The Whetstone High School football team couldn't hold an 11-point lead in the fourth quarter of a 23-20 loss to Centennial in the regular-season finale Oct. 27.

The host Braves, who finished 3-7 overall and 2-4 in the City League-North Division, lost for just the second time in the last 15 meetings with the Stars.

Running back Luchene Davis capped Centennial's comeback with a 4-yard touchdown run with 3 minutes, 11 seconds remaining.

Centennial missed a field-goal attempt and Whetstone blocked another attempt, but the Braves had two costly fumbles.

"We took the second-half kickoff and drove 70 yards and then fumbled at their 3-yard line," said coach Don Poff, whose team led 14-3 at halftime. "We also fumbled at their 20. Both were huge turnovers, and I think if we punch in a touchdown to start the second half and go up 21-3, it changes the entire way the second half is played. It changes what they do and what we do."

Ibrahim Sesay scored on a 35-yard run in the fourth quarter to give the Braves a 20-9 lead.

"We finished some drives in the fourth quarter and that was the difference," said Centennial coach Donte Goosby, whose team finished 4-6 overall and 3-3 in the league. "We stopped shooting ourselves in the foot. Davis and (quarterback Jaylen) Gilbert settled in and made some good runs for us and our defense came up with a couple of huge fourth-down stops."

Gilbert connected with Marquise Scott on a 13-yard touchdown pass and Gilbert threw to Craig Burt for the two-point conversion to make it 20-17.

"That two-point conversion was big and I think our guys could smell victory after that," Goosby said. "In the past few years, we haven't had the mentality to pull out come-from-behind wins. If it was late and the game was tight, we weren't able to focus and finish."

Whetstone turned the ball over three times on downs, including on fourth-and-1 in its own end late in the game to set up the Stars' winning touchdown.

Braves quarterback Terris Crider was 8-for-18 passing for 91 yards and had 80 yards rushing on 19 carries, and receiver Rashaun Broomfield had six catches for 66 yards.

Gilbert finished 7-for-19 passing for 148 yards and had 106 yards rushing on 18 carries. Davis added 104 yards rushing on 14 carries.

Whetstone played without two key players in Oshea Jones (WR/LB) and Ephrayim Robinson (RB/WR/LB), both of whom were ruled academically ineligible two days before the game, according to Poff. Jones was the Braves' leading receiver.

"Centennial did a nice job finding our weaknesses as we shifted several guys around trying to plug holes where our missing players should have been," Poff said. "If we moved our best guys outside, they ran up the middle on us. If we kept our guys inside, they picked us apart on the edges or forced bad matchups on their receivers."

Runners looking toward next year

The boys and girls cross country teams had solid seasons, according to coach Joe Monda.

Both teams competed in the Division I, district 2 meet Oct. 21 at Watkins Memorial.

In the girls race, Whetstone finished 15th (461 points) of 16 teams, behind champion Granville (43), as Westerville Central (139) earned the sixth and final berth for the regional meet Oct. 28 at Pickerington North.

Sophomore Adrien DeLapp led the Braves, placing 65th of 116 runners in 22:09.81. She was followed by freshman Micah Stromsoe-DeLorenzo (95th, 24:58.1), senior Bryn Van Dommelen (102nd, 25:33.66), sophomore Megan Sharp (109th, 27:01) and junior Lana Tleimat (112th, 27:52.).

Marysville's Morgan Forney (20:04.28) earned the 24th and final regional berth.

"I was pleased with the effort we gave and Adrien ran a (personal record)," Monda said. "With it being her first year of running cross country, she really came through. Because of health reasons, we only ran five girls.

"Getting the top five girls to run in a race was a challenge this season because of health reasons, but we were able to do so at the City meet. It was really gratifying to see what they could do."

The Braves totaled 61 points in the City meet Oct. 11 at Whetstone to edge Centennial (64) for the league title. Northland (75) was third, followed by Eastmoor Academy (77), Walnut Ridge (93) and Africentric (125).

The Stars had won eight consecutive City titles.

DeLapp placed fifth (22:21.8) of 58 runners in the league meet, as Van Dommelen (ninth, 23:12.7), junior Harper Daniel (11th, 23:43.5), Stromsoe-DeLorenzo (16th, 24:11.1) and Sharp (20th, 24:56.9) also scored.

The top seven runners earned first-team all-league honors, while those finishing eighth through 14th were second-team all-league.

"It was the first City title the girls have won since 2007 after being runners-up for many years," Monda said. "It was extremely gratifying.

"Bryn will be hard to replace. She is a two-time captain and has been all-City all four years. (Seniors) Rebeka (Spulgis) and Yonna (Coleman) also will be missed. The girls will return six of the top seven runners, so hopefully someone can fill Bryn's shoes."

The boys team finished 12th (315) of 17 teams at district, behind champion Pickerington North (56), as the top five teams and top 20 runners advanced to regional.

Freshman Thaine Nederveld placed 42nd (17:18.5) of 119 runners. Also scoring were seniors Drew Nederveld (61st, 17:49.41), Sam Khoury (63rd, 17:51.73) and Matt Conroy (69th, 17:57.14) and junior Emil Adams (80th, 18:19.36).

Granville (141) placed fifth and Teays Valley's Ryan Fleming was 20th (16:43.53).

"I was thrilled with the boys' race," Monda said. "There were four PRs. Thaine became the fastest freshman in program history and Matt ran the fifth-fastest time for a freshman in program history."

The Braves were runners-up (56) in the City meet, behind Eastmoor (51) and ahead of Centennial (61), Walnut Ridge (87), Northland and Mifflin (both 128), Africentric (214), East (276), Independence (283), West (296), Beechcroft (296) and South (303).

"It was a rewarding year as the boys ran well all year and kept improving," Monda said. "It was a fun season and to have their best race at district was really exciting. Being runners-up at (the) City (meet) was satisfying because we knew it would take something special to catch Eastmoor. We came close and, on a different day, things may have been different."

Thaine Nederveld placed fifth (18:05.7). Also scoring were Conroy (sixth, 18:18.1), Drew Nederveld (13th, 18:46.4), Khoury (14th, 18:47.1) and Adams (18th, 19:13.8).

"Our seniors, Calvin (Collins), Drew and Sam, were in our top seven, so it will be a tough task to replace them," Monda said. "Drew was all-City all four years and Sam the last three years. Drew and Sam were also the captains, so their leadership will be missed greatly.

"What really is exciting about the future is that we have two of the fastest freshmen in program history, along with Emil and (junior) Colin (Ramsby), coming back. I feel we have a solid four and hopefully we can find a couple more runners to complement them."

bemerine@thisweeknews.com

@Brad_ThisWeek