Big Walnut High School football coach Joe Weaver will be looking for something specific as his team prepares to take on a very familiar opponent in week 2.

Big Walnut High School football coach Joe Weaver will be looking for something specific as his team prepares to take on a very familiar opponent in week 2.

The Golden Eagles, who opened at home against Mansfield Senior on Aug. 26, travel to Worthington Kilbourne on Friday, Sept. 2.

"This has got to be the biggest week of improvement for us," Weaver said. "That first game is really your first battle test, and we need to see what guys are going to step up and be ready to play on Friday nights."

The Golden Eagles and Wolves faced each other each of the past three seasons as members of the OCC-Capital Division. As part of OCC realignment, Kilbourne has moved to the OCC-Cardinal this season.

The Wolves, under coach Vince Trombetti, won all three league matchups with the Golden Eagles, including 23-16 last season.

"We're going to have to be ready to play," Trombetti said. "We have a bigger target on our backs because we have been in the playoffs for the past three years. The kids are ready for that challenge."

Kilbourne is looking to replace three key components in its triple-option attack with the graduation of quarterback Michael Bell-Wheelwright, running back Isaiah Young and slotback Josh Stoner.

Last season, Bell-Wheelwright rushed for 644 yards and four touchdowns and was 82-for-157 passing for 989 yards and eight touchdowns. Young ran for 1,549 yards and 18 touchdowns, and Stoner had 1,897 all-purpose yards with 17 touchdowns.

Junior Josh Stewart was named starting quarterback for the Wolves' opener against Olentangy Orange on Aug. 26, with junior Michael McQuade at running back and junior Isaac Morgan at slotback.

Kilbourne returned a seasoned offensive line.

"The things you know about them are that they are a disciplined, fundamental football team," Weaver said of the Wolves.

"They've got athletes on top of that."

Girls volleyball team 'a work in progress'

During his 27 seasons as girls volleyball coach, Ron Lehman has seen teams begin the season with little experience and progress into a competitive group. He believes that can happen this year.

"We're trying to put together a new lineup and get kids comfortable playing together," Lehman said. "Obviously, it's a struggle at this point or a work in progress, and we don't start our schedule off too easily with a lot of tough matches in the first week."

Big Walnut lost its opening match to Orange, 25-17, 25-19, 25-9 on Aug. 23.

"There were times when we played really well (against Orange)," Lehman said. "We just need to be more consistent with it. We have too many lapses where we let things get away from us. If we get more consistent, I think we will be pretty good."

The Golden Eagles lost four players from last season to graduation, including setter Abby Kitchen, who was named first-team all-league a year ago.

Seven letterwinners have returned in seniors Alex Brehm (defensive specialist), Bryn Rammelsberg (middle hitter), Alex Thomas (defensive specialist) and Olivia Wince (outside/middle hitter), junior Emma Urhammer (outside hitter) and sophomores Kelsie Imertreijs (outside hitter) and Machaela Podraza (setter).

Sophomore Kaley Rammelsberg (middle hitter) also will be a key contributor, Lehman said.

Under Lehman, the Golden Eagles have won 16 district championships, including one in 2014, and were the Division II state runners-up in 2010. In addition, they have won 12 league titles in the past 16 seasons.

Last season, Big Walnut finished 15-10 overall, finished third in the OCC-Capital (10-4) behind co-champions Olentangy and Orange (both 11-3), and reached a Division I district semifinal.

Both Olentangy and Orange have moved to the OCC-Buckeye as part of realignment.

"We're not panicking or anything," Lehman said. "We think we have some kids we can work with and build something."

Numbers rise for cross country teams

Third-year cross country coach Kevin Lewis spent the offseason playing salesman for a program that he believes has a bright future.

"We did a lot of recruiting," said Lewis, whose teams will compete in the Bucyrus Elks Invitational on Saturday, Sept. 3. "We went into a lot of (physical education) classes and made a lot of calls over the summer."

