The Ready High School football team expected to have its hands full when it opened the Division V, Region 19 playoffs Nov. 3 at top-seeded Wheelersburg.
Next season, the Silver Knights would like to be in a better spot so they aren't the eighth seed.
The number of players expected to return is a good start in making that happen.
The Knights lost to Wheelersburg 34-0 to finish 7-4. They weren't officially part of a league this season but went 4-2 against teams from the MSL-Ohio Division.
"We'll have seven guys back on defense and about six coming back on offense," coach Brian Cross said. "We've really got our whole backfield coming back. We started the year playing five or six sophomores and really didn't expect to have the type of season we had, but our kids played extremely hard to get seven wins."
Ready opened Aug. 25 with a 31-0 loss to Columbus Academy, which went on to qualify for the Region 19 playoffs.
After winning their next five, the Knights lost to Hartley 42-10 on Oct. 6 but beat another playoff team, London, 27-23 on Oct. 13 before falling to playoff-qualifier Whitehall 32-2 on Oct. 20.
"We had a pretty good season overall," senior lineman Anthony Baum said. "Coming into the season, not a lot of people expected us to have very much success because of key losses due to graduation and transfers, but collectively I think we overcame that adversity. Making the playoffs is always a goal of ours, and we were glad to achieve that goal and uphold the Ready tradition."
Wheelersburg limited Ready to 10 yards passing and 101 yards rushing on 29 carries as it improved to 11-0 and advanced to a regional semifinal Friday, Nov. 10, against fifth-seeded Academy at Chillicothe.
"They're a solid team all the way around," Cross said. "They were a very physical team, one of the most physical teams we've faced, and I thought our defense did an outstanding job. We threw a pick-6 for their last score, so the 28 points they scored might be the lowest any defense has held them to all season. We just couldn't do anything offensively."
The 12-member senior class was led by Baum, who was a starter on the offensive line since his sophomore season and also started at nose guard.
Other key seniors included Kyle Choulat (OL), Terron Crowder (LB/WR), Lance Gallion (OL), Chase Jones (DB/WR/LS), Charles Omameh (DL/OL), Christian Schell (LB/RB), Ryan Spoon (OL/LB) and Ryan Wood (TE/LB).
Jones finished with 56 tackles and three interceptions, Omameh had 42 tackles, nine sacks and three forced fumbles and Wood had 80 tackles and one interception.
"Team chemistry was a major part of our success as our team came together as a unit, which was instrumental to many of our wins," Baum said. "We worked hard in the weight room and on the practice field."
Sophomore running back Jack Foley, junior quarterback Austin Aiello and junior wide receiver Jaishon Norris should be the top returnees at the skill positions.
During the regular season, Foley rushed for 1,483 yards with 10 touchdowns and Norris had 29 receptions for 401 yards with three touchdowns.
Junior Cade Canter should be the top returnee on the offensive line.
Defensively, junior Cade Dent (DB) had four interceptions and six pass breakups and sophomore Thomas Stiltner (LB) had 70 tackles.
Others eligible to return include junior Sam Hardenbergh (DL/RB) and sophomores A.J. Craddock (K), Billy Fannin (DL/OL), Matt Frye (LB/RB) and Donovan Sanders (RB/LB).
Volleyball team had strong senior class
Led by an eight-member senior class, the girls volleyball team reached at least a district semifinal for the 10th consecutive season.
The 10th-seeded Knights opened the Division III postseason Oct. 21 with a 28-26, 19-25, 25-23, 25-20 upset at ninth-seeded Centerburg before falling to top-seeded Utica 25-22, 25-23, 26-24 on Oct. 26 at Buckeye Valley.
"A lot of it is you play tough teams so you're ready when the tournament gets here," coach Mike Kusan said. "We don't feel like we have a weak rotation."
Ready beat eventual district runner-up Galion Northmor 25-20, 17-25, 25-17, 18-25, 16-14 on Oct. 11 and closed the regular season Oct. 12 with a 13-25, 25-12, 25-23, 19-25, 15-13 loss to Grove City, a Division I program, before having a first-round tournament bye.
The Knights also had a tight match with Utica on Oct. 3, but lost 20-25, 25-21, 25-17, 25-17.
Ready finished 9-15 overall and 0-8 in the CCL, behind DeSales (8-0), Hartley (5-3), Watterson (5-3) and Columbus School for Girls (2-6).
"We implemented several lineups to try and give us a spark," Kusan said. "(The improved play late in the season) is a tribute to players working hard and being rewarded for their production in practice."
Hannah Williams (outside hitter/right-side hitter), Brenna Forrest (middle hitter), Bella Hoersten (defensive special-ist/outside hitter), Jaide Lehnert (middle hitter) and Jordan Kusan (setter) led the senior class.
Heading into the season finale, Williams had a team-leading 265 kills, Forrest had 180 kills and Lehnert had 118 kills. Hoersten was first in digs with 226 and serves received with 337, and Kusan had 710 assists.
The top returnees should be junior outside hitter Lauren Whitt and freshman defensive specialist/libero Bella Illig. Also eligible to return are junior outside hitter Alysia George and sophomore setter Bre Hejduk.