Not only did the Big Walnut High School football team install a new, up-tempo offense during the offseason, but it also welcomed a new offensive coordinator who is helping to mold an inexperienced line.
Coach Joe Weaver has seen his offense progress quickly, as the Golden Eagles were averaging 40 points through two games, which included a 42-28 victory over Buckeye Valley on Aug. 31.
"It's a testament to those guys up front," said Weaver, whose team was 1-1 before playing Dublin Scioto on Sept. 7. "They've accepted the challenge, and every day they're getting better."
Wes Coey is the only returning starter on the line, and Josh Hageman has welcomed his new role as center for an offense that also includes a first-year starter at quarterback in sophomore Jagger Barnett.
C.J. Rockwell, Quintin Humphries and Aiden Rond are the other starters up front, with Kelton Thompson, Henry Sydnor, Bryce Wardlow, Max Lenz and Holden Williams also in the mix for playing time on the line.
"The coaches have been really helpful with that, in getting me used to the position and comfortable with what I need to do and getting the lineman working together as one unit," said Hageman, who also plays defensive end.
The offensive unit is under new leadership in coordinator Larry Leach and line coach Paul Hardin.
Coey has been impressed with the group's ability to adapt quickly to their roles.
"We watch film together and we hang out outside of practice, and I think that alone has made us closer," Coey said. "We just work our butt off in practice. We don't care how big you are or what team you play for. We're going to play Big Walnut football and show you what we've got."
Big Walnut will be looking to maintain its offensive production when it plays at Olentangy Orange on Friday, Sept. 14.
The Pioneers were 1-1 before playing Pickerington North on Sept. 7.
In a 17-14 loss to Watterson on Aug. 31, Orange quarterback Robbie Dayhuff threw a 45-yard touchdown pass to Zane Lattig and a 76-yarder to Mark Roberts to account for the Pioneers' scoring. Dayhuff was 13-for-22 passing for 229 yards with one interception.
Roberts rushed for 43 yards on 14 carries and caught two passes for 81 yards. Lattig had five receptions for 77 yards.
"Those kids are coached well and very athletic," Weaver said of Orange. "You're going to be up against a well-prepared team that has weapons everywhere."
Big Walnut had six rushing touchdowns against Buckeye Valley, including three for 45 or more yards.
In the first quarter, Sam Elliott scored on a 56-yard run and Jacob Daniels made it 14-0 with a 48-yard touchdown run. In the third quarter, Nathan Montgomery scored on a 45-yard run to make it 42-14.
Nathan Lawyer scored on runs of 4 and 2 yards and Tyler Crotinger added a 2-yard touchdown run for the Golden Eagles, who led 21-7 after the first quarter, 28-14 at halftime and 42-21 after three quarters.
"If we keep playing like we are (offensively), and our defense steps up, we can do some great things this year," Coey said.
Big Walnut started 0-5 last season before going 4-1 in the OCC-Capital Division and sharing the league title.
Boys golfers eyeing second place in league
The boys golf team can secure a second-place finish in the four-round OCC-Capital tournament, which concludes Wednesday, Sept. 12, at Apple Valley.
Big Walnut enters the final round at 12-3, behind New Albany (15-0) and ahead of Canal Winchester (9-6) and Newark (6-9). Franklin Heights and Groveport do not have enough golfers for a team score.
Austen Bennett leads the Golden Eagles with an 80 league average, followed by Kyle Williams (83), Zach Herbert (85), Tyler Garner (88.67) and Kenny Schneider (89).
New Albany won the league's third round Aug. 29 at Turnberry with a 320, ahead of Big Walnut (339), Canal Winchester (366) and Newark (376).
Herbert (38) and Bennett (39) were Big Walnut's top scorers in a nine-hole 170-162 victory over Columbus Academy on Sept. 5.
Girls golf team finishing league play
The girls golf team will compete in the fourth and final round of the OCC-Ohio tournament Wednesday, Sept. 12, at Royal American.
Big Walnut is fifth in the league standings through three rounds at 3-12, behind Pickerington North (15-0), Gahanna (12-3), Pickerington Central (8-7) and Grove City (7-8) and ahead of Lancaster (0-15).
Sydnie Wright leads the Golden Eagles with a 92.7 league average, followed by Grace Hofer (102) and Emily Kuederle (114.3). Each played in the first three rounds.
Atalie Klingensmith (119.5) and Lindsay Stagg (127) both played in two rounds, and Jenna Allen led the team (88) in her only OCC round Aug. 8 at Cooks Creek.
Girls tennis team seeks strong finish
The girls tennis team was 5-3 overall and 2-2 in the OCC-Capital before playing its final league match Sept. 6 against Groveport.
The Golden Eagles defeated Franklin Heights 5-0 in a league match Sept. 4, with Lindsay Hill, Lindsey Stevens and Kina Ehlers winning in singles, Ciara Matos and Allyson Stevens winning at first doubles and Hannah Kaiser and Ava Boldizar winning at second doubles.
Big Walnut lost to DeSales 4-1 on Sept. 5. Winning for the Golden Eagles was Ehlers at third singles.
Below are the coming schedules for the Big Walnut cross country, boys golf, girls golf, boys soccer, girls soccer, girls tennis and girls volleyball teams:
Sept. 15 -- Otterbein Invitational
Sept. 10 -- Westerville North at Royal American
Sept. 11 -- DeSales at Champions
Sept. 12 -- OCC-Capital at Apple Valley
Sept. 13 -- Delaware at Oakhaven
Sept. 15 -- Rodney Butt Classic at Denison Golf Club
Sept. 11 -- Pickerington North at Champions
Sept. 12 -- OCC-Ohio at Royal American
Sept. 13 -- Buckeye Valley and Centerburg at Bent Tree
Sept. 11 -- Home vs. Olentangy Orange
*Sept. 13 -- Home vs. Canal Winchester
Sept. 11 -- Home vs. Olentangy Berlin
*Sept. 13 -- At Canal Winchester
Sept. 15 -- Home vs. Hartley
Sept. 10 -- At Marion Harding
Sept. 11 -- At Reynoldsburg
Sept. 13 -- Home vs. Watkins Memorial
Sept. 11 -- Home vs. Upper Arlington
*Sept. 13 -- Home vs. Newark
Sept. 15 -- At Pickerington North