That recruitment paid off with 45 runners on the boys roster and 24 on the girls, marking the largest combined number of athletes in program history, according to Lewis.

Big Walnut opened the season Aug. 23 by playing host to a five-team meet.

The boys finished fourth (86 points) behind Columbus Academy (37), Fairfield Union (49) and Reynoldsburg (79) and ahead of Whitehall (124), while the girls were second (49) behind Fairfield Union (31) and ahead of Academy (70), Reynoldsburg (83) and Whitehall (no score).

Freshman Colbi Borland was the only Big Walnut runner to finish in the top 10, placing third in the girls race in 13 minutes, 14 seconds.

"She's going to rewrite some record books before she's done," Lewis said. "I got excited when she ran a 5K race in town on the Fourth of July. Her time was about 40 seconds better than our freshman record."

Another freshman, Alina Pecci, and sophomore Hannah Moroz of the girls team also have Lewis' attention.

"We've got a lot of young girls running at the top of the pack," he said.

Top contributors returning from last year's team are seniors Lindsay Humbert and Caroline Craig-Bowden, junior Leksi Murnieks and sophomores Jojo Lucas and Taylor Grills.

One of the top runners for the boys team, senior Matt Halbakken, is out with an injury but could be back in the lineup soon.

According to Lewis, juniors Kaleb Disbennett and William Hefner have been leading the Golden Eagles during Halbakken's absence.

Expectations also are high for senior Ethan Pecci and sophomore Leif Anderson, Lewis said.

"The next pack back is pretty strong with probably 10 to 15 guys," Lewis said. "I'm really excited about this group."

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Schedules

CROSS COUNTRY

Aug. 23 -- vs. Columbus Academy, Fairfield Union, Reynoldsburg and Whitehall

Aug. 27 -- Whitehall Invitational

Sept. 3 -- Bucyrus Elks Invitational

Sept. 10 -- McGowan Invitational at Watkins Memorial

Sept. 17 -- Newark Invitational

Sept. 24 -- Tiger Invitational at Pickerington Central

Oct. 1 -- Panther Invitational at Pickerington North

Oct. 5 -- Backwoods Festival at Thornville Sheridan

Oct. 8 -- Les Eisenhart Invitational at Thomas Worthington

Oct. 15 -- OCC-Capital meet at Pickerington Central

GIRLS VOLLEYBALL

Aug. 23 -- at Olentangy Orange

Aug. 25 -- vs. Westerville Central

Aug. 27 -- vs. Sparta Highland

Aug. 30 -- vs. Olentangy

Sept. 1 -- at Marysville

*Sept. 6 -- vs. Canal Winchester

*Sept. 8 -- at New Albany

*Sept. 13 -- vs. Newark

Sept. 14 -- at DeSales

*Sept. 15 -- vs. Franklin Heights

Sept. 17 -- at Pickerington North

*Sept. 20 -- at Groveport

Sept. 21 -- vs. Upper Arlington

*Sept. 22 -- at Canal Winchester

*Sept. 27 -- vs. New Albany

* Sept. 29 -- at Newark

Oct. 1 -- at Gahanna with Hilliard Davidson

*Oct. 6 -- at Franklin Heights

*Oct. 13 -- vs. Groveport

*League contest

Below are the coming schedules for the Big Walnut boys golf, girls golf, boys soccer, girls soccer and girls tennis teams:

BOYS GOLF

Aug. 31 -- OCC-Capital at Darby Creek

GIRLS GOLF

Aug. 30 -- OCC-Cardinal at Westchester

Sept. 1 -- Buckeye Valley at Oakhaven

BOYS SOCCER

Aug. 30 -- At Olentangy Orange

GIRLS SOCCER

Aug. 30 -- Home vs. Olentangy Orange

GIRLS TENNIS

Aug. 29 -- At Worthington Christian

*Aug. 30 -- At New Albany

*Sept. 1 -- Home vs. Newark

*League contest