With the first half of the season completed, the Big Walnut High School football team begins the OCC-Capital Division schedule with a clearly established goal.
"Our goal is to win the league. It's the goal we set at the beginning of the season, and we're not going to let anything stop us from accomplishing that," running back and linebacker Nathan Lawyer said. "We know what it takes to get it done, but we also know nothing is going to be handed to us."
The Golden Eagles, who were 1-3 before playing Marysville on Sept. 21, open league play Friday, Sept. 28, at home against Newark.
Big Walnut defeated the Wildcats 47-14 last season on its way to earning a share of the OCC-Capital championship, its first league title since 2011. The Golden Eagles and New Albany both finished 4-1 in the league.
Newark was 1-3 before facing Central Crossing on Sept. 21.
"We started off the year as a pretty young team, but we're all becoming veterans now," Lawyer said. "I think that's starting to show. There are moments in games where you'll see our defense get a three-and-out and our offense score quickly, in one or two plays. Those are things that remind us of what we're capable of."
Big Walnut quickly moved on from a 35-7 loss to Olentangy Orange on Sept. 14.
The Golden Eagles were outscored 29-0 by the Pioneers in the first 15 minutes.
Orange's Jake Vanchieri helped set the tone, breaking free for a 77-yard touchdown run on the second play from scrimmage, and Mark Roberts ran for four scores, including three in the first half, to lead the Pioneers.
Big Walnut scored with about three minutes left when quarterback Jagger Barnett connected with Jakob Daniels on a 5-yard touchdown pass.
Newark was dominated in a 62-0 loss to Lancaster on Sept. 14. The Wildcats were held to just 64 total yards, including 5 yards rushing.
Quarterback Jake Sherman guides Newark's spread offense, and his targets include receivers Jade Batross, Louie Cook, Jake Morgan and Dustin Williams. Nose guard Prophet Johnson, a 5-foot-10, 210-pound junior, anchors the Wildcats' defense and also sees time at running back.
The Golden Eagles and Wildcats are meeting for the third time in OCC-Capital play. Newark won the first matchup, 31-17 in 2016.
Volleyball team hopes to build momentum
Six of the final nine regular-season matches for the girls volleyball team come against OCC-Capital opponents, as Big Walnut looks to earn another league championship.
The Golden Eagles were 9-4 overall and 3-0 in the league before playing Franklin Heights on Sept. 20. Big Walnut went undefeated (10-0) in the league last season before reaching the Division II state final.
Coach Ron Lehman, whose team lost three of its first four matches, made certain his group faced a competitive non-league schedule.
"The league isn't really strong, and you kind of slack off at the end (of the regular season), unfortunately," he said. "We have to deal with it, so we get some tough competition outside of there."
Big Walnut had won eight consecutive matches before losing to Olentangy Liberty 26-24, 25-21, 25-19 on Sept. 18.
Through 13 matches, Machaela Podraza was leading the team in kills (100), followed by Kaley Rammelsberg (98), Kelsie Imertreijs (89) and Caroline Speelman (87).
Defensive specialist Lauren Speelman, who's been out of the lineup with an injury, practiced last week and could return to the lineup soon, Lehman said.
Times improving for cross country runners
Twelve runners for the girls cross country team posted their best time of the season or a personal record on Sept. 15 in the Otterbein invitational, where Big Walnut finished ninth (211 points) of 12 teams, behind champion Springboro (51).
Colbi Borland finished first of 251 runners in a personal-best 19 minutes, 13.7 seconds.
"She continues to look strong as we head into the final meets of the season," coach Kevin Lewis said.
Sierra Sanders was next for the Golden Eagles, finishing 56th (22:42.9). Also scoring for Big Walnut were Hannah Unger (61st, 22:46.6), Alina Pecci (98th, 23:56.1) and Jaiden Hilton (107th, 24:15.6).
"With the competition of this meet, it proves the girls are still in very good position to challenge for the OCC-Capital title, and that is our No. 1 goal," Lewis said.
The OCC-Capital meet is Oct. 13 at Lancaster.
Seventeen runners for the boys team posted their season-best times in the Otterbein Invitational, as Big Walnut finished 15th (430) of 15 teams, behind champion Lancaster (72).
Christopher Lee led the Golden Eagles, finishing 78th (18:28.6) of 535 runners. Also scoring were Drew Armstrong (148th, 19:25.1), Grady Hemmingway (167th, 19:37.6), Leif Anderson (190th, 19:59.1) and Jatan Pokar (194th, 20:02.5).
Boys golfers finish sixth in Delaware Cup
The boys golf team scored a 343 in the Delaware Cup on Sept. 17 at Royal American to place sixth behind Liberty (315), Orange (321), Olentangy Berlin (324), Delaware and Olentangy (both 329).
Liberty won the event for the sixth consecutive season.
Kyle Williams and Kenny Schneider both shot an 85 to lead the Golden Eagles. Also scoring were Zack Herbert (86) and Austen Bennett (87).
Below are the coming schedules for the Big Walnut boys golf, girls golf, boys soccer, girls soccer, girls tennis and girls volleyball teams:
Sept. 24 -- OCC Shootout at Moundbuilders
Sept. 29 -- Pickerington Central Fall Invitational at Turnberry
Sept. 24 -- Pickerington Central and Watterson at Turnberry
Sept. 25 -- Johnstown at Clover Valley
Sept. 26 -- Buckeye Valley at Oakhaven
*Sept. 25 -- Home vs. Newark
Sept. 27 -- At Hilliard Bradley
*Sept. 25 -- At Newark
Sept. 27 -- Home vs. Worthington Kilbourne
Sept. 29 -- Home vs. Marysville
Sept. 24 -- At Westerville Central
Sept. 27 -- At Marysville
*Sept. 25 -- At Groveport
*Sept. 27 -- At Canal Winchester. The Golden Eagles beat the Indians 25-11, 25-19, 25-18 on Sept. 4.
Sept. 29 -- At Gahanna with Hilliard Davidson