When Hartley High School football coach Brad Burchfield found out in late July that his team's opening-week game might end up falling through, he was determined not to settle for a bye.

When Hartley High School football coach Brad Burchfield found out in late July that his team's opening-week game might end up falling through, he was determined not to settle for a bye.

It opened the door for an opportunity that both he and Hartley's new opponent believe should provide a positive experience.

At 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 28, the Hawks will play host to the Reigning Sports Academy Thunder, a Columbus club team that will be playing its first varsity game.

"(Pittsburgh University Prep) advertised on the (Ohio High School Athletic Association) website that they were looking for an opponent (for the last week of August), but their state association rules said that their starting date was Sept. 4," Burchfield said. "They tried to get an exemption, but in the end it didn't work out.

"We're excited to go out there and play and I know (the Thunder's) kids will be excited."

While the Hawks are coming off a season in which they went 11-3 and reached a Division V state semifinal, the Thunder started its program three years ago and has played junior varsity teams in past seasons.

According to Reigning Sports Academy coach Sterling Haywood, the program is comparable to the Columbus Crusaders in that it draws students from any school and is not a member of the OHSAA.

The Thunder has about 25 players and is playing a mix of eight junior varsity and varsity games this season.

"This is like a true blessing in our first year that we open up against a team like (Hartley)," Haywood said. "I don't know if we'll be excited about it in the fourth quarter, but we're really excited about playing them."

Volleyball team seeks another run

Although it lost eight players to graduation, including the Division II district Player of the Year in Emily Rahe, the girls volleyball team isn't planning to take a step back.

The Hawks, who were state runners-up and finished 24-5 a year ago, feature junior Kristen Chatman (outside hitter) as well as seniors Bethany Matuska (middle hitter) and Maria Cegledy (defensive specialist).

Matuska has committed to Mount Union.

"We like our chance to get back to the final four even losing who we lost," coach Mike Rahe said.

Also back are junior Tatum Wise (right-side hitter) and sophomore Olivia Kirwin (libero).

Others looking to contribute include seniors Calen Coakley (defensive specialist), Taylor Mayhan (defensive specialist), Ellie Teague (setter) and Emily Zavastsky (defensive specialist), sophomores Hannah McFeeters (setter) and Paige Rawlins (setter) and freshman Kayla Malone (outside hitter).

Emily Rahe, the coach's daughter, is playing for Mount Vernon Nazarene. Also playing collegiately from the 2015 senior class are Maddie Brandewie (Bowling Green), Shelby Chesko (Mercyhurst) and Lauren Elliott (Miami University).

Golfers taking step forward

The boys golf team expected to be improved this fall because of the return of five of its top six players.

The addition of freshman Trent Tipton has given the Hawks even more hope that a big season will occur.

Tipton was medalist with a 69 as Hartley won the Pickerington Central Invitational on Aug. 11 at Turnberry.

Returning from last season are seniors Chris Williard and Salmika Wairegi, juniors Jared Ozarzak and Bryce Twente and sophomore Andrew Berger. Williard was a district qualifier.

The Hawks were runners-up (318) to St. Charles (295) in the CCL preseason tournament Aug. 18 at Pinnacle.

"I'm getting really excited seeing the numbers they're putting up," coach David Liskowiak said. "Our challenge is to get a fourth score consistently."

Most of key runners return

The cross country program again has a young look after having just two seniors a year ago.

Replacing Emily Franz, a four-time state qualifier who finished 15th in the Division II girls state meet last year and now competes for the University of Notre Dame, was the biggest chore of the offseason.

"We've got quite a few coming back, but we're still young, though," coach Reggie Osborne said.

"We're training where we were last year at midseason, so that's good."

Leading the girls team are seniors Jillian Rhodes and Lindsey Rovito, juniors Alexis Onega and Alison Sommer and sophomores Audrey Bailey, Grace Murnane and Annie Robinson.

Senior Cameron Morello and sophomore Max Sauer, who led the boys at district a year ago by placing 36th, are leading their team. Also looking to contribute are juniors Gabe Levert and Michael Smith, sophomores Alex Parker, Chase Rawlins, Daniel Trainer and Evan Vautour and freshman Patrick Scurlock.

New field hockey coach excited

Abby Evans, a 2012 Hartley graduate who was an assistant last year, took over the field hockey program in the offseason after Mary Ellen Sullivan stepped down at the end of her first season as coach.

The Hawks went 4-11 last fall.

"I'm very excited to unleash this team," Evans said. "Our team goals are to improve each practice, to be united by constantly communicating and to represent the Hartley community."

Seniors Rebecca Barlay (defender), Talia Caridi (midfielder), Kate Pellegrino (midfielder) and Abbey Schmitz (attackers) are the captains.

Other key players include seniors Dorothy Allwein (attacker), Hailey Ozarzak (defender) and Sabrina Serrano (defender), junior Megan Mangia (midfielder), sophomores Maria Evans (midfielder) and Emily Timm (attacker) and freshman Ingrid Gillies (midfielder).

Freshman Azaria Greene and junior Katie Price competed for the starting goalkeeper job during the preseason.