If nothing else, this year's Westerville North High School football team will be remembered as the one that ended what the Warriors came to call "the streak."
Having inherited a 45-game losing streak that dated to 2008, North began the season 2-0. A six-game losing streak followed, but the Warriors - who finished 3-7 overall and 1-6 in the OCC-Cardinal Division - entered the offseason optimistic that their worst days are in the past.
"Definitely that first win was the highlight, finally ending the streak," junior running back/linebacker Jake Hinz said. "It was a different atmosphere around here before the season, and that attitude paid off on the field. You got the feeling things were finally going to change."
North defeated visiting Franklin Heights 48-21 in its opener Aug. 30 then won at Newark 42-35 on Sept. 6. The Warriors' other win came at Canal Winchester, 30-28 on Oct. 25.
"Now we have to take this offseason and build on it," coach Rodger Elander said. "The guys had expectations and they fulfilled some of them. Most of them played a lot (in 2012) and learned exactly what it takes to win games at the varsity level. This year, they learned even more."
Hinz and senior running back/linebacker Andy Struttmann paced the Warriors on both sides of the ball. Hinz rushed for a team-high 642 yards and six touchdowns on 99 carries and had team highs of 112 tackles and eight sacks.
Struttmann had 606 yards rushing and seven touchdowns on 88 carries to go with 101 tackles and three sacks. Senior running back John Taylor added 532 yards and seven touchdowns on 122 carries, as the Warriors rushed for 2,195 yards and passed for 418.
Junior quarterback Jake Downs was 30-for-88 passing for 367 yards with two touchdowns and seven interceptions. He also rushed for 166 yards and three touchdowns on 61 carries.
"He'll just keep getting better," Elander said of Downs, who has played since his freshman year. "There's no doubt we have to improve throwing the ball. That'll just make us more effective and harder to defend, and I think Jake will get more comfortable the more he works on his passing."
Struttmann was named first-team all-league. Hinz and sophomore Andrew Malick (TE/LB/P) were on the second team, Taylor was special mention all-league and junior two-way lineman Gage Archer was honorable mention.
Malick had 103 tackles and three sacks in addition to averaging 36.5 yards per punt.
North was seventh in the OCC-Cardinal, behind Westerville Central (7-0), Hilliard Darby (6-1), Hilliard Bradley (5-2), Dublin Scioto (4-3), Westerville South (3-4) and Dublin Jerome (2-5) and ahead of Canal Winchester (0-7).
In league play, the Warriors lost 37-6 to Darby on Sept. 20, 41-19 to Scioto on Sept. 27, 21-0 to Jerome on Oct. 4, 56-7 to Central on Oct. 11, 21-20 to Bradley on Oct. 18 and 48-19 to South on Nov. 1.
North's other loss was at Rey-noldsburg, 34-14 on Sept. 13.
The Warriors originally were scheduled to begin the 2014 season at Franklin Heights, but Elander said North currently is seeking an opening-night opponent. Then the Warriors play three consecutive home games, finishing the non-league schedule against Newark and Groveport before their league opener against Darby.
"We're proud of what we did this year, but I'm the type of person who always thinks I can do more and the team can do more," Hinz said. "When we might not have bounced back from a loss (in previous seasons), we did this year and stuck it out. We came out on top a few times. All we can do is keep working harder and win more games next year."