Turnovers and missed chances have plagued the New Albany High School football team the past two weeks.
The Eagles still have a chance to share their fifth consecutive OCC-Capital Division title, but their chance to win it outright as well as enjoy the fourth undefeated regular season in program history ended with a 14-12 loss to visiting Worthington Kilbourne on Oct. 25.
New Albany, which was ranked first in Division II in last week's state poll, effectively was handcuffed by the Wolves, with the offense amassing only 168 total yards and producing one touchdown and two field goals.
"Football comes down to who's not going to make mistakes, and we made mistakes," coach Pat Samanich said. "Losses can be valuable because they're going to teach us. We have to make sure we learn and correct the mistakes. We have a chance to be in the postseason. We still have many goals to reach."
After overcoming three lost fumbles to defeat Big Walnut 13-10 on Oct. 18, New Albany lost a fumble and threw an interception against Kilbourne. The Wolves harassed senior quarterback Tanner Cline into a 1-for-13 passing night, with the only completion a 6-yard touchdown to senior receiver Ross Henze in the fourth quarter to make it 14-12. The ensuing two-point conversion try failed.
Now, New Albany must defeat host Mount Vernon on Friday, Nov. 1, in its regular-season finale and have Kilbourne lose to 1-8 Olentangy Orange the same night to share the league title. Mount Vernon lost to Olentangy 38-27 on Oct. 25 to fall to 6-3 overall and 4-2 in the OCC-Capital.
The Eagles hope they will have the services of senior receiver/defensive back Joe Siegenthaler, who left the Kilbourne game late in the first half with an apparent knee injury and did not return. Samanich said after the game that Siegenthaler hopefully would play at Mount Vernon.
"Joe is our go-to guy on offense. He's our center fielder on defense and our big-time special teams player. That's like (losing) three guys," Samanich said.
Mount Vernon couldn't sustain its strong start against Olentangy, after junior running back J.D. Orr scored two of his three touchdowns within the first 2 minutes, 30 seconds of the game. Those runs were of 70 and 95 yards, and Orr later added a 3-yard score.
Junior quarterback Ryan Fitzgerald, a former Newark Catholic player who transferred to Mount Vernon before this school year, leads the Yellow Jackets' offense. They already have clinched their first winning season since 2010 and second since 2003.
The Eagles were projected to be third in Region 5 in this week's computer rankings. The top four teams play host to first-round playoff games.
"We're not used to losing games around here," Samanich said. "That's a luxury, and that's a testament to these kids and coaches. But we have to make sure we learn from it or it's a wasted night."
Boys runners, Matt advance
The boys cross country team and senior Eliza Matt of the girls team will represent New Albany in the Division I state meet Saturday, Nov. 2, at National Trail Raceway.
Led by junior Zack Buck's 12th-place finish in 16:12.86, the boys were third (111) in the 16-team regional Oct. 26 at Pickerington North behind champion Dublin Jerome (66). Hilliard Davidson (100) and Olentangy Liberty (118) earned the other team berths as the top four teams and top 16 individuals advanced.
Buck was followed by classmates Dennis Maloney (14th, 16:15.94), Ben Iten (26th, 16:47.58), Alex Quillin (27th, 16:48.31) and Brian Krugh (41st, 17:04.5), senior Chris Ryan (67th, 17:26.16) and sophomore Eyob Alemayehu (80th, 17:37.92).
Matt was seventh (19:03.49) in the girls race, and New Albany finished seventh (214) behind champion Gahanna (90).
"We typically go out and manage our race," Matt said. "My first mile was actually faster than I was meaning it to be, but I saw the pack and felt comfortable. I just kept going and as we were starting the second mile, I picked it up a little bit so I was with the pack. I knew the wind (which gusted to more than 30 mph) was going to hit us and I wanted to be sheltered. Then I basically stayed with that pack until after the two-mile (mark), and once I got there I just started picking people off the best I could."
Matt was followed by sophomore Charlotte Matt (19th, 19:46.4), freshman Jessica Zaper (43rd, 20:25.05), seniors Lexi Simpson (86th, 21:22.2) and Catherine Ralston (87th, 21:26.04), sophomore Anna Weibel (110th, 22:32.17) and junior Becca Adams (118th, 22:57.06).
