The Thomas Worthington High School football team hasn't been in many tight contests this season.
The Cardinals are 3-3 overall with their victories coming by 23, 26 and 44 points and their losses by 12, 37 and 38 points.
Thomas is coming off its closest game, a 28-16 loss to Dublin Coffman on Oct. 4 that dropped it to 1-2 in the OCC-Central Division. The Cardinals led 16-14 at halftime, but penalties and "lack of execution" helped the Shamrocks scored 14 points in the third quarter to rally for the win.
The Cardinals dropped six passes against Kilbourne and, on many of those plays, there was the potential for a big gains.
"It's been frustrating for our receivers and quarterbacks all season," coach Scott Gordon said. "The receivers are getting open and they've proven they can catch passes in practice, but often that's not carrying over into the games. I don't know if they have a mental block after the first time they dropped a pass or what. We know they're trying their best.
"It's frustrating for (quarterback Danny Gordon), too, because he's doing the best he can do and, when he puts his team in a position to succeed, that's all he can do. It has really hurt our offense and that game is such that when (the opponent) forces a three-and-out, it affects the defense as well."
If the Cardinals' defense wears down, opponents can strike for big plays.
On Thomas' first possession of the second half, the snap sailed over the head of punter Ben Frazier and into the end zone. Frazier chased down the ball and managed to get the punt away, but Coffman took over at the Cardinals' 36-yard line and scored six plays later to take a 21-16 lead.
"Those are the miscues we've struggled with," coach Gordon said. "A penalty in our own end, our inability to move the ball out and earn field position and another mistake on the special teams. We're inviting teams to capitalize on our lack of execution."
Trailing 28-16 in the third quarter, the Cardinals went on an 18-play drive that consumed 8 minutes, 43 seconds. They had first-and-goal from the 3 but were unable to score on the first three downs and were flagged for illegal motion on fourth down. The penalty moved the ball back to the 6 and, after finding no receivers open, Gordon tried to run for the score but was tackled at the 3 with 6:39 left.
Thomas' offense had only one play that went for more than 20 yards. Coffman had a 47-yard touchdown pass, an 80-yard touchdown run and a 34-yard run.
"Our long drive (in the second half) was great and those (drives) are what you hope to have against teams with explosive offenses, but we'd like to have some big-play potential as well," coach Gordon said. "If we can make a few big plays in the passing game, it opens up more running lanes for (running back) Tony Harvard.
"Defensively, I thought Richard Spernoga played well at end and Esai Slaughter played strong at tackle. (Spernoga and Slaughter) also did well on the offensive line, along with (center) James Peters and our young guys (sophomore guard Liam Buchy and freshman tackle Travis Sanders)."
Thomas plays host to Marysville on Friday, Oct. 11, in an OCC-Central game. The Monarchs are 5-1 overall and 2-1 in the league, with their only loss coming against Coffman (31-28 on Sept. 27).
"Marysville is playing with a lot of confidence that they gained with a fast start and they've been rolling since," coach Gordon said. "Their kids believe in their system and are making plays. Their quarterback (Matt Mulholland) threw 66 passes against Coffman. They have reliable, athletic receivers, but they aren't blazing fast."
Wolves getting set to face Falcons
Kilbourne will be looking for its sixth consecutive victory when it travels to Franklin Heights on Friday, Oct. 11, for an OCC-Capital game.
The contest appears to be a mismatch, as the Wolves are 5-1 overall and 3-0 in the league and the Falcons are 1-5 and 0-3.
Franklin Heights, whose lone win came against Columbus West (53-26 on Sept. 13), is allowing an average of 41.7 points. Kilbourne, which defeated Big Walnut 31-0 on Oct. 4, is averaging 34.5 points and has allowed a total of 73 points.
"We're playing well right now and our confidence continues to grow," coach Vince Trombetti said. "We've gotten over the hump from last season when we lost five games by a touchdown or less. When you see success and believe in what you're doing, it shows."
Against Big Walnut, quarterback Griffin Dahn completed seven of 12 passes for 122 yards with one touchdown and one interception and ran for 25 yards and a score on 12 carries.
Running back Justin Stoner rushed for 11 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries.
Kilbourne, which is in pursuit of its first playoff berth since 2008, was second in the Division II, Region 5 computer ratings through five games but was projected to drop into a fourth-place tie with Dublin Scioto this week despite its win over Big Walnut. The top eight teams in the region qualify for the postseason.
Trombetti doesn't want his players focusing on the computer ratings, however.
"The kids and everyone here is familiar with the computer ratings so we know where we stand, but we have to remind everyone that you can't look down the road and hit a bump at your feet this week," he said. "We still have to play (the final four games) one game at a time.
"There are plenty of points there for us with New Albany and Olentangy (remaining on the schedule), but we can only get them if we continue to play well every single week and get better every single day."
The Wolves play host to Olentangy on Oct. 18 and travel to New Albany on Oct. 25. The Braves and Eagles both are 6-0.