Whitehall-Yearling High School football coach Jake Kuhner believes a win over perennial MSL-Ohio Division power Licking Valley could begin a turnaround for the Rams.
The teams meet Friday, Sept. 14, at Reynoldsburg.
"This is week four. This is when you have to make adjustments," Kuhner said. "This is how we have to make a run for the playoffs at the end of the year."
After defeating Central Crossing 40-7 in their opener Aug. 24, the Rams lost to Bloom-Carroll 21-3 on Aug. 31 and to Grandview 33-23 on Sept. 7.
After beginning the season with two losses, Licking Valley defeated Harvest Prep 34-14 on Sept. 7.
Licking Valley has dominated the series with Whitehall, having won the last 10 meetings by an average margin of nearly 39 points. The most competitive game in that span came in 2003, when the Panthers won 26-14.
Licking Valley will be joining the Licking County League in 2013.
"I believe the team has an opportunity," Kuhner said. "This is the last time we play them and Whitehall has never beaten them in its history, and I let (the players) know that. They have a chance to go out with a bang. We have the potential to win. We have the kids to win. We have the athletes to win."
Licking Valley has qualified for the playoffs 13 times under 31-year coach Randy Baughman.
The Panthers failed to reach the postseason last year and finished 7-3 overall. Licking Valley finished second (6-1) behind Granville (7-0) in the MSL-Ohio.
A key player for Licking Valley is senior running back Drew McArtor, who had touchdown runs of 2 and 8 yards and caught a 5-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Grant Garber against Harvest Prep.
"Licking Valley is a blue-collar football team," Kuhner said. "They're respectful. They're one of those teams that plays solid defense. They try to establish the running game and just march the ball right down your throat."
Against Grandview, the Rams fell behind 20-3 at halftime before staging a comeback.
B.J. Upchurch had an 84-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and caught a 55-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Cody Koons.
Dassan Jefferson closed the scoring for Whitehall with a 60-yard fumble return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. Shaquille Alexander recovered the fumble and then pitched the ball to Jefferson.
"They showed some heart coming back," Kuhner said. "We made too many mistakes early in the game."
Boys soccer team earns first win
The boys soccer team earned its first win under first-year coach Dan Ensign, defeating Marion-Franklin 7-0 on Sept. 4.
Jose Vargas had two goals.
"It's a big deal to boost our confidence," Ensign said. "It's important that the kids feel successful, to get some energy going, so they can work hard. It's nice to realize all the hard work that we've been putting in at practice has some value to it."
The Rams play host to Licking Valley in a league game Thursday, Sept. 13.
"The experience that kids play with each other is lacking," Ensign said. "It just needs more time. With a new coach, we have a new strategy. They're slowly catching on to it."
Tennis team hopes to increase workload
Before playing Granville on Sept. 11, the girls tennis team had played just three matches this season.
The Rams were 0-3 overall and 0-1 in the MSL-Cardinal/Ohio.
"We've had three matches rained out," coach Chris Kondracke said. "We're going to end up with about 14 matches. We were just late getting started because of band camp, a couple kids not getting physicals and a couple kids on vacation. We're awfully young also. We needed to have a lot of practices to get the girls ready for what was going to come to them."
Whitehall lost two close matches, falling 3-2 to Central Crossing on Sept. 5 and Fisher Catholic on Aug. 30.
Against Central Crossing, winners were Claudia Fuentes 6-0, 6-3 at second singles and Courtney Price and Samantha Gogle 7-6, 7-5 at first doubles.
"We're very close," Kondracke said. "My senior, Samantha Gogle, has been a leader every day at practice. She helps all the young freshmen and we're having a ball with them."
Kondracke said the Rams are expected to play the remainder of the season without senior first-singles player Tabitha Bauman, who had to leave the team because of personal commitments.
Last season, Bauman was honorable mention all-league.