Roughriders (4-1 overall, 1-0 MSL-Ohio) Lions (5-0 overall, 2-0 in MSL-Ohio)
The Bexley High School football team achieved a feat three decades in the making, but not without drama.
The Lions needed two overtimes and a defensive stand to defeat host Whitehall 35-34 on Sept. 27 and secure their first 5-0 start since 1982.
That year, Bexley won its first eight games.
As the Lions prepare for perhaps their toughest test so far this season, Friday, Oct. 4, against visiting West Jefferson, their confidence is growing.
"For us it means that we are becoming a better football program and we are doing things that we haven't done for the past 31 years," junior quarterback Andre Stewart said. "To tell you the truth, I thought we could be 5-0.
"You just have to work hard every day in practice, work hard in the summer, and all of it has paid off and we have come together as a team."
Stewart, who ran for 169 yards on 24 carries and also threw for a touchdown against Whitehall, fumbled a shotgun snap and turned the ball over in the first overtime, only to score on a 20-yard run in the second overtime. That scoring run, followed by Adam Hirsch's extra point, set the stage for the Rams' Shaquille Alexander, who answered with an 11-yard scoring run for his fifth touchdown of the game.
Instead of going for the potential game-tying extra point, Whitehall opted to give the ball to Alexander for a potential game-winning two-point conversion run up the middle. Linebacker Zach Ward met Alexander and made what coach John Smith said was a "tremendous stop at the goal line."
Bexley also improved to 2-0 in the MSL-Ohio Division and ended its three-game losing streak to Whitehall, which dropped to 2-3 overall and 0-1 in the league.
Lions running back Rasheed Morgan had a pair of rushing touchdowns and an 87-yard kickoff return for a score.
"We thought it was disrespectful that they were going to go for two on us," Stewart said. "I understand their running back ran all over us and if I was their coach I probably would have done the same thing.
"We were in the mindset to stop them at all costs and we did that."
Smith was pleased with the Lions' effort -- and the outcome.
"It was great for the kids and good for the program in general, and it was good to get the monkey off of our back in regards to Whitehall," Smith said. "It feels good. It is the first time I have ever been 5-0 at this point in the season.
"For the kids it just validates the work we did in the offseason and continues to foster a belief in our kids."
The Lions have moved closer to two of their goals, which Stewart said are a league title and being in contention for the Division IV, Region 13 playoffs in weeks eight, nine and 10.
"Some people in our school still think that we're overrated and that we haven't played anybody even though that is not true at all," Stewart said. "I use it as motivation to prove them wrong and to become a great football team.
"We're making history and it feels great to be 5-0."
Smith realizes half of the regular season remains and that West Jefferson, which is 4-1 overall and 1-0 in the league, will be a difficult opponent for the Lions.
"Things have gone our way up to this point that has allowed us to get to this point, and we have continued to improve through the first five games," he said. "We have five more difficult games left on our schedule.
"I am sure (the players) are thinking and talking about the playoffs, but I don't think they are going to lose sight of what is ahead of us with West Jeff."
Stewart said the players are focused.
"We're going to have to play strong, smart football and keep doing what we have been doing for the past five weeks," he said.