The Worthington Kilbourne High School football team was closer to returning to its winning ways than it may have appeared this season.
Despite finishing 3-7 overall as it did a year ago, the Wolves were competitive. For evidence, Kilbourne can point to the fact it outscored its opponents by a combined 205-196.
The Wolves lost three games by a field goal or less and a fourth by a touchdown.
"It seemed like every game ended the same way," said Vince Trombetti, who completed his seventh season as coach. "It was like a broken record talking about the same thing every week. We played well, but we needed to find ways to pull those close ones out."
The losing record was the third in a row for Kilbourne, which competed in Division II, Region 7 and played all Division I opponents.
The Wolves lost to all four teams on their schedule that qualified for the postseason, and all competed in Division I, Region 3. They fell to Olentangy 17-14 in a non-league game Aug. 24 and lost OCC-Cardinal Division games to Westerville South 28-7 on Sept. 14, Hilliard Darby 34-27 on Sept. 28 and Dublin Scioto 24-7 on Oct. 26.
"That part of it is frustrating, too," Trombetti said. "We were a much better team and were so much more competitive than last season, (but) it just wasn't reflected in our record. Still, the best part was that the seniors never stopped playing or practicing hard and everyone followed that leadership."
In addition to the playoff teams, the Wolves also lost to Olentangy Orange (21-19 on Sept. 7), Westerville Central (29-17 on Sept. 22) and Dublin Jerome (20-17 in overtime Oct. 12).
Kilbourne's wins were over Thomas Worthington (37-3 on Aug. 31), Hilliard Bradley (34-14 on Oct. 5) and Westerville North (26-6 on Oct. 19).
Kilbourne finished sixth (2-5) in the league behind Darby (7-0), Scioto (6-1) South (5-2), Central (4-3) and Jerome (3-4) and ahead of Bradley (1-6) and North (0-7).
The Wolves lose 21 seniors. Chief among them are Izzy Benzegala (DE), Isaac Lumpkin (RB), Ryan Maloney (LB), Brian Sommers (LB), Eric Wahoff (FS), Jon Watson (WR/K) and Matt Wylly (RB/SS).
Lumpkin led the team in rushing with 888 yards on 173 carries and scoring with 12 touchdowns. He also had five receptions for 57 yards and was second-team all-district and all-league.
Watson had three catches for 109 yards and a touchdown and made nine field goals and 22 extra points to total 55 points, which was second on the team.
Wylly ran for 181 yards and two touchdowns and had 65 tackles (27 solo) with three interceptions and six pass break-ups.
Wahoff had 71 tackles (23 solo), forced two fumbles and had two tackles for losses.
Maloney had 65 tackles (24 solo, 4.5 for losses) and two fumble recoveries. Sommers had 40 tackles and Benzegala had 33 tackles with three sacks.
"The seniors were an unusually good group in terms of their behavior, attitude and work ethic," Trombetti said. "It was tremendous and we'll miss them. The difference between this season and last season was the offseason work, led by them."
Among the expected key returnees are juniors Chandler Bridges (RB/CB), Gavin Elifritz (DT), D.J. Freer (DE), Josh Happ (LB), Seth Hill (SB/CB), Keaton Reinhart (QB), Justin Stoner (FB) and Taylor Wilson (LB/P).
Elifritz was first-team all-district and all-league. Wilson was selected the first-team punter (39.2-yard average) in the district and league, and he was second-team all-league and honorable mention all-district as a linebacker. Also earning league honors were Hill (second team) and Freer (honorable mention).
Happ (107 tackles, 2 fumble recoveries, 2 blocked punts), Wilson (87 tackles, 8 for losses, 3 sacks), Elifritz (63 tackles, 7.5 sacks), Freer (49 tackles, 2.5 sacks), Hill (47 tackles, 2 interceptions, 6 pass-breakups) and Bridges (33 tackles) played well on defense.
Reinhart was 42-for-103 passing for 670 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions.
Stoner had 36 rushes for 177 yards and caught 10 passes for 122 yards, and Bridges had 182 yards rushing on 35 attempts and 102 yards receiving on seven catches. Hill (16 rushes, 239 yards) scored four touchdowns.
"If we make as much progress between seasons as we did last year, we're going to win a lot of ballgames next season," Trombetti said. "We have a strong junior class and we had some sophomores play very well at the end of the season, like (running back) Joe Davis and (defensive back) Dominic Brown."