Westerville North High School football coach Scott Wetzel was left wanting entering the offseason, and considering his team finished 2-8 overall, he did not want to feel any other way.
"It's one of those seasons that was frustrating. We had a good team and to come away with only two wins to show for it is pretty tough. We battled all year long," Wetzel said, citing close losses to New Albany (27-26 in overtime Sept. 22) and Westerville South (33-30 on Oct. 13) among other games. "Those were probably the toughest losses we had. With the exception of a few games against the Olentangy schools, we were in every game.
"The reason it's especially frustrating is because we have a good football team. I'm just not one for moral victories. The bottom line is winning solves all."
The Warriors started 2-2, with wins over Groveport (27-0 on Aug. 25) and eventual Division II, Region 7 playoff qualifier Canal Winchester (47-21 on Sept. 15) surrounding losses to Thomas Worthington (45-21 on Sept. 1) and Upper Arlington (24-14 on Sept. 8), before dropping their final eight games.
North went 0-5 in the OCC-Buckeye Division, losing to Olentangy Orange (26-0 on Sept. 29), Westerville Central (21-12 on Oct. 6), South, Olentangy (48-21 on Oct. 20) and Olentangy Liberty (35-8 on Oct. 27). The Warriors finished sixth in the league behind Liberty (5-0), Orange (4-1), Olentangy (3-2), Central (2-3) and South (1-4).
Senior running back Bodi Bien's 1,048 yards rushing and seven touchdowns on 197 carries paced the offense. Junior Rondale Smith added 407 yards and six touchdowns on 113 carries.
North endured some instability at quarterback. Senior Jacob Woods started the first five games before a shoulder injury forced him to focus full time on his duties at defensive back.
He was replaced by sophomore Reno Godfrey, who completed 46 of 100 passes for 541 yards with four touchdowns and three interceptions before he suffered a knee injury and missed the final two games.
Sophomore Auri Dover then was pressed into action, completing five of 14 passes for 58 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
Senior tight end Rodney Van Cleaf led all receivers with 22 catches for 236 yards and a touchdown, and also had a team-high three sacks at linebacker. Senior J.J. Harvey caught 13 passes for 114 yards and five scores.
Senior linebackers Alek Downs and Greg Shehee led the defense with 52 and 43 total tackles, respectively.
"We will have to reload a little bit along the lines and build some depth. In the weight room, you can build players," Wetzel said. "Each year, the team will be different, and that's one of the best things about high school football. You take what you have and go from there."
Downs was named first-team all-league. Bien and junior lineman Jeremiah Burton were second-team all-league, Van Cleaf was special mention and Harvey was honorable mention.
Other expected returnees include juniors K.J. King (TE/DE) and Robert Robinson (RB).
"We're losing a great group of seniors who helped make Westerville North football important again. That's one thing we needed to do," Wetzel said. "Hopefully that carries over in terms of (player) development and ownership of the program. I'm all about winning, and we have to make more of that happen."