Every August at the start of two-a-day practices, members of the Big Walnut High School football team set their sights on two primary goals: winning the OCC-Capital Division and making the playoffs.

Every August at the start of two-a-day practices, members of the Big Walnut High School football team set their sights on two primary goals: winning the OCC-Capital Division and making the playoffs.

The Golden Eagles entered their regular-season finale Oct. 28 at Franklin Heights with an opportunity to clinch both. Through nine games, they were tied with New Albany and Olentangy Orange for first in the OCC-Capital at 5-1 and were fourth in the Division II, Region 7 computer ratings, with the top eight teams in each region making the playoffs.

A win over Franklin Heights would give Big Walnut at least a share of its first league title since 2008 and secure its second consecutive playoff berth.

“(Making the playoffs) is a pride thing,” senior wide receiver Seth Wandling said. “We have these big expectations and we feel we have the ability to meet them. ... Before the season, during two-a-days, we set our main goals, but we didn’t look too far ahead. We took it one game at a time. Now we’re looking forward to (the playoffs).”

Big Walnut has made the playoffs four of the past five seasons and has seven playoff appearances in program history, with the first coming in 2000. The Eagles won the Division III state title in 2007, reached a Division III state semifinal in 2008 and reached a regional final three times, including last year in Division II.

Seeded fifth in Region 7 a year ago, Big Walnut beat fourth-seeded Canal Winchester 44-20 in the first round and upset top-seeded Marion-Franklin 24-12 in the second round before losing to third-seeded Uniontown Lake 42-14.

“We pride ourselves on winning the OCC and not just getting to the playoffs, but doing something in the playoffs,” senior running back Lucas Garcia said.

Big Walnut, which improved to 7-2 overall by beating Mount Vernon 42-0 on Oct. 21 at home, appears primed for another playoff run. Its lineup includes 14 players who started or saw significant playing time last season.

“I think it definitely helps that we have that experience from last year,” Lucas said. “We know what it takes (to win in the playoffs). We know we have to take it one game at a time; we can’t look ahead. We want to play sound football and play Big Walnut smash-mouth football.”

“This year we know what to expect (in the playoffs),” Wandling said. “Teamwork and communication (are the keys to winning in the playoffs). Our motto for this year is: Playing together. We’re focusing on being one team, not 11 individuals.”

Through nine games, quarterback Tyler Beam was 63-for-108 passing for 709 yards with eight touchdowns and two interceptions and had rushed for a team-high 564 yards and nine touchdowns on 77 carries.

Garcia had 545 yards rushing and five touchdowns on 114 carries, and Wandling was the team’s leading receiver with 19 receptions for 307 yards and three touchdowns.

Defensively, free safety Seth Myers had four interceptions and two fumble recoveries. Lineman Austin Crow was leading the team with 88 tackles, including four sacks, and middle linebacker Garrett Dandrea had 86 tackles, including six sacks. Lineman/linebacker Carson Chatterton was next with 62 tackles, followed by lineman Jason Griffith with 59.

•The boys soccer team defeated visiting Hartley 2-1 in a Division II district semifinal Oct. 25 to improve to 14-0-4 and advance to a district final for the sixth time in the last seven years.

Junior forward Austin Foor and junior midfielder Shane Facemyer scored and senior goalkeeper Lukas Swysgood had five saves for the top-seeded Eagles, who played second-seeded DeSales in a district final Oct. 29 at Westerville North.

The district champion plays Vincent Warren or Waverly in a regional semifinal at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 1, at Logan. The semifinal winner plays Lisbon Beaver or New Philadelphia in a regional final at 3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 5, at Watkins Memorial.

The regional champion advances to a state semifinal Nov. 8 at a site to be announced.

Big Walnut, which last won a district title in 2008, reached a regional final in 2005, 2006 and 2008 but has yet to win a regional championship. The Eagles, who were ranked third in the final state poll behind Dayton Carroll and Richfield Revere, have not played any of the potential regional semifinal or regional final opponents this season.

