Westerville Central High School football coach John Magistro admits that it has been difficult to follow the Division I playoffs after his team fell short in its bid to make the postseason for a second consecutive season.
The Warhawks appeared to be primed to make the playoffs after winning six of their first seven games, but back-to-back losses to Westerville South (50-28 on Oct. 12) and Hilliard Darby (29-7 on Oct. 19) all but officially eliminated them from playoff contention.
Central closed the regular season with a 24-21 triple-overtime win over Dublin Jerome on Oct. 26 to finish 7-3 overall, but the Warhawks didn't get the help they needed to secure a postseason berth. They finished ninth in the Region 3 computer ratings, as the top eight teams qualified for the playoffs.
South secured the eighth seed in the region and lost to top-seeded Darby 31-10 in the first round Nov. 3.
"I'm spoiled," Magistro said. "I've been in the playoffs so often that when I didn't get in, it's like I can't go watch this stuff. You try to watch it, but your heart is just not into it because you're frustrated."
Magistro, who completed his fourth season leading the program, guided Central to its first playoff appearance last season after directing Bellaire to the playoffs nine times during his 23-year tenure with the Big Reds from 1984-2006. He also was an assistant coach at Olentangy in 2008 when the Braves made the playoffs.
Bellaire was Division IV state runner-up in 1995 and '96.
"Our goal was to get in the playoffs and we came up short of achieving our goal," Magistro said. "That's frustrating, but there are some things we accomplished. We played a lot of juniors."
Central, which lost to Gahanna 38-21 in the first round of the Region 3 playoffs last season, opened with a 24-0 win over Big Walnut on Aug. 24 and defeated New Albany (23-20 in overtime Aug. 31) and Thomas Worthington (41-0 on Sept. 7) before losing to Dublin Scioto 34-14 on Sept. 14 in its OCC-Cardinal Division opener.
The Warhawks bounced back to win their next three games, defeating Worthington Kilbourne (29-17 on Sept. 22), Hilliard Bradley (33-10 on Sept. 28) and Westerville North (35-14 on Oct. 5) before losing to South.
The win over Kilbourne was the 200th of Magistro's coaching career.
Central finished 4-3 in the OCC-Cardinal to place fourth, behind Darby (7-0), Scioto (6-1) and South (5-2) and ahead of Jerome (3-4), Kilbourne (2-5), Bradley (1-6) and North (0-7).
"The two games that we had a chance to win were the Scioto game, we had some plays there, and the South game," Magistro said. "The only game that we played real bad in this year was the Darby game. I don't know if the frustration from the South game carried over, but that was our worst game of the year."
Central loses 21 seniors, including Charlie Moushey (WR), Taribo Osubeni (OL/LB), Mohammed Sankoh (FB/LB) and John Whitman (OL/DL).
Moushey, who had 31 receptions for 565 yards and 13 touchdowns, and Whitman, who had 10.5 sacks, were named first-team all-league and special mention all-district. Sankoh and Osubeni were special mention and honorable mention all-league, respectively.
Among those expected to return are juniors Jordan Bratton (RB/LB), Jared Drake (QB/DB), Alex Fisher (RB), Adam Lowe (LB) and Nick Richardson (OL/DL).
Drake led Central's spread offense, which produced 3,385 total yards (2,034 rushing and 1,351 passing). The Warhawks averaged 26.1 points per game and allowed an average of 19.5.
Drake, who was first-team all-league and special mention all-district, completed 95 of 198 passes for 1,308 yards with 16 touchdowns and five interceptions and rushed for 951 yards and 12 touchdowns on 144 carries.
He had two interceptions on defense.
"Jared is a super kid," Magistro said. "The kid has what it takes to motivate. He motivates himself, he motivates our team."
Lowe, who led the team with 84 tackles, was second-team all-district and all-league and Richardson was second-team all-league and honorable mention all-district. Fisher, who rushed for 734 yards and four touchdowns, was second-team all-league.
"I'm definitely proud of the way we went out," Osubeni said. "Obviously, we had goals set out to win all the games we had and make it to the playoffs, but we didn't do that. I'm proud of my teammates for how we went out. We accomplished a lot of things, built a lot of brotherhood and leadership. I am looking forward to coming back and seeing what next year's class has done and how Central's program is building on for winning seasons."