Westerville North High School football coach Scott Wetzel’s preparation for a Friday, Sept. 22, game at New Albany seemed familiar in many respects, and not just because Wetzel has coached against the Eagles regularly dating to his days at Big Walnut.
The Warriors are 2-2, one game off last year’s pace, but the Eagles come in at 1-3, just as they did a year ago. New Albany won that game 40-14 to kickstart an eight-game winning streak that came to an end against Massillon Perry in the Division II, Region 7 final.
“Throw their record out the window,” Wetzel said. “This is still a measuring-stick game for us. New Albany’s schedule is brutal and they’re better than their record shows. They’re still one of the best teams in central Ohio. The personnel is different, of course, but watching film of them from 10 years ago and watching them today, there’s not much of a difference.”
North hopes a win this week will point to better things the rest of the season. The Warriors’ loss last year was the first of six in a row to end the year.
Although North’s 47-21 win over Canal Winchester on Sept. 15 was its highest-scoring game since a 48-21 win over Franklin Heights to begin the 2013 season – a game that also ended the program’s 45-game losing streak – defense helped steal the show.
Alek Downs and Robert Robinson had interception returns for touchdowns, and the Warriors outgained the Indians 340-180 in total yards. Downs’ 25-yard interception return came late in the second quarter to give North a 21-6 lead, and after the Indians got within 21-14 early in the third, Robinson turned momentum back in North’s favor with his 70-yard interception return.
Bodi Bien rushed for 96 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries, and quarterback Reno Godfrey completed nine of 24 passes for 162 yards and a touchdown.
“(The OCC) is good and you’re going to give up points facing these programs,” Wetzel said. “The biggest thing for us is we’ve been better tacklers. It’s a work in progress, but we’ve responded in some tough spots and made big plays. That’s the kind of progress we really want to see.”
Shorthanded New Albany lost its second consecutive game Sept. 15, falling to Gahanna 40-20.
Michiah Burton rushed for 72 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries and caught a pass for 49 yards, Ty Ward had a 1-yard touchdown run in the third quarter and Luke Dovell added a 9-yard scoring run in the fourth.
Quarterback Jalin Jackson completed three of seven passes for 51 yards.
Top defensive players for New Albany include Will King on the line, Ben Simmons and Ward at linebacker and Jackson and Jemetrius Yarbrough in the secondary.
“They have lots of speed; they’re faster than what they’ve been,” Wetzel said. “(The defense is) going to come right off the ball and make things pretty difficult for you. They’re very sound at what they do. They always have been.”