Against Hartley, Foor scored his 10th goal of the season off an assist by sophomore midfielder Dominic Zumpone in the first half. After the Hawks tied the game at 1 in the second half, the Eagles retook the lead 34 seconds later when Facemyer scored on a header off an assist by senior midfielder Dixon Duckwall.

“In sports, you call that a response, and that was a great response by the boys,” coach Brett Weiss said. “It says a lot about the boys’ character.

“Give all the credit to Hartley. They were hitting on all cylinders and they had lots of momentum throughout the game. We spent most of the game trying to take the momentum from them. It was an off night for us.”

•The girls volleyball team lost to fourth-seeded Jonathan Alder 25-14, 23-25, 25-23, 25-21 in a Division II district semifinal Oct. 27 at Olentangy Liberty to finish 16-8.

Big Walnut had won 10 district titles in the past 11 years, including the past three seasons. Last year, the Eagles reached the state final before losing to Mentor Lake Catholic 25-18, 22-25, 26-24, 25-23 to finish 23-6.

Seeded third, Big Walnut had a first-round bye in the district tournament and defeated London 25-19, 28-26, 25-19 in the second round Oct. 22 at Worthington Christian Middle School.

•Neither the boys nor the girls cross country team advanced any runners out of the Division I, district 3 meet Oct. 22 at Watkins Memorial. The top six teams and top 24 individuals advanced to the regional meet Oct. 29 at Pickerington North.

The boys team scored 348 points to finish 12th of 16 teams, behind regional-qualifiers Dublin Coffman (58), Liberty (61), Westerville North (118), Watkins Memorial (136), Lancaster (141) and Marietta (142).

Junior A.J. Barber led the Eagles, finishing 59th in 18 minutes, 32 seconds. Also competing were senior Sean McVay (62nd, 18:39), senior Nathan Randall (71st, 18:56), freshman Jonathan Kahrmann (75th, 19:04), junior Cameron Ahmed (81st, 19:29), freshman Noah Miller (89th, 20:22.64) and junior Jimmy Glaze (92nd, 21:07.51).

“It went about the way we expected,” said coach Gary Brandon, whose team competed without two of its top five runners in sophomores Joe Croce (knee) and Jacob Oppenheimer (hip), each of whom has been sidelined for much of the season because of an injury. “We’re a middle-of-the-pack team if healthy, and we weren’t healthy.”

The girls team finished 11th (329) of 15 teams, as Hilliard Davidson (43), Upper Arlington (56), New Albany (77), Pickerington North (114), Dublin Jerome (128) and Delaware Hayes (174) qualified for regional.

Sophomore Stephanie Keller led the Eagles, placing 45th in 22:02. Also scoring were freshman Addison Shawver (49th, 22:06), sophomore Catie Craig-Bowden (68th, 22:49), freshman Mikaela Smith (72nd, 23:24) and freshman Samantha Godby (101st, 29:14).

Juniors Lindsey Adams and Bethany Bogantz also competed, but neither finished the race. According to Brandon, Adams couldn’t finish because of an ankle injury and Bogantz couldn’t finish for the second week in a row because of the lingering effects of having donated blood on Oct. 13.

Bogantz, the team’s No. 1 runner, was the first Eagles runner to cross the finish line in all but one of the eight races in which Big Walnut competed during the regular season. She was not able to complete the OCC-Capital race Oct. 15 at Hilliard Bradley, two days after participating in the school’s blood drive.

“She felt so weak from giving blood,” Brandon said of Bogantz. “I talked to some doctors and nurses and they say (how long donating blood affects someone) varies from person to person. Beth was ranked 24th (in district 3) coming in, so she had a good chance of getting through (to regional). I guess it’s a lesson learned.”

The girls team competed at district without two of its top seven runners in freshmen Makenna Hemming and Hannah Seabrook. Hemming missed the meet because of illness and Seabrook missed it because of another obligation, Brandon said.