For the first time in 10 years, Hilliard Davidson High School football coach Brian White and his staff had free time during the first round of the Division I playoffs.
The Wildcats went 5-5 overall to miss the postseason for the first time since 2007 and only the second time in the last 15 years. They finished 12th in Region 3 as the top eight teams qualified for the playoffs.
"It's certainly different," White said. "This is the first time since '07. We certainly have different plans this weekend than what we've had in the past and I would certainly much rather be playing, but there's a reason why everything happens and, unfortunately, we didn't get it done this year."
Despite battling turf toe on both feet for most of the season, senior center Sam Backenstoe remained one of the team's top players, according to White. Backenstoe, who has committed to play for Army, was named first-team all-OCC-Central Division.
Seniors Jon Stull (WR/DB) and Ben Wright (RB) and juniors Evan Annis (TE/LB) and Ethan Royer (RB/LB) also made first-team all-league.
"There was nothing better than playing football at Davidson," said Wright, who rushed for 465 yards and seven touchdowns on 132 carries. "It was tough not making the playoffs, especially senior year. You just wish you could still be playing and maybe questioning if you could have done more. It's tough. Senior year has gone by a lot faster than any other year."
Senior A.J. VanVoorhis emerged as the starting quarterback and made second-team all-league, rushing for 248 yards and three touchdowns on 71 carries while guiding the team's triple-option offense.
Seniors Jah'von Lynch (OL/DL) and Davis Sell (OL/DL) and junior David May (WR/DB) also were second-team all-league. Junior Kalib O'Connor (RB/LB), who rushed for a team-high 639 yards and two touchdowns on 139 carries, was special mention all-league, and junior Jordan Hicks (RB/DB), who had 331 yards rushing and one touchdown on 65 carries, was honorable mention all-league.
Junior Christian Sweet (RB/DB) is another key player eligible to return.
White lauded his 15 seniors for their commitment to the program.
"They were a good group and they were hard working, for the most part," White said. "There just wasn't very many of them. Our talent was somewhat limited, but it wasn't like our character or work ethic was limited. The kids still showed a good work ethic, for the most part. Most of them committed in the offseason if not for three years, but at least this year for most of them."
Davidson won four of its last five games, including its final two, to finish second in the OCC-Central, behind Dublin Coffman (5-0) and ahead of Central Crossing, Marysville and Upper Arlington (each 2-3) as well as Westland (0-5).
"It made it a lot better than what it could have been with finishing strong," Wright said. "There were some good seniors who put in a lot of work and time and definitely left our mark on this program."
The Wildcats' only loss during in their last five games came against Coffman, 17-14 on Oct. 13 at home.
"While we didn't necessarily always work the smartest throughout the course of the year, I can't question the effort that they put in," White said. "It starts with effort and I thought as the year went on we got better."