A tough schedule helped pave the way for the St. Charles Preparatory School water polo team's state runner-up finish.
The second-seeded and second-ranked Cardinals finished 26-9-2, losing to top-seeded and top-ranked Thomas Worthington 15-13 in overtime in the state final Oct. 28 at Mason.
"We had a challenging schedule that helped us get better," senior goalkeeper Brandon Jordan said. "We went up to Michigan (tournaments) twice and played some really great teams that helped us get better. Every single player made an astounding improvement."
Jordan (222 blocks, 59 steals, 15 assists) was one of three seniors along with center Michael Gutman and attacker Patrick Pema. Gutman (100 goals, 57 assists, 65 steals, 6 blocks) was first-team all-state and made the state tournament team, and Pema (100 goals, 58 assists, 55 steals, 4 blocks) was first-team all-state.
"When we started off from day one we were relatively untrained, but we became a more close-knit group and we started to function as one whole unit," Pema said. "We learned each other's strengths and weaknesses and that helped."
Junior attacker Jon Sugar (74 goals, 55 assists, 73 steals, 5 blocks) was second-team all-state and on the state tournament team. Junior defender Griffin Beam (67 goals, 39 assists, 78 steals, 12 blocks) was honorable mention all-state.
"We only had three seniors, so we're a junior-based team," Jordan said. "We have four juniors who will be four-year varsity players."
Sugar and Beam are two of those juniors. The others are center-defender Andrew Edwards (55 goals, 28 assists, 64 steals, 8 blocks) and attacker Sean Ritchey (32 goals, 22 assists, 78 steals, 12 blocks).
Other key performers expected back are junior center Alec Lohiser (14 goals, 4 assists, 4 steals) and sophomores Thomas Lennox (attacker; 40 goals, 38 assists, 48 steals), Travis Miller (defender; 1 goal, 4 assists, 6 steals) and Alex Nash (attacker; 6 goals, 10 assists, 25 steals).
"Next year is looking very hopeful," Gutman said. "We have four starters coming back in Griffin Beam, Andrew Edwards, Sean Ritchey and Jon Sugar. We also have some letterwinners coming back who can help us as well."
St. Charles, which was led by 11th-year coach Geoff Gear, also was state runner-up last fall. The Cardinals finished third in 2015 and won state titles in 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2014.
Football team learns to handle adversity
The football team finished 1-9 overall, but second-year coach Bob Jacoby said the Cardinals were better than their record.
St. Charles played four playoff qualifiers in Cincinnati La Salle, Hartley, Independence and New Philadelphia and three others -- DeSales, Reynoldsburg and Upper Arlington -- that were in the postseason hunt entering the final week.
"We have the satisfaction of knowing that we were much better than our record showed," said Jacoby, whose team finished fourth (0-3) in the CCL behind Hartley (3-0), DeSales (2-1) and Watterson (1-2). "We had a tough schedule, but we knew that going in and can't use that as an excuse. We have got to get better. Still, things happened that were out of our players' control."
The Cardinals had their share of injuries, but they also had to forfeit a 34-12 win over Washington Court House on Sept. 22 for using an ineligible player who had been ejected following a 29-28 loss at New Philadelphia on Sept. 15.
The coaches were not notified by the officials at the game, but an e-mail was sent to St. Charles from the OHSAA, according to OHSAA director of communications Tim Stried.
St. Charles won at Mansfield Madison 45-13 on Oct. 6.
"Football is demanding enough, but I thought our kids handled the adversity well," Jacoby said. "It had an effect on me and I'm an adult, so it had to have been tough on them."
The Cardinals lose 14 seniors, including kicker/punter Clayton Anderson (39.1-yard punting average, 5-for-8 field goals, 19-for-19 extra points), linebacker Max Congrove (37 tackles, 6 for loss), quarterback Brooks McCann (8 passing touchdowns, 5 rushing TDs), two-way lineman Matt Reade, slotback/defensive back Joseph Rivera and two-way lineman Jake Sattler.
"Every single one of our 14 seniors played important roles through the course of the year," Jacoby said. "Overall the seniors did some great stuff for us."
Junior defensive back Jack Moore led the Cardinals in tackles (132) and had three interceptions.
Junior running back/linebacker Taylor Bryant rushed for 563 yards and three touchdowns on 110 carries and had 63 tackles and seven sacks.
Other key performers were juniors Luke Cetovich (OL), Peter Griffith (SB/CB) and Arec Igwebuike (RB/DB) and sophomore Roland Rowe (RB/DB).