Upper Arlington (104), Davidson (118) and Thomas Worthington (143) earned the other girls team berths to state.
Eliza Matt said she hopes to break the program record of 18:47, set in 2010 by 2013 graduate Mirra Galbreath.
"Over the last couple weeks, she has beaten some girls who started the year beating her by over a minute," coach Herb Gregory said of Matt. "She has come a long, long way in a short period of time."
Boys soccer season ends in district final
An off-sides call negated the would-be game-tying goal in the final minute, and the fifth-seeded boys soccer team lost to fourth-seeded Hilliard Bradley 2-1 in a Division I district final Oct. 26 at Westerville South.
Bradley took a 1-0 lead 90 seconds into the game on a Brady Whittekind goal, and the Jaguars went ahead 2-0 when Robert Castillo scored with 28:27 to go. Eagles senior midfielder/defender Tristan Lyles pulled New Albany within 2-1 four minutes later and appeared to have scored the equalizer off a free kick with 52 seconds to play, but that was negated by the off-sides call.
Lyles put the ball in the net off a rebound from Bradley goalkeeper Jorge Morales.
"It was an improper offside," coach Ben Arthurs said. "The only way those guys could have been off was when the play happened and it was a scrum. It was not after the goalie lost it. And there was a missed penalty kick earlier in the game. They (officials) blew it and it stinks."
The Eagles finished 14-2-3 overall and 6-0-1 in the OCC-Capital, winning their first OCC title ahead of Kilbourne (5-0-2), Orange (5-1-1), Olentangy (4-3), Big Walnut (3-4), Delaware (2-5), Mount Vernon (1-6) and Franklin Heights (0-7). New Albany, which took a first-round bye in the district tournament, beat 42nd-seeded Licking Heights 8-0 in the second round Oct. 19 and sixth-seeded Davidson 2-1 in a semifinal Oct. 23.
Senior midfielder Loren Allbritton, senior goalkeeper Anthony Flowers and Lyles were first-team all-league. Senior forwards Garett Greco and Alex Zbinovec and senior midfielder Yuval Greenshtein were second-team all-league, senior midfielder Jorge Rosas was special mention and sophomore midfielder Jared Gerlacher was honorable mention.
New Albany outscored its opponents 43-9.
"We had a successful season, and there will be time to reflect," Arthurs said. "Right now, we feel awful."
Girls volleyball team falls in district semi
A record-setting season for the girls volleyball team ended Oct. 24 with a 25-22, 25-23, 25-19 loss to Grove City in a Division I district semifinal at Bloom-Carroll.
Senior middle blocker Kayla Morlan had 12 kills and junior outside hitter Lindsey Huber added nine for the 10th-seeded Eagles, who stayed close to the fourth-seeded Greyhounds throughout the first two games but fell behind 15-3 in the third.
"We had breakdowns passing tonight that would have helped us maybe attack a little bit more. (The Greyhounds) were more consistent and had fewer errors," said coach Karen Morlan, whose team won a program-record 18 matches. "Their outside (hitters) are tremendous, and a few times we had breakdowns in our serve-receives."
New Albany finished 18-7 overall and 10-4 in the OCC-Capital, two wins short of the program's first championship. The Eagles tied Big Walnut for third behind co-champ-ions Olentangy (12-2) and Kilbourne (12-2) and ahead of Mount Vernon (5-9), Orange (5-9), Delaware (2-12) and Franklin Heights (0-14).
New Albany swept its first two tournament matchups against 26th-seeded Westerville South (25-19, 25-23, 25-23 on Oct. 14) and 13th-seeded Big Walnut (25-15, 26-25, 25-12 on Oct. 16).
Kayla Morlan, an Asbury University recruit who had a team-high 262 kills, was first-team all-league and all-district. Senior libero Lauren Bressler was second-team all-league and all-district, senior setter Erica Wisniewski was special mention all-league and Huber (214 kills) was honorable mention.
Other key players included junior setter Katie Billman and sophomore outside hitter Maddy Largent, who had 188 kills and a team-high 34 aces.