After a slow start, the Grove City Christian School football team showed steady improvement under first-year coach Hank Patterson.
The Eagles won three of their final five games to finish 4-6 overall and 3-4 in the MSL-Cardinal Division.
One of those wins came by forfeit, as Fisher Catholic forfeited four victories for using an academically ineligible player to finish 0-10 overall and 0-7 in the league. Fisher Catholic defeated Grove City Christian 44-14 on Sept. 29.
"I enjoyed myself, but it was rocky," Patterson said. "It was like riding a bronco. Midway through the season it became a joy. They're getting it, but they're processing it at the same time. It was fruitful."
The Eagles finished fifth in the league behind Harvest Prep (7-0), Berne Union (5-2), Worthington Christian (5-2) and Zanesville Rosecrans (5-2) and ahead of Millersport (2-5), Fairfield Christian (1-6) and Fisher Catholic.
Grove City Christian beat Fairfield Christian 28-13 on Oct. 6 and Millersport 20-7 on Oct. 27. It also defeated Dayton Jefferson Township 45-6 on Sept. 8.
Patterson was hired in late April to replace B.J. Queen, who stepped down to become the coach at Beechcroft after one season in which the Eagles finished 1-9.
"Despite the later than usual hire, coach Patterson has done a great job in changing the culture of the program in a positive way and it will continue to be built upon heading into this offseason," athletics director Matt Blandin said.
The Eagles' top returnee should be junior Brett Baker (QB/WR/DB), who completed 69 of 162 passes for 868 yards and seven touchdowns. He was named first-team all-district on defense in Division VII and first-team all-league.
One of six seniors in the program, Blake Spitler (OL/DL) was first-team all-league and special/honorable mention all-district.
Spitler credits Patterson for the team's progress this season.
"Everybody liked him," Spitler said. "He was a pretty good coach compared to the other coaches I had while I was at Grove City Christian. He was the only one that was about the coaching. He was a real friendly guy. He got along with everybody. ... I had high hopes, but we just don't have as many (players as other programs)."
Sophomore Koby Brunney (RB/DB) rushed for 382 yards and six touchdowns on 83 carries and was first-team all-league.
Juniors Jacob Stoneking (TE/LB) and Zach Frank (DL) were second-team all-league. Stoneking had 11 catches for 224 yards and two touchdowns.
Seniors Quenton Blount (OL/DL) and Kent Writesel (RB/LB) were special/honorable mention all-district.
Freshman Christian Lautenschleger (RB/WR/DB) led the Eagles in rushing with 438 yards and one touchdown on 78 carries. He was honorable mention all-league, as were juniors Connor Maxwell (OL/DL) and Alex Schuler (SB/LB).
Senior Noah Whitaker (WR/QB/DB) had 15 catches for 232 yards and three touchdowns, and Schuler had 13 receptions for 150 yards and three touchdowns.
Senior Ian Sinclair (RB/LB) had 50 carries for 204 yards and one touchdown.
"Hopefully the program is reinvigorated and we can get more people out and have them play," Patterson said.
Cross country coach pleased with season
Cross country coach Mindy Bankey was pleased with the progress the boys and girls teams made this season.
"We continued to see time improvements each meet and growing desire to be successful," she said.
Sophomore Kyle Martin emerged as the boys team's top runner, as he finished 10th (19 minutes, 30 seconds) in the MSL-Cardinal meet Oct. 14 at Millersport to earn second-team all-league honors. He did not compete in the Division III, district 2 meet Oct. 21 at Watkins Memorial because of another school commitment.
Junior Will Mayhew led the Eagles at district, finishing 68th (20:56.77). Sophomore Colton Sisler was 74th (21:59.67).
"Kyle was our team leader for nearly every race," Bankey said. "I anticipate these three to work very hard this offseason so that next year will be even better."
The girls team's season was highlighted by winning the Brian K. Davis Invitational on Oct. 7 at home. Sophomore Rachel Mitchell won the race in 22:15.9 and finished eighth (23:04) in the MSL-Cardinal meet to earn second-team all-league honors.
Sophomore Sydney King was honorable mention all-league.
Mitchell also was 21st (22:12.37) in the district 2 meet, followed by King (50th, 25:48.8) and sophomores Madeline Bliss (56th, 26:23), Maggie Isner (62nd, 27:53), Olivia Ellis (63rd, 27:55), Hannah Allen (67th, 29:34) and Natalie Bankey (68th, 30:23).
Freshman Olivia Carson rounded out the team.