The Whitehall-Yearling High School football team is looking to carry its late-season surge into the Division II, Region 7 playoffs.
After a 2-3 start, including a disappointing 31-14 league-opening loss at Columbus Academy on Sept. 22, the Rams closed the regular season on a five-game winning streak and clinched a share of the MSL-Ohio Division title with a 22-14 victory Oct. 27 at London.
The Rams also secured a home postseason game, as they will face fifth-seeded New Albany in a first-round contest Friday, Nov. 3. Whitehall is seeded fourth.
The teams last met in 2005, with the Eagles winning 46-7.
"They've done everything we've asked them to do, so hopefully we keep this ball rolling and go into Week 11 with some momentum," said coach Rod Lightfoot, whose team is 7-3 overall and finished 4-1 in the MSL-Ohio to tie London and Academy for first.
The Rams are in the postseason for the second season in a row after not qualifying for the playoffs since 2003. Last year, they lost to league rival Bexley 31-21 in a Division III, Region 11 first-round game.
Against London, quarterback Raymell Byrd rushed for 111 yards and scored all three of the Rams' touchdowns. Christian Gordon added 94 yards rushing on eight carries.
Running back Rasheed Muhammad threw a 6-yard scoring pass to Byrd to tie the game at 7 in the first quarter.
Byrd also scored on runs of 12 and 8 yards.
"We've been through a lot," Muhammad said. "We've had ups and downs to our season, but we came together very well towards the end of it. We have a lot of athletes that can do a lot of things. It's kind of scary when we're all together on the same page."
Whitehall's defense held London running back K.J. Price, who entered the game with 2,229 yards rushing, to 46 yards in the first half and 134 for the game.
"Our kids responded to what we're doing as a program," Lightfoot said. "They believe in each other, they believe in what we're doing, they believe in the process and my hat is off to every player on this team. They figured out that every kid has a role on this team and they've progressed each week."
New Albany clinched its second consecutive postseason berth by winning its last two games, including 27-20 against winless Groveport on Oct. 27. The Eagles went 4-1 in the OCC-Capital to tie Big Walnut for the title.
Michiah Burton rushed for 128 yards against Groveport, including a 26-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 20. Jalin Jackson gave New Albany the lead for good on a 5-yard scoring run.
"We have to treat them just like any other team and play our game and do what we do," Muhammad said.
The winner plays top-seeded Walnut Ridge or eighth-seeded Canal Winchester in a regional semifinal Nov. 10 at a neutral site to be determined.
"We have to finish our blocks and move people off the line," New Albany coach Pat Samanich said.
"At heart, (the Rams are) a 3-4 defense but they're going to put five guys in the box against us with a linebacker and a defensive end. They might even have a safety roll down in coverage. They are going to keep us on our toes."
Girls volleyball team boasts winning mark
The girls volleyball team finished 15-10 overall, earning its first winning season under ninth-year coach Danielle Jackson.
The Rams advanced to a Division II district semifinal for the second consecutive season, falling to top-seeded Sparta Highland 25-11, 25-9, 25-4 on Oct. 25 at Licking Heights.
"Even though the outcome isn't what they wanted it to be, they have a lot to be proud of this season," Jackson said.
"It's the first winning record since I was a head coach. They finished third in the league and they made it to district semifinals two years in a row, so they have a lot to be proud of."
Seeded eighth, Whitehall 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, both at home.
The Rams went 6-4 in the MSL-Ohio to finish behind London (10-0) and Worthington Christian (8-2) and ahead of Academy (3-7), Bexley (2-8) and Grandview (1-9).
Junior middle hitter Makhia Hinton had 213 kills, 51 aces, 42 blocks and 303 digs, and was named first-team all-league and second-team all-district.
Whitehall loses four players to graduation, including setter Sarah Seberig, who was second-team all-league and honorable mention all-district. She had 339 digs, 334 assists, 107 kills and 29 aces.
Senior outside hitter Makencie Wilson was honorable mention all-league with 113 kills and 19 blocks.
Junior outside hitter Alyson Shoemaker had 324 digs and 36 kills, and junior defensive specialist Riley Maxstead had 301 digs and 11 aces. Junior setter Makaylia Wright had 222 digs, 203 assists and 31 aces, senior middle hitter/outside hitter Trinity Johnson had 272 digs and 66 kills and senior outside hitter Iyana Johnson had 121 digs and 32 kills.
"It's tough to say goodbye to seniors. I'm definitely going to miss them," Jackson said."
Also eligible to return are junior Kody Seberig (defensive specialist) and sophomores Kaila Daugherty (outside hitter/middle hitter) and Madisyn Stewart (back row).