The Whitehall-Yearling High School football team faces its biggest challenge of the season as it looks to win a share of the MSL-Ohio Division title and clinch a Division II, Region 7 postseason berth.
Coming off a 32-2 win over visiting Ready on Oct. 20, the Rams travel to London on Friday, Oct. 27. Whitehall is 6-3 overall and 3-1 in the MSL-Ohio, and London is 8-1 overall and 4-0 in the league.
"London is going to be a monumental challenge for us," coach Rod Lightfoot said. "Their offensive line mauls people and they control the line of scrimmage, and we have to find some way to deal with that."
Whitehall took control early against Ready, opening a 24-0 halftime lead.
In a good sign for the Rams, Ready handed London its lone loss, 27-23 on Oct. 13.
The Rams were projected to be sixth in the Region 7 computer ratings this week. The top eight teams qualify for the playoffs and the top four play host to first-round games.
"If you would have asked me after (we started 0-2), I wouldn't have been sure, but we knew preseason coming in we had a pretty good shot of competing for the league (title) and trying to get to Week 11," Lightfoot said. "But we got in our own way early on."
London was projected to be seventh in Division IV, Region 16 this week and had clinched a playoff berth, according to joeeitel.com.
The Red Raiders feature running back K.J. Price, who rushed for 270 yards and three touchdowns on 29 carries in a 38-0 win over Bexley on Oct. 20. For the season, he has rushed for 2,203 yards and 24 touchdowns on 216 carries.
Price has rushed for more than 200 yards six times this season, with a season-high 433 yards and five touchdowns in a 51-47 win over Washington Court House on Sept. 8.
Lightfoot hopes his defense can turn in another solid performance after holding Ready to just 5 yards in the first quarter and 146 for the game.
Quarterback Raymell Byrd passed for 109 yards and two scores and rushed for 105 yards. O.C. Wellman had 105 yards receiving on two catches, with both going for touchdowns.
"(The Ready) game is over," Wellman said. "We have to get ready for London. We have to come ready and practice hard. They're a good team, they have a good running back, but our defense is ready for anything and the offense is ready to execute."
Whitehall went undefeated at home for the second consecutive season, going 5-0. The Rams have won 13 consecutive home contests.
"It's emotional because I played here for four years, it's my last (regular-season) home game and we did it with a bang," Wellman said.
Whitehall has won four consecutive games since a 31-14 loss at Columbus Academy on Sept. 22.
"I told these kids it was a five-game season after Academy," Lightfoot said. "We had to hit the reset button and start over and they've responded well."
Academy also is looking for a share of the league title, as it is 3-1 entering its home game against Grandview on Oct. 27.
Girls volleyball team reaches district semi
The girls volleyball team advanced to a Division II district semifinal with a pair of three-game home wins.
The eighth-seeded Rams defeated 15th-seeded Lakewood 25-17, 25-15, 25-14 in the first round Oct. 16 and 12th-seeded Columbus East 25-13, 25-7, 25-11 in the second round Oct. 18.
"The girls came ready to play and were focused on making it to the district semifinals again," coach Danielle Jackson said. "They knew with their record this year we would get a better seed and have a good chance of making it again, plus they wanted to prove to people that their record meant something. Some coaches don't realize we do play some tough teams."
Sarah Seberig led Whitehall in the two wins with 23 assists, nine digs and eight kills, and Makaylia Wright had 12 assists, nine digs and two aces. Makhia Hinton had nine kills, nine digs and three aces, Trinity Johnson had eight kills and seven digs and Riley Maxstead had eight digs and four aces.
Whitehall was 15-9 before playing top-seeded Sparta Highland in a semifinal Oct. 25 at Licking Heights, with the winner playing third-seeded Granville or fifth-seeded Jonathan Alder in a district final Saturday, Oct. 28, at Licking Heights.
The district champion advances to a regional semifinal Nov. 2 at Zanesville, with the regional final Nov. 4 at Zanesville.
"Making it to district semifinals two years in a row shows how our program is growing and being competitive," Jackson said. "It's also showing all the hard work the girls have been putting in during the offseason with playing club volleyball and coming to open gyms in the summer."
In a district semifinal last season, Whitehall lost to Hartley 25-7, 25-10, 25-12.
Girls soccer team closes season
The girls soccer team finished 1-12 overall in its second season under coach Deanna Mascia.
The 16th-seeded Rams lost at second-seeded Big Walnut 17-0 in the first round of the Division II district tournament Oct. 16.
Whitehall defeated Columbus International 6-0 on Sept. 18 for its first win in its two seasons as a program.
"The season was tough, but we made some great improvements," Mascia said. "We did not, unfortunately, get to play everyone on our schedule. We hope to add some more wins next year and hope to keep continuing to build our program. We will miss our (seven) seniors because they are the class responsible for starting a soccer team. We hope to continue the legacy the class of 2018 started."
Players eligible to return include juniors Illeen Aguirre (goalkeeper), LeeAnne Evans (midfielder) and Roxana Paredes (defender/midfielder) and sophomores Selamawit Alebachew (midfielder/forward) and Bethelhem Tamene (defender/midfielder).
In its first year in the MSL-Ohio, Whitehall went 0-7 to finish eighth behind Academy (6-0-1), Worthington Christian (4-1-2), Grandview (4-2-1), Wellington (4-3), Bexley (3-2-2), Zanesville Rosecrans (3-4) and London (1-6).
Whitehall went 0-11 last year.
Cross country teams compete at district
The cross country teams closed their season in the Division I district meet Oct. 21 at Watkins Memorial.
The boys finished 17th (487) of 17 teams in the district 2 meet behind champion Pickerington North (56).
Junior Chris Charles was 53rd (17 minutes, 39.23 seconds), followed by senior Mikel Wilson (93rd, 18:53.51), freshman Adonay Estifanos (112th, 20:38.54), sophomore Carter Paddock (114th, 21:15.85), junior Resean Hutter (115th, 21:16.34) and sophomores Josiah Cambron (116th, 21:16.89) and Ben Pooch (117th, 21:23.85).
Whitehall finished sixth (157) in the MSL-Ohio meet Oct. 14 at London behind Academy (40), Grandview (50), Bexley (72), Worthington Christian (91) and London (110).
The girls did not have enough runners for a team score in the district 2 meet as Granville (53) finished first of 16 teams.
Sophomore Abadite Negasi was 92nd (24:35.16), followed by sophomore Shamya Wilson (99th, 25:20.83), senior Paula Wilson (100th, 25:23) and sophomore Yabesera Tadesse (101st, 25:23.84).
The girls finished fourth (105) in the league meet behind Bexley (31), Grandview (54) and Academy (79) and ahead of London (124) and Worthington Christian (133).
Boys soccer team loses at Olentangy
The boys soccer team saw its season end with a 4-0 loss at eighth-seeded Olentangy in the second round of the Division I district tournament Oct. 21.
The 46th-seeded Rams, who had a first-round bye, finished 3-6-3.