Most of the players on the Thomas Worthington High School football team had yet to be born the last time the Cardinals started 2-0.

Thomas won its first two games in 1999 en route to finishing 7-3. The Cardinals haven’t had a winning season since.

On Friday, Sept. 8, they will be seeking to go 3-0 when they play host to winless Groveport.

“(The players have) never experienced anything like this before,” said first-year coach Matt Zingery, whose team beat Westerville North 45-21 on Sept. 1 after opening with a 27-20 overtime win over Canal Winchester on Aug. 25. “I know the kids and the faculty are excited about this. I’m hoping that we can continue to be successful so that the community begins to get excited and starts to believe in us, too.

“But the boys are doing everything we’ve asked them to do. They’ve bought in and they believe in themselves. I think they want to keep proving themselves in every game, and they can only do that by staying focused and working hard in every practice.”

Groveport lost its opener 27-0 to Westerville North and then gave up an interception deep in its own end that led to a touchdown in the closing seconds of a 21-14 loss to Hamilton Township on Aug. 31.

“(Groveport) always (has) a lot of good athletes,” Zingery said. “I know they’re a young team and we’re not in position to take anyone lightly. Those young teams get better every week and they could look totally different against us than they did against Westerville North. It depends on the how quickly they grow.”

The Cruisers had planned on all-state receiver Izayah Aeikins drawing extra defensive attention, allowing other members of their young receiving corps to come open for quarterback Jacob Huffman. However, Aekins was injured in the final scrimmage and Huffman was injured in the opener. Aekins is expected to miss this week’s game, but Huffman could return.

Thomas, which entered the season on a 17-game losing streak, was led by DiJahn Davis and Khalil Jones against North. Jones scored four touchdowns on runs of 10 and 6 yards and receptions of 42 and 4 yards from quarterback Charlie Rhoades, and Davis had touchdown runs of 88 and 1 yard.

“Khalil is amazing and should be an all-state receiver,” Zingery said. “He’s our go-to guy and can do so many things. DiJahn was injured and didn’t play in the opener and it was great to have him back. Charlie grew up in the passing game this week, but our balance was key. (North) had trouble stopping our run in the first half and loaded the box in the second half, so we adjusted and began making plays in our passing game.

“I think we were finally healthy and had all our offensive and defensive linemen settled in our rotations, but the biggest factor was our special teams. We had a short field the entire game and only ran about 40 offensive plays.”

Zingery lauded the play of linemen Matt McCallister, Adam Cooper, Josh Keese and Jacob Sunciere.

Wolves looking to
improve on offense

Kilbourne will have a tough task when it plays host to Holland Springfield on Friday, Sept. 8.

The Blue Devils, who compete in the Northern Lakes League, are 1-1 after beating Toledo Bowsher 48-7 on Sept. 1.

Springfield returned seven starters on offense and six on defense from last season, when it finished 10-1 after losing 48-41 in overtime to Westlake in the first round of the Division II, Region 6 playoffs.

“We knew when we scheduled them last year that they were a playoff team and a good, quality opponent for us,” said coach Vince Trombetti, whose team moved to 1-1 by beating Big Walnut 21-14 in overtime on Sept. 1. “They have a very good reputation and we’re looking forward to the challenge.”

The Blue Devils boast an all-state quarterback in A.J. Gucciardo, who passed for over 2,500 yards with 29 touchdowns last year. Receiver LaKeith Jackson had 47 receptions for 705 yards and six touchdowns last season, while two-way tackle Tyler Long (6-foot-4, 295 pounds) has committed to the University of Toledo.

Kilbourne allowed 381 total yards against Big Walnut, including 310 yards rushing. The Golden Eagles tied the game at 14 with 2 minutes, 45 seconds left on a 2-yard run by Abe Myers, who rushed for 203 yards on 21 carries, and then missed a field-goal attempt with 8 seconds remaining.

In overtime, the Wolves scored a 20-yard run by quarterback Parker Wereb on the first play and then stopped Big Walnut on downs.

“We kind of had a bit of the bend-but-don’t-break approach defensively,” Trombetti said. “We found a way to get it done. We had four takeaways. The problem is that we are so banged up at linebacker. We lost Spencer Burke with an ACL tear right before the season and we have lost a few others. It’s to the point where I’m looking in the stands for a linebacker. We moved Mitchell Rosenfeld from end and stood him up against Big Walnut, but I don’t think that’s a permanent solution.

“The injury bug has really hit us. We keep going with the next man up, but sooner or later …”

Kilbourne had 225 total yards against Big Walnut, with Elijah Young rushing for 136 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries and Michael McQuade adding 39 yards on 10 carries. Wereb threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Gavin Baker.

Defensively, Tyler Ward, Issac Morgan and Ryan Hester all had interceptions and Thomas Wilson forced and recovered a fumble.

bemerine@thisweeknews.com

@Brad_ThisWeek