The Northland High School football team has been getting an early look at its 2015 class of players, and the results thus far have been positive.
Despite having a trio of sophomores among their players at skill positions, the Vikings improved to 4-3 overall and 3-1 in the City League-North Division with a 38-0 win over host Centennial on Oct. 5.
"The last two years we've graduated 40-some seniors, so it's been a little bit of a youth movement," coach Kevin Tooson said. "We're trying to make sure we're more productive on offense and putting up more points to help our defense out. We're using our players where they're the best at."
Sophomore Glenn Smith III has been at quarterback all season and had passed for about 400 yards through six games. Two of his classmates, running back Nateshawn Hargrove and wide receiver Sherman Watkins, also have been key contributors.
Other key receivers are juniors Jhustus Cornley and Brandon Williams and senior Robert Darnell.
Ben Bouffe, who recently was cleared to play after moving into Columbus City Schools from New York, is a 6-foot-4, 215-pound senior who is expected to contribute at tight end and on the defensive line.
Northland's final three regular-season games are Friday, Oct. 12, at home against Mifflin, Oct. 19 at Whetstone and Oct. 26 at home against Beechcroft.
The Vikings went 1-2 in the non-league portion of their schedule and also have beaten Linden-McKinley (27-6 on Sept. 14) and Columbus East (20-14 on Sept. 28) in City-North play. Northland, which lost to Brookhaven 33-13 in a league game Sept. 22, has won its last four meetings with East and has won seven consecutive games against Linden.
Against East, Smith passed for 59 yards and one touchdown and rushed for 100 yards and a score. Williams added 22 yards rushing and one touchdown, as the Vikings led 20-6 at halftime.
"In the third quarter, we kind of got out of sorts, but in the fourth quarter our defense made a couple big plays," Tooson said. "Jhustus Cornley and Brandon Williams both had interceptions to slow them down and we converted a key fourth down. East is a much-improved team."
'Cats boys soccer team bouncing back
The Brookhaven boys soccer team improved to 4-6-1 overall with a 7-2 win over Buckeye Valley on Oct. 4 and was 2-3-1 in the City League before facing Marion-Franklin on Oct. 9.
The Bearcats tied Northland at 1 on Oct. 2 and led Centennial 2-0 before giving up four goals in the final 20 minutes of a 4-2 loss Sept. 27.
After coach Paul Hackworth suffered a stroke in late August, Brookhaven was forced to postpone its first three games. The Bearcats went 2-1 in those games, losing to Walnut Ridge 4-0 on Sept. 6 before defeating Whitehall 5-0 on Sept. 12 and Mifflin 4-3 on Sept. 19.
Brookhaven, which played Independence on Oct. 10, plays host to Briggs on Thursday, Oct. 11, and travels Saturday, Oct. 13, to Newark.
"I think we've turned the corner," interim coach Allen Iacobucci said. "Numbers-wise, we're down to maybe about 16 players, but I think they played great against Northland and we only lost 4-2 to Centennial. You have guys who are used to running for 20 minutes and we had them going for 80 (against Centennial) and you could see they were tired. We played well against Beechcroft (in a 2-1 loss Sept. 25). We're a strong team, but we just don't have the experience to close teams out."
According to Iacobucci, seniors Emmanuel Achirem and JoJo Young, junior Mark Garin and sophomore Josiah Ingram have led a defense that has been the strength of the team.
Sophomore Daniel Adu scored Brookhaven's only goal against Northland and has led the offense, according to Iacobucci.
"Our defense has been keeping us in games," Iacobucci said. "I don't think our record shows how good of a team we have."
Cougars boys soccer team making strides
An improved defense is making a difference for the Beechcroft boys soccer team.
The Cougars defeated Centennial 2-1 on Oct. 2 and tied Walnut Ridge at 3 on Oct. 4 and were 7-2-3 overall and 6-2-3 in the City before closing their league schedule Oct. 9 against Northland. They play Thursday, Oct. 11, at Westerville South in their regular-season finale.
"We're improving a lot defensively," coach Matt Glorioso said. "We're getting to the point now where we can finish off games. Early in the season, we would be very weak in the last 10 minutes of a game. We beat Whitehall 4-3 (on Aug. 23) but with 10 minutes left it was 4-0. We're starting to limit our mistakes and we're improving on the defensive side of the ball."
Senior Kangni Gabianou began the season as a midfielder but has since joined a defensive unit that also features sophomore Ibrahim Sesay.
Junior Alpha Diallo has been the team's top scorer and, according to Glorioso, junior Amos Agyemon also has been a key contributor.
"If we won (our last two games), it would only give us a chance to make it to the City championship (game)," Glorioso said. "It's packed at the top this year. The top four or five teams will have to sort themselves out. It hurts us that we tied a couple times. Our expectations were a little more than what we've seen happen."