Coach Nathan Castorena was looking for improvement from his Bexley High School football team, and he got it.

The Lions displayed grit that they did not show last year during a 32-21, season-opening loss Aug. 24 at Harvest Prep.

Trailing 18-0 early in the second quarter, Bexley rallied for a 21-18 lead in the third before the Warriors scored twice in the fourth.

"That's something that wouldn't have happened last year," said Castorena, who is in his second season. "We didn't fall apart. We scored three times to take the lead, and we were in a zone after that."

Senior quarterback Anthony Welsh rushed for 91 yards on 17 carries with one score and was 16-for-26 passing for 189 yards and two touchdowns -- a 41-yarder to Tommy Bloebaum and a 3-yarder to Patrick Beck.

Bloebaum finished with three catches for 105 yards.

"Through the course of the game, you could see a complete attitude change from last year," said Welsh, whose team went 0-10 last season. "After starting out 18-0, it was crazy how we kept fighting and never gave up. We showed we could hang with Harvest Prep, which is a pretty good team, and that we should be able to play well against anyone."

The Lions travel to the Youngstown area Friday, Aug. 31, to battle Campbell Memorial. The Red Devils lost to Youngstown Valley Christian 14-7 on Aug. 25.

Defensive lineman Raysean Hicks recovered a fumbled punt snap in the end zone for the Red Devils, who were limited to 62 total yards. Quarterback Christian Stores was 4-for-11 passing for 37 yards and running back James Shaffer led with 24 yards rushing on seven carries.

"This is the first time we have ever played Campbell," Castorena said. "We played Buckeye Valley in Week 2 last year, and there was a misunderstanding in the contract so we had an open date. We scoured every team with an opening from Division II to Division VII, and we believed (Division VI) Campbell was our best option."

Girls soccer team features young lineup

The girls soccer team returns only four starters from last season when it finished 7-9-2 overall and placed fifth (3-2-2) in the MSL-Ohio Division behind champion Columbus Academy (6-0-1).

Those returnees are senior goalkeeper Makayla Burzynski (third-team all-district, second-team all-league), senior forward Emma Dressel (second-team all-league; 6 goals, 5 assists), senior defender Annie Muscarella and junior midfielder Laney Hoehnke.

"Overall we're pretty young," second-year coach Ryan Leven said. "Most of the starters are either juniors or younger."

The Lions' top scorer from last season, junior forward Morgan Bowers, now attends Hilliard Bradley. She had 16 goals and seven assists and was first-team all-district and all-league.

Junior forward Claire Heilman (3 goals, 2 assists) returns along with junior forward Caroline Bunker, who missed last season with a knee injury. Sophomore forward Aly Cox also is a scoring threat.

Freshmen Grace Heilman and Sydney Tyler play in the midfield.

Muscarella is joined in the back by juniors Joni Dunker and Julia Miracle and sophomore Julia Fournier. The team's fourth senior, Ellie Wilson, also is a defender.

"Our strength right now is our (forwards) and our attacking midfielders," said Leven, whose team opened league play Aug. 29 against Whitehall. "We are heavy offensively as a team this year.

"We want to get experience in the back and we're working to define that as a group."

Rounding out the roster are juniors Annie Clubb (midfielder), Quinn Kane (midfielder), Claire Sapp (midfielder) and Kiernan Welch (defender), sophomores Brooke Cowan (midfielder) and Sam Nack (midfielder) and freshman goalie Katie Jude.

In their opener Aug. 17, the Lions tied Pickerington Central at 1 as Cox scored and Burzynski had 20 saves.

On Aug. 22, Bexley tied Fairfield Union at 4 as Bunker and Hoehnke both scored twice and Burzynski had four saves.

Boys soccer team returns six starters

The boys soccer team returns six starters from last fall when it finished 11-3-3 overall and placed third (2-1-2) in the MSL-Ohio behind Academy (3-0-2) and Grandview (2-0-3).

Those returnees include seniors Grant Halliday (defender; honorable mention all-league), Christian Roddy (midfielder), Will Simpson (midfielder) and Reid Wagenbrenner (defender). Senior Nathan Toney and junior Ben Ziegler (third-team all-district, first-team all-league; 85 saves) both started in goal.

Midfielder Noah Gosnell (second-team all-league) would have been a senior this season but graduated early.

"In the early part of the season, we have been a strong possession team," third-year coach Jay Scott said. "We worked on that a lot in scrimmages and in training. We are working for each other and playing for each. We're lifting each other up."

Moving into the lineup are senior forwards Noah Leuhmann and Ted Schoedinger and juniors Ford Cowan (midfielder), Miles Goldman (forward) and Miles Joseph (midfielder).

Seniors Teague Beachler (defender), Nick Cory (midfielder/defender), Mason Dorrian (forward), Tyler Lehman (forward) and John Niermeyer (defender) and sophomores Charlie Breyfogle (midfielder/forward), Will Fletcher (midfielder) and Grant Nguyen (defender/midfielder) complete the roster.

"We might not have that one star player, but we have some good quality players," said Scott, whose team opens league play Sept. 12 against Worthington Christian. "There isn't a drop-off when we bring players in from the bench."

Leuhmann and Schoedinger scored and Ziegler had eight saves in a 2-0, season-opening win over Bloom-Carroll on Aug. 22.

The Lions improved to 2-0 by defeating Chillicothe 3-2 on Aug. 25 as Schoedinger scored twice.

shennen@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekHennen