After accomplishing a pair of its goals for the season, the Whitehall-Yearling High School football team has established new objectives to pursue.
The Rams entered the season with hopes of winning the MSL-Ohio Division title and earning a postseason win.
Whitehall won the league title at 5-0 and then earned its first playoff win since 2003 with a 38-31 victory over fourth-seeded Dover in a Division II, Region 7 first-round game Nov. 2.
"It's been quite the journey," coach Rod Lightfoot said. "The primary goal of our seniors this year was to get to Week 12. We have to readjust our goals because the goals that they established for themselves, we've met those goals."
Fifth-seeded Whitehall, which has won 10 consecutive games and is 10-1 overall, faces its biggest challenge of the season when it plays top-seeded Massillon Washington in a regional semifinal Friday, Nov. 9, at Arlin Field in Mansfield.
The Tigers improved to 11-0 with a 45-14 win over eighth-seeded Walnut Ridge in a first-round game Nov. 2.
The winner plays third-seeded Wadsworth or seventh-seeded Dresden Tri-Valley in the Region 7 final Nov. 16 at a neutral site to be determined.
This will be the first meeting between Whitehall and Massillon.
The high-powered Tigers' offense is averaging 47.8 points, including a 101-6 win over Aston (Pennsylvania) Sun Valley on Oct. 12.
Massillon had its season-low point total in a 24-17 win over Canton McKinley on Oct. 27.
"They're a tremendous team and they have tremendous size," Lightfoot said. "We're going to have our hands full Friday, but our kids are more than up for the challenge and looking forward to it."
The Tigers have qualified for the playoffs in six of the last seven seasons, including in 2016 when they lost to Dublin Scioto 31-21 in the first round.
Massillon is 0-3 in state finals (1980, 1982, 2005) and 31-24 in the postseason.
"We're approaching this game like it's our toughest challenge," senior middle linebacker Keon Freeman said. "Their players know how to play, so we have to be on our 'A' game. Ram football is tough. We like to run the ball and we like to pass sometimes. Our defense is run-stopping, that's what we're best at. I have to be a leader, I have to stay positive. ... Don't count us out."
Whitehall has qualified for the playoffs in three consecutive seasons, but lost in the first round the previous two years.
In 2003, the Rams defeated Youngstown Chaney 18-15 in the first round before losing to Brookhaven 33-27 in a semifinal to finish 10-2.
Whitehall opened a 23-3 lead against Dover before the hosts rallied to take leads of 24-23 and 31-30 in the second half.
The Rams went ahead for good on Raymell Byrd's 1-yard run and two-point conversion run with 7 minutes, 22 seconds remaining. Byrd rushed for 161 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries and added 110 yards passing.
"They played like warriors," Lightfoot said. "Our kids kept their poise throughout the entire game and made the plays they needed to make."
Byrd scored on a 64-yard run and connected with Von Williams for a 27-yard touchdown to help the Rams build their 20-point lead.
Zion Phifer rushed for 85 yards and a touchdown and Massillon returned two interceptions for scores against Walnut Ridge. Quarterback Aidan Longwell completed 21 of 33 passes for 216 yards and one touchdown, and Jayden Ballard had eight catches for 97 yards and one score.
"Massillon is more balanced than the Dover team we faced," Lightfoot said. "We know what we're up against. We're just going to go and play the way we know to play and play Ram football."
Boys soccer team takes steps forward
The boys soccer team made strides this season, highlighted by contending for an MSL-Ohio title.
The Rams saw their bid for the league title end with a 3-2 loss at Bexley on Oct. 10 to finish 1-1-2 in the league. They tied Bexley (2-2) for third behind co-champions Columbus Academy and Grandview (both 2-1-1).
The 38th-seeded Rams lost at 22nd-seeded Hilliard Davidson 3-0 in the first round of the Division I district tournament Oct. 17 to finish 4-7-6 overall.
Senior forward Lauro Guijosa, who missed the final two games with a knee injury, and senior midfielder Fernando Sanchez were named first-team all-league.
Seniors Kelvin Gutierrez (midfielder) and Andy Artica (defender) were second-team all-league. Junior Jared Alvarez (goalkeeper) and sophomores Ebrima Jorbateh (midfielder) and Jefferson Martinez (midfielder) were honorable mention all-league.
Senior forward Bereket Woldeamanuel, who was second-team all-league last season, missed most of the year with a knee injury.
Girls soccer team shows improvement
The girls soccer team finished 3-10 overall under first-year coach Alex Setser after going 1-12 a year ago.
"From where we started at the beginning of the season to now, we have made tremendous improvement," Setser said.
The Rams went 0-6 in the MSL-Ohio.
Senior goalie Illeen Aguirre was second-team all-league. Junior defender Abadit Negasi and freshman forward Brooklynn Greer were honorable mention all-league.
Seeded 15th for the Division II district tournament, the Rams lost at fourth-seeded Bloom-Carroll 9-0 in the first round Oct. 15.