The opening week of the season didn't prove to be a lost cause for the Beechcroft High School football team.

The opening week of the season didn't prove to be a lost cause for the Beechcroft High School football team.

The Cougars would have preferred to play a game, as opposed to the bye they were forced to take when they couldn't find an opponent for Aug. 24, but they took it as an opportunity for extra scouting.

Even more important is what coach Bruce Ward believes his team learned about mental toughness.

Beechcroft plays its opener Friday, Aug. 31, against visiting Dublin Jerome, which lost to Dublin Coffman 48-6 on Aug. 24 in the first meeting between the programs.

The Cougars were 9-2 a year ago. They made the Division II, Region 7 playoffs, but lost to Big Walnut 14-7 in the first round.

"It's bad from the sense that everyone is fired up to play on opening weekend, so it's been kind of hard to keep them motivated," Ward said. "The good thing is that it allows them to get motivated by watching other people play and maybe you can learn without making some of those mistakes you make on opening night. We took the week to work on ourselves and we're getting better at just working harder. We have to work on finishing and getting better."

The extra week also gave Ward and his staff additional time to prepare for Jerome senior running back Donovan Wilson, a Georgia Tech recruit who rushed for 1,345 yards and 16 touchdowns last season.

Wilson rushed for 103 yards on 25 carries against Coffman, although he had just 27 yards on nine attempts in the first half. Jerome trailed 27-0 at halftime.

The Cougars also had an opportunity to see Wilson firsthand at a 7-on-7 tournament during the summer.

After losing players like 2012 graduates Jalen Randolph and Jamar Randolph on the defensive line and Shaquille Minnifield in the secondary, Ward hopes his defense is ready for the challenge.

Junior linebacker Adonis Davis is the top returnee on a defense that allowed 9.5 points per game a year ago.

"(Wilson's) probably one of the best backs in central Ohio," Ward said. "Our defense is coming together. We have a lot of questions on the defensive line because we really didn't know who we had to play there and (sophomore) Chaquez (Fair) has stepped into one of our tackle spots with Redgie Remy at end."

Vikings runners 'practicing hard'

The Northland girls cross country team returns several of its top runners after earning a runner-up finish in the City League meet last season.

Senior Jasmine Owens and junior McKenzie Pahren, who placed fourth (21 minutes, 42 seconds) and 10th in the league, respectively, are the top returnees.

Also looking to contribute are seniors Brianna Gillman and Angela Holley, juniors Monika Barton and McKenzie Thompson, sophomores Aleah Holley and Tiffany Noble and freshman Nataysa Edmonds.

Northland opened Aug. 21 by placing fifth (139) in the six-team Hamilton Township Invitational behind champion Hilliard Darby (30). The Vikings were last (99) in the four-team Division I race Aug. 25 in the Celina Rotary Club Invitational behind champion Portland (Ind.) Jay County (24).

Last season, the Vikings were second (55) behind Centennial (32) in the seven-team City meet. Northland then was 14th (397) in the 15-team Division I, district 3 meet behind champion Hilliard Davidson (43).

"They've all been practicing hard," said Maureen Knotts, who is in her 12th season as coach. "We're getting in some really good runs and (lately) there's been some nice weather."

The boys team opened by placing sixth (160) in the seven-team Hamilton Township Invitational behind champion Darby (29). The Vikings were last (98) in the four-team Division I race in the Celina Rotary Club Invitational behind Findlay (24).

Looking to contribute are seniors Viet Nguyen, Jacob Smiley and James Strickland, sophomores Matthew Burress, Zachary Jordan and Darius Owens and freshmen Octavious Kennedy, Justin Smith and Isaiah Townsend.

Last season, Northland was fourth (118) in the 11-team league meet behind champion Centennial (24) as 2012 graduate Taquan Hale finished first (16:59). Hale is now competing at Akron. Then in the district 1 meet, Northland placed 12th (340) of 13 teams behind champion Davidson (42) as Hale was 33rd (18:03.97).

"We've got a bunch of new faces, but the guys are showing improvement," 15th-year coach Tom Fast said.

Five new players out for Bearcats golf team

Second-year Brookhaven boys golf coach Joe Krabill has a roster comprised of five players who are new to the sport in senior Herman Simmons, junior Robert Hall and sophomores Brian Brookman, Kirby Ketchens and Trevette Knight.

The Bearcats improved from 10th in 2010 to place third (222) in the 12-team league tournament last season behind Whetstone (190) and Centennial (213). In the league tournament, 2012 graduate Grant Parker shot a 52 followed by Rick Shover (53) and 2012 graduate Nick Williams (55). Shover, a sophomore last season, is not back with the team.

In the Division I sectional at The Players Club at Foxfire, Shover (120), Parker (122) and Williams (138) competed as individuals.

Brookhaven opened Aug. 28 at Walnut Hill against Mifflin, Northland and Walnut Ridge, plays Thursday, Aug. 30, at the same site against Columbus South, Columbus West and Whetstone and competes Tuesday, Sept. 4, at Mentel Memorial against Eastmoor Academy, Marion-Franklin and Walnut Ridge. Having a group of new players isn't disappointing to Krabill.

"I love it, actually," Krabill said. "You can see them starting to process things."

New coach leading Cougars runners

Humphrey Simmons is the new cross country coach at Beechcroft, which has 10 boys out. Simmons took over for Scott Davis, who stepped down in the offseason after becoming the boys basketball coach at Reynoldsburg.

Junior Tarik Woods and sophomores Tersail Chapman, Tieric Ousley and Kameron Pechac are the top runners.

Beechcroft opened Aug. 21 in the Hamilton Township Invitational but didn't have enough runners to post a team score.

In the league meet last season, the Cougars were last (262) of 11 teams.

"We had a meet at Hamilton Township and had a lot of first-timers there and they did pretty well for their first time," said Simmons, a 1999 Independence graduate who ran cross country in high school as well as for one year at Wilberforce University. "They've been in the weight room every day and have been working on our (running) a lot."