Faced with potentially a larger role than he anticipated this season, Tyler Toledo of the Canal Winchester High School football team isn't concentrating on the big picture.
The 5-foot-9, 155-pound sophomore will be depended on to help anchor the Indians' running game at tailback now that expected lead back Jacob Robertson will be out for most, if not all, of the rest of the regular season because of a left ankle injury. That is in addition to Toledo's role as a speedy defensive back, which he flashed early and often in a 24-14 win over Westland on Sept. 21.
Later in the game, his running helped put the Indians ahead to stay, improving them to 3-2 entering their OCC-Capital Division opener Friday, Sept. 29, at home against New Albany.
Toledo does not prioritize his roles.
"I like running the ball; I get yards, I score and I help the team," he said. "On defense, I get stops and make big plays. It's the same thing. I like them both equally."
Toledo has rushed for 289 yards and five touchdowns on 57 carries and has made 14 tackles on defense.
He figures to split time in the backfield with Tanner Conley, a 5-foot-10, 176-pound senior who has rushed for 168 yards and a touchdown on 40 carries.
Toledo rushed for 84 yards on 25 carries against Westland, with all but 12 of those yards coming in the second half. After Canal Winchester took possession near midfield early in the fourth quarter on a fumble by Westland quarterback Tyquwone Workman, seven of its eight plays on the ensuing drive were Toledo runs, including a 6-yard touchdown that gave the Indians the lead for good with 8 minutes, 37 seconds left.
Conley added 98 yards on 19 carries.
"Tanner and I can make moves. We try to avoid the hit," said Toledo, who also had a 1-yard touchdown run in the first half. "Not having Jacob makes a big impact, but we came through. We can't get mad when somebody can't play."
Coach Josh Stratton is optimistic about his offense going forward, not only because of his tandem of running backs but also because of the play of sophomore quarterback Jack Beeler. Making his fourth start, Beeler completed 15 of 22 passes against Westland for 176 yards, a touchdown and an interception, and on the season is 56-for-95 passing for 655 yards, three touchdowns and four interceptions.
Injuries have forced changes along the offensive line, including the addition of linebacker Carter Ilich. Among others, left guard Dez Turkson and right guard John Johnson missed the Westland game.
"(Ilich) just started playing offensive line three weeks ago," Stratton said. "We held it together and were able to play tough in the fourth quarter. We try to be better in the fourth quarter than everybody we play. We basically had a few guys come off the bench and play lights-out."
Defending league champion New Albany is 2-3, coming off a 27-26 overtime win over Westerville North on Sept. 22. Quarterback Jalin Jackson completed five of 11 passes for 101 yards and the game-winning touchdown in overtime to Luke Muter as the Eagles broke a three-game losing streak.
Michiah Burton is New Albany's featured back, having rushed for 397 yards and three touchdowns on 90 carries.
Stratton hopes his emphasis on toughness will anchor the team throughout league play.
"We have more of a 'play the next play, don't worry about what just happened' mentality," Stratton said. "We don't want to dwell on things and let negative plays add up."
contending for title
The girls volleyball team entered the second half of OCC-Capital play Sept. 26 at Big Walnut in the thick of the league race, one match behind the league-leading Golden Eagles.
Canal Winchester's only loss in the first half of league play was to Big Walnut, 25-16, 25-20, 25-23 on Sept. 5. The Indians kept pace Sept. 19 with a 25-23, 25-23, 25-23 win over Newark to improve to 4-1 in the OCC-Capital, and added a 25-18, 25-21, 23-25, 25-15 win the next night at Teays Valley to improve to 11-6 overall.
The Golden Eagles were 5-0 in the league before Sept. 26.
"We are pleased, but it's still a one-match-at-a-time situation where there are a couple of teams in the league that could beat anyone on any given night," coach Dana Stearns said. "We just have to focus on the next opponent and not think further than that. We did put up a fight against Big Walnut in a couple of sets, but we started poorly and then it was too hard to catch up because they are a tough team who you can't give up unforced errors against and expect to win."
Stearns largely credited the Indians' record to an ability to control tempo early in matches.
"We have improved recently in controlling the tempo of the matches and coming out and setting the tone," Stearns said. "Some of the things we are working on are energy on the court and minimizing giving away unforced error points."
Through 17 matches, Jada Butler led Canal Winchester in kills with 92, followed by Emily Sarles (68) and Astrid Munthe (40). Three other players had between 25 and 33 kills.
Lauren Toledo had a team-best 491 digs, well ahead of Emily Sotlar (117) and Emi Waller (111).
Important game looms
for boys soccer team
The boys soccer team took on Franklin Heights on Sept. 26, hoping to stay near the top of the OCC-Capital standings as a home game against defending league champion New Albany looms Tuesday, Oct. 3.
Canal Winchester was 4-3-3 overall and 1-0-1 in the OCC-Capital before Sept. 26. The Indians opened league play Sept. 12 with a 3-1 win over Big Walnut before tying Groveport at 1 on Sept. 19.
Sam Thompson led the Indians with six goals through 10 games, ahead of Mason McCoy with four and Will Jenkins and Drew Skinner with three each.
Canal Winchester lost to New Albany 2-1 last year and finished 3-1-1 in the league, second behind the Eagles (5-0).
Golf teams prep for
start of postseason
The postseason begins Tuesday, Oct. 3, for the boys and girls golf teams, which will compete in Division I sectionals.
The boys team will play in a sectional at Darby Creek, where the top four teams and top four individuals not on qualifying teams advance to the district tournament Oct. 10 at Apple Valley.
Canal Winchester has not been represented at district since 2012.
The girls team is headed to a sectional at Royal American, seeking a return to district after a one-year absence. The top three teams and top three individuals not on qualifying teams advance to district Oct. 10 at Cooks Creek.
Below are the coming schedules for the Canal Winchester cross country, boys golf, girls golf, boys soccer, girls soccer, girls tennis and girls volleyball teams:
Sept. 30 – Cambridge Invitational
Sept. 28 – Bloom-Carroll at Pine Hill
Oct. 3 – Division I sectional at Darby Creek
Sept. 30 – Canal Winchester Invitational at Westchester
Oct. 3 – Division I sectional at Royal American
Sept. 30 – Home vs. Clayton Northmont
*Oct. 3 – Home vs. New Albany
Sept. 28 – Home vs. Zanesville
*Oct. 3 – At New Albany
Oct. 2 – Home vs. Grandview
*Sept. 28 – Home vs. Groveport. The Indians defeated the Cruisers 25-3, 25-19, 25-15 on Sept. 7.
*Oct. 3 – Home vs. Franklin Heights. The Indians defeated the Falcons 25-10, 25-7, 25-12 on Sept. 12.