For the Olentangy Liberty High School football team, the expectation of winning was indoctrinated during a six-year stretch of playoff appearances under coach Steve Hale.
This season marked the first time the Patriots finished without a winning record since their inaugural team went 1-9 in 2003.
At 5-5 overall, Liberty did not participate in the postseason for the fourth consecutive year after reaching the playoffs from 2004-09.
"The whole month of October was a struggle for us," senior wide receiver and defensive back Dan Rhinehart said. "There were big games that we needed to have and we just didn't come out and play. It's weird to be a team (at Liberty) and not have a winning record."
Liberty went 1-3 in October, losing road games against Marysville (31-21 on Oct. 4), Hilliard Davidson (28-7 on Oct. 18) and Dublin Coffman (24-12 on Oct. 25). The Patriots defeated visiting Westland 66-0 on Oct. 11.
In the OCC-Central Division, Liberty went 4-3 to tie Marys-ville and Upper Arlington for third behind Davidson (7-0) and Coffman (6-1), both of which made the Division I, Region 2 playoffs, while Marysville qualified in Division I, Region 1. Thomas Worthington (2-5), Central Crossing (1-6) and Westland (0-7) rounded out the league standings.
Liberty closed the season with a 41-10 win over visiting Thomas on Nov. 1 and finished 20th in the Region 1 computer ratings. The top 16 teams qualified for the postseason.
The Patriots lost at Olentangy 26-23 in double overtime Sept. 6 and beat visiting Olentangy Orange 25-7 in their opener Aug. 30.
"I think we played hard all year," Hale said. "We were young in spots. The kids gave us a chance to win each week."
The Patriots relied on a strong running game that averaged 204.3 yards per contest. Senior Daryian Davies, a first-team all-league selection, finished with 1,096 yards and 14 touchdowns on 208 carries and junior Nick Durtschi (second-team all-league) added 493 yards and six touchdowns on 74 carries.
An experienced line led by seniors Luke Callahan (second-team all-league), Marshal Davis (first-team all-league), Eric Lorenzen (first-team all-league) and David Trzcinski and junior Hunter Littlejohn (second-team all-league) also was an asset for a team that averaged 27.4 points.
At quarterback, senior Matt Kessler (honorable mention all-league) completed 135 of 242 passes for 1,748 yards with 13 touchdowns and eight interceptions as a first-year starter.
Durtschi was the top receiver (25 catches, 439 yards, 4 touchdowns), followed by junior Jacob Wiseman (31 catches, 360 yards, 5 scores) and seniors Skylar Taphorn (22 catches, 299 yards, 2 scores) and Rhinehart (15 catches, 242 yards, 1 touchdown).
Rhinehart, who also had a team-best six interceptions as a defensive back, was special mention all-league.
Defensive starters expected to return include junior linebackers Shelton Eggleston, Scott Goodwill (first-team all-league), Jackson Drunkenbroad and Jacob Worrell (second-team all-league), junior linemen Littlejohn and Jake Hale and sophomore safety Brendon White.
The defense allowed 17.2 points per game.
"I think the future is bright for us with a lot of starters returning," Hale said.