The Big Walnut High School football team enters its season finale Friday, Oct. 27, at home against Canal Winchester knowing that a victory guarantees at least a share of the OCC-Capital Division championship.
After starting 0-5, the Golden Eagles have won four consecutive games, improving to 4-5 overall and 4-0 in the league after edging winless Groveport 14-13 on Oct. 20.
"We've been grinding all season, and coaches have been telling us (the OCC-Capital title) is possible," defensive end and running back Eli Myers said. "When you start 0-5, your spirits are pretty low ... but I'm thankful where we are right now."
A 14-0 win over New Albany on Oct. 13 put the Golden Eagles in contention for their first league championship since 2011, when they finished in a three-way tie for first with New Albany and Olentangy Orange.
That season included a postseason berth for Big Walnut, which lost to Marion-Franklin 44-17 in a Division II regional semifinal to finish 9-3.
"We've talked about responding to situations and adversity and trying not to overreact," coach Joe Weaver said of his team's turnaround. "What's always been so prevalent about this team is just how tight of a team they are. (The players) count on each other and are dependable to one another."
Big Walnut limited New Albany to just 81 total yards and four first downs.
Quarterback Tyler Ronk rushed for 130 yards on 19 carries and completed seven of 13 passes for 78 yards to lead the Golden Eagles' offense, which accumulated 304 yards. Nathan Lawyer had a pair of 2-yard touchdown runs.
"We were jacked up all week for that game," Myers said. "The whole team was full-go. Right now, I have complete confidence in us that we can beat any team if we give it our all."
Canal Winchester is 5-4 overall and 2-2 in the OCC-Capital and in contention for its first playoff berth since 2012 after defeating Newark 47-7 on Oct. 20.
The Indians were 10th in the Division II, Region 7 computer ratings before Week 9, while Big Walnut was 15th. The top eight teams make the playoffs.
Runners compete in district meet
The cross country teams opened the postseason with the Division I district meet Oct. 21 at Watkins Memorial.
The girls competed in district 3, where the top six teams and top 24 runners advanced to the regional meet Saturday, Oct. 28, at Pickerington North. The boys ran in district 2, from which the top five teams and top 20 runners qualified for regional.
Sophomore Colbi Borland defended her OCC-Capital title by running 20 minutes, 26.75 seconds in the league meet Oct. 14 at Lancaster, as the girls team finished second (46 points) behind New Albany (40) and ahead of Canal Winchester (56), Newark (109) and Groveport (126).
Borland finished nearly 10 seconds ahead of runner-up Alyssa Painter of New Albany (20:36.7).
"We wanted to be a little cautious with her heading into the OCC meet," coach Kevin Lewis said. "She had tired legs, and we really backed off her mileage. She really ran in control the whole way."
Hannah Wilson (fifth, 21:20.26) and Ruthann Armbrust (eighth, 21:55.88) also finished in the top 10 for the Golden Eagles. Rounding out the scoring were Chloe McKenzie (12th, 22:21.48) and Alina Pecci (25th, 23:18.48).
The boys team placed fourth (102) in the league meet, behind Newark (31), New Albany (35) and Canal Winchester (79) and ahead of Groveport (121).
Jacob Hutchinson finished 14th (18:42.58) to lead Big Walnut. Also scoring were Jacob Krous (17th, 18:49.4), Will Hefner (22nd, 19:13), Drew Armstrong (26th, 19:37.15) and Austin Stewart (28th, 19:44.81).
"Sometimes this point in the season you have kids looking to be done with it," Lewis said. "But our kids have a pretty hungry attitude, and they're not ready for the season to end."
Girls soccer team rolls past Rams
The second-seeded girls soccer team routed 16th-seeded Whitehall 17-0 in the first round of the Division II district tournament Oct. 16.
Big Walnut improved to 11-2-4 and faced fifth-seeded Buckeye Valley in the second round Oct. 19, with the winner playing third-seeded Jonathan Alder or seventh-seeded Hartley in a district semifinal Tuesday, Oct. 24, at the home of the higher seed.
The semifinal winner plays top-seeded Granville, fourth-seeded Bloom-Carroll, eighth-seeded Bexley or ninth-seeded Centennial in the district final Saturday, Oct. 28, at a neutral site to be determined.
Big Walnut defeated Hartley 3-0 on Sept. 16, Granville 1-0 on Aug. 26 and Bexley 3-1 on Sept. 14.
Boys soccer team rolls into tourney
The boys soccer team rolled into the postseason on a seven-game winning streak.
Big Walnut defeated Olentangy 1-0 in its regular-season finale Oct. 12 to improve to 9-7.
The 24th-seeded Golden Eagles opened the Division I district tournament Oct. 21 with a second-round game at 10th-seeded Hilliard Darby.
The winner plays fourth-seeded St. Charles, 26th-seeded Groveport or 28th-seeded Pickerington Central in a district semifinal Wednesday, Oct. 25, at the home of the higher seed. That winner faces seventh-seeded Marysville, 11th-seeded Westerville Central, 23rd-seeded Watkins Memorial or 44th-seeded Northland in a district final Saturday, Oct. 28, at a neutral site to be determined.
Big Walnut lost to Westerville Central 2-0 on Sept. 5.
Girls volleyball team wins tourney opener
The second-seeded girls volleyball team opened the Division II district tournament with a 25-5, 25-7, 25-8 victory over 20th-seeded Beechcroft in a second-round match Oct. 18.
Big Walnut improved to 20-4 and will face sixth-seeded Licking Valley in a district semifinal Thursday, Oct. 26, at Licking Heights.
The winner plays fourth-seeded London or seventh-seeded Buckeye Valley in a district final Saturday, Oct. 28, at Licking Heights, with the district champion advancing to a regional semifinal Nov. 2 at Zanesville.
Tennis season ends at district tourney
Senior Macie Kercsmar of the girls tennis team reached the Division I district tournament for the second consecutive season, but fell to Dublin Scioto's Ashley Lambillotte 6-0, 6-1 in the first round of singles play Oct. 12 at Hilliard Bradley.
"From a skill-set standpoint, she was playing someone who was comparable," coach Ryan Balaz said. "She just didn't execute on the big points."
Kercsmar, who advanced to district by finishing third in a sectional Oct. 6 and 7 at Pickerington Central, is one of five seniors on the team. The others are singles player Lexie Kirkpatrick and doubles players Katie Germann, Kayleigh Cummins and Maria Boyer.
Expected to return next season are junior Lindsay Hill (singles) and Allison Stevens (doubles).
Big Walnut finished 13-5 overall and 4-1 in the OCC-Capital, placing second behind New Albany (5-0) and ahead of Canal Winchester (3-2), Newark (2-3), Groveport (1-4) and Franklin Heights (0-5).