When the Olentangy School District added Olentangy Liberty in 2003 and Olentangy Orange last year, enrollment at Olentangy High School took a hit.

But despite smaller numbers, the football team has continued to thrive.

The Braves qualified for the Division II playoffs in 2005, 2006 and last season. They finished 7-4 overall last year after losing 28-14 to eventual state champion Sylvania Southview in the first round of the playoffs. They were 4-3 in the OCC-Cardinal Division.

Olentangy will begin this year as the smallest school in the Olentangy district.

"This is the fewest players we've had to work with,"said coach Ed Terwilliger, who enters his 10th season. "I don't know how talented we are, but I won't doubt our effort. They come to work with a lunch pail and a hard hat every day."

Last year, Olentangy's seven wins were by an average margin of 5.3 points. Its biggest margin of victory was 9-0 against Westerville North.

What's remarkable about last season is what the Braves had to overcome to post those wins.

The Braves lost:

•Running back Ben-Michael Welch to a broken foot on the first play of a 28-19 loss to Dublin Jerome.

•Running back Joe Eschenbach to a concussion in a 27-20 win over Westerville Central.

•Receiver Monte Davis (who had 275 yards and three touchdowns on 13 catches) to a broken wrist against Central.

•Punter/fullback Trevor Thrash to a torn ACL against Southview.

Graduate Tom Carpenter was one of the players who stepped up.

Carpenter, who played defense at the beginning of the season, rushed for 767 yards and six touchdowns on 172 carries and caught 12 passes for 229 yards and three touchdowns.

"If you watch film from the first five games of the season and film from the last six games, we look like a totally different team," Terwilliger said.

"Being able to switch up our offenses means no matter what a defense gives us, we're going to be able to find an offense that's perfect for that situation," said Eschenbach, a senior.

Eschenbach will join classmate Welch and junior Allen White to anchor the running game. Eschenbach rushed for 467 yards and one touchdown on 115 carries and caught nine passes for 159 yards and two touchdowns. Welch was the team's leading receiver with 17 catches for 277 passes and a touchdown and rushed for 152 yards on 39 carries with two touchdowns.

Senior James Camp (6-3, 205) is the front-runner to replace graduate Justin Johnson at quarterback. Junior Joey Gadd and sophomores Matt Winnings and Jon Seymour are close behind. None of the candidates took a varsity snap last year.

Johnson completed 116 of 226 passes for 1,736 yards and 11 touchdowns with 12 interceptions and rushed for 307 yards and five touchdowns on 86 carries.

Senior Justin Gingery, Josh Allenstein and Joe Pena and junior Lew Staum are receivers. Juniors Garrett Schmidt (6-3, 220) and Nathan Hyburg (6-3, 190) are tight ends.

On the offensive line, seniors Matt Wilson (6-1, 235) and Adam Lauer (6-2, 230) are tackles, Tyler Milnor (6-3, 255) and Dayne Widenhamer (6-1, 207) are guards and Alex Lauer (6-2, 230) is at center.

The Braves, who allowed 19.1 points a game, have six junior starters on defense.

On the line, senior Michael Raiff (6-0, 203) and junior Tyler Foy (6-2, 210) are the ends and senior Brad Young (6-1, 295) and junior William Greathouse (5-11, 265) are tackles.

Senior David Greenzalis, junior Mason Estep and sophomore Austin Held are competing for time at linebacker. Greenzalis had 23 tackles and 16 assists.

In the backfield, juniors Caleb Hetterscheidt and Chris Binkley and sophomore Josh Perry are looking for time as strong safety.

Senior Aaron Gutentag and sophomore Will Brett are vying at free safety. Gutentag had 23 first hits, 16 assists and an interception.

Senior Ryan Summers and juniors Bryce Cheek, Josh Colan and Mark Harter should see time at cornerback.

"Since our defense is young, you have to be a role model as a senior," Gutentag said. "You have to show guys how it's done and pick them up if they do something wrong."

The defense will be tested by a schedule that features five teams who made the postseason a year ago -- Delaware, Marysville, Olentangy Liberty, Dublin Jerome and Division III state semifinalist Big Walnut.

"One of the Web sites had us listed as playing one of the state's Division II games of the week in the first six weeks," Terwilliger said. "Look at our schedule and tell me which game we are guaranteed to win. There isn't any. That's what keeps me up at night."