Moments after his team's 31-21 loss at Bexley in the first round of the Division III, Region 11 playoffs Nov. 5, Whitehall-Yearling High School football coach Rod Lightfoot recognized the senior class for leading the Rams on a memorable path.

Moments after his team's 31-21 loss at