As the Westerville South High School football team enters its locker room, players gaze into the adjacent weight room at banners that highlight the program's achievements over the years.

As the Westerville South High School football team enters its locker room, players gaze into the adjacent weight room at banners that highlight the program's achievements over the years.

Players like senior middle linebacker Zach Wachalec would like to see the Wildcats return to those days of success.

The most significant sign in the weight room is the one that recognizes the 1994 team, which lost to Cleveland St. Ignatius 20-3 in the Division I state final to finish 12-2.

Wachalec believes first-year coach Kyle Stout will help South again reach elite status.

The Wildcats won 10 OCC championships under former 24-year coach Rocky Pentello.

"We're doing well," Wach-alec said. "It's just a learning process for the seniors because we're coming into a new system, and the juniors and sophomores will be ready for next year. We just have to be comfortable with the new system."

After losing its first two games under Stout, South bounced back to win two in a row before falling to visiting Hilliard Bradley 16-13 on Sept. 25 when Brady Whittekind kicked a 35-yard field goal as time expired. The Jaguars overcame a 13-3 deficit in the second quarter.

Although he continues to recover from a lower-body injury, sophomore slotback Jaelen Gill rushed for 100 yards and two touchdowns. He already has received several Division I scholarship offers, including from Ohio State and Notre Dame.

"Jaelen is having a great season so far," Stout said. "He's starting to get healthy. He's a phenomenal player for us and a hard worker."

Stout said he's starting to see progress across the board. In addition to the Bradley loss, South dropped a close game at Gahanna 20-13 on Sept. 4.

"We're definitely better," Stout said. "We feel like we're 10 points away from being 4-1. Both sides of the ball are playing well at times. Our defense played great (against Bradley). For us, we have to find that game where we can put both sides together at once."

The Wildcats' improved play caught the attention of Central coach John Magistro, whose team visits South on Oct. 16.

"I know you can look at South's record and see they're 2-3, but I don't see how they are 2-3," Magistro said. "I've never seen a team filled with athletes like them."

South will look to bounce back from its loss to Bradley when it plays host to Dublin Scioto on Friday, Oct. 2.

The Irish improved to 2-3 overall and 1-1 in the OCC-Cardinal by rallying to win at Westerville North 14-7 on Sept. 25. Scioto trailed 7-0 at halftime before touchdowns runs from Jaden Penn (5 yards) and Jestin Penn (4) lifted the Irish to the win.

Jestin Penn rushed for 123 yards on 23 carries.

"Scioto has always played us tough," Wachalec said. "It's going to be a tough week. The OCC is a tough league. ...We'd like to make the playoffs. That's our goal. If we can win out the rest of the season we have a chance. That's all we want to do."

Stout said an emphasis this week was to improve execution. The Wildcats had chances to extend their lead in the second quarter against Bradley, but were turned back each time.

"Every unit needs to get better," Stout said.