Although it was a disappointing end to the season for the Marysville High School football team, coach Morgan Cotter was quick to stress the positives.
The Monarchs qualified for the playoffs for the first time since 2008, losing at fourth-seeded Austintown Fitch 31-21 in a Division I, Region 1 first-round game Nov. 9.
The 13th-seeded Monarchs finished 7-4 overall.
"It was a great turnaround season," said Cotter, who was named district Coach of the Year a year after Marysville went 3-7 in his first season. "It was good to make that big swing. You're frustrated losing your last game, but only (the seven state champions) really get to win their last one. It's a good turnaround."
Marysville tied Olentangy Liberty and Upper Arlington for third in the OCC-Central Division at 4-3, behind Hilliard Davidson (7-0) and Dublin Coffman (6-1) and ahead of
Thomas Worthington (2-5), Central Crossing (1-6) and Westland (0-7).
Davidson and Coffman qualified for the postseason in Division I, Region 2.
After winning their first four games, the Monarchs lost at Coffman 31-28 on Sept. 27. They won their next two, but their league title hopes took another hit with a 26-14 loss at UA on Oct. 18.
Davidson secured the outright league title with a 42-7 win over the Monarchs in the regular-season finale Nov. 1.
Against Fitch, Marysville trailed 17-6 at halftime and fell behind 31-6 in the third quarter.
Senior quarterback Matt Mulholland scored on a 15-yard run in the third and threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Noah Arbogast in the fourth. Mulholland completed 17 of 32 passes for 132 yards with an interception and rushed for 46 yards on 16 carries.
Fitch rushed for 284 yards and held Marysville to 80 yards on the ground. Quarterback Antwan Harris led the Falcons by rushing for 188 yards on 22 carries.
For the season, Mulholland completed 220 of 364 passes for 2,415 yards with 17 touchdowns and 15 interceptions and rushed for 398 yards and five touchdowns on 90 carries. He was named first-team all-league and special mention all-district.
"It was all about the fun," Mulholland said of the season. "Now that the season is finally over, I can look back at the season, reflect and enjoy it. During the season, it was more like going onto the next week, so we really couldn't look at the bigger picture."
Senior wide receiver Logan Roston, who had 55 receptions for 791 yards and seven touchdowns, was first-team all-district and second-team all-league.
Senior offensive lineman Stephen Pittroff was first-team all-league and second-team all-district.
Senior Austin Pfarr, an inside linebacker and fullback, was named first-team all-district and all-league. He led the team in tackles (137) and tackles for loss (12) and had three sacks.
Senior defensive back Alec Draughon was first-team all-district and all-league, while senior defensive lineman Darius Walker was second-team all-district and all-league.
Senior Billy Kidd was honorable mention all-district at defensive back and second-team all-league.
Senior Nick Mazza was second-team all-league as a kicker, special mention all-district as a wide receiver and honorable mention all-league as a wide receiver and defensive back. He had 55 catches for 523 yards and five touchdowns.
Senior center Ryan Evans was second-team all-league and honorable mention all-district.
Junior running back Aron Mowery was special mention all-district after rushing for 740 yards and eight touchdowns on 162 carries.
Senior Kenny Kinder was second-team all-district at defensive back and special mention all-league.
Cotter credited his district coaching honor to his players and assistants.
"It is pretty exciting for the program," he said. "It brings positive attention to Marysville and the football team. There are so many great coaches in the Central District. It is an honor to be mentioned in the same context as them.
"The award is a reflection of the hard work the kids put in, but this award should be renamed 'coaching staff of the year.' The guys on my staff have done a great job of getting our kids ready each week."
Marysville loses 21 seniors.
"It was a great group to work with," Cotter said. "They were very committed to what we wanted to do. They were like our bell cows. If we needed something, they went and made sure we had the things we needed. If there were any problems, they came to (the coaches). If I had any problems, I normally went to them. It was a good working relationship and they're a fun group to be around."
Other key returning players should include juniors Kyler Cline (WR/DL), Austin Costlow (RB/LB), Blake Curry (OL/DL), Desmond Johnson (QB/DB), Seth Kidd (RB/LB), Jesse Ramirez (WR/LB) and Keano Smith (QB/DL) and sophomores Hunter Harding (OL/DL) and Ty Stiers (RB/DB).