Schupp said. "We got a lot of girls who really put in a lot of hours in the summer and made improvements. Now, they're giving other girls a run for the money. We have a lot more players in the mix."

As for VanVoorhis and McDonald, they have advanced their tennis skills to the next level according to Schupp. As a result, the Monarchs coach is working on more in-match strategy with the duo.

"For a while, keeping the ball in play was the goal," she said. "Now we're working on taking control of the points and work toward being on the offensive."

For now, the confidence from the two early wins remains strong.

"We feel we can do it the rest of the year and continue this winning," VanVoorhis said. "I know I'm more confident about what I'm doing."