Although his team didn't advance beyond the first round of the postseason, Brent Morrison was pleased with his first season as Westerville Central High School football coach.
The seventh-seeded Warhawks finished 5-6 overall with a 27-10 loss at second-seeded Dublin Coffman on Nov. 2 in the first round of the Division I, Region 2 playoffs.
Morrison had been an assistant since 2005 before replacing John Magistro, who stepped down after nine seasons and was an assistant at Olentangy this fall.
"I'm very grateful for the team I had," said Morrison, whose program is losing 22 players to graduation. "Between the players, the assistant coaches, the administration and the parents, it was just a great experience. We were all working together and it helped us accomplish a lot of goals that we set out for the season. I'm really excited to get back to work with some of these younger guys and keep building for the future."
Central went 2-3 in the OCC-Buckeye Division to finish fourth as Olentangy, Olentangy Liberty and Olentangy Orange shared the league title at 4-1.
Morrison said defeating Westerville North 48-12 on Oct. 5 and Westerville South 35-23 on Oct. 18 was a highlight of the season.
The Warhawks started 3-0 before losing three consecutive games. Central dropped close contests to Gahanna (14-13 on Sept. 21), Liberty (16-14 on Sept. 28) and Orange (14-10 on Oct. 12), all three of which made the Region 2 playoffs.
Central trailed Coffman just 14-10 at halftime but was outscored 13-0 in the second half. Junior Rickey Hyatt Jr., who excelled at running back and defensive back, rushed for 134 yards and one touchdown on 21 carries to lead the Warhawks.
Senior quarterback LaBronz Davis II passed for 119 yards and finished the season 89-for-210 for 1,617 yards with 12 touchdowns and six interceptions.
Hyatt rushed for a team-high 470 yards and five touchdowns on 53 carries after moving from wide receiver to running back late in the season.
Senior Justin Carter (RB/DL) rushed for 433 yards and four touchdowns on 94 carries, and sophomore Luke Swaney (WR/DB) led the team in receiving with 20 catches for 430 yards and six touchdowns.
Senior Colton Irwin (WR/DB) had 17 catches for 318 yards and two touchdowns, and junior Myles Williamson (WR/DB) had 20 receptions for 201 yards and added three rushing touchdowns.
Sophomore Zeke Healy (RB/LB) led the Warhawks in tackles (113) and sacks (8) and was first-team all-league.
"We'll have a lot of returning starters next year," Healy said. "We're definitely hard-working. ... Coach Morrison is a great coach. It was a lot of fun this season. He definitely worked hard with us. It was a good transition."
Senior Nathan Lawrence (RB/LB) had 97 tackles and three sacks, Hyatt had 94 tackles and three interceptions and senior Dontay Hunter II (TE/DL) had 84 tackles and six sacks.
Hunter, who has committed to Purdue, was first-team all-league, while Hyatt and Lawrence were second-team all-league.
Senior Jacob Borcila (K) and junior Darius Madison (RB/DE) also were first-team all-league.
Sophomore Vince Frances-cone (QB/LB) was second-team all-league, senior Devin Smith (OL/DL) was special mention all-league and Irwin was honorable mention all-league.
Senior Nick Francescone (RB/LB) had 81 tackles.
Other key players eligible to return include juniors Jace Jarvis (WR/DB) and J.J. Johnson (OL/DL) and sophomore Judah Holtzclaw (QB/DL).
Morrison said the senior class helped his transition to head coach.
"I can't thank them enough," he said. "Being my first year, they made it very easy. I told them I'll probably remember them the most of any class I ever had because I had so many firsts with them: first win, first chance to 'rule the 'Ville,' first playoff appearance. It's a great group of guys and I'm really excited to see what they do in the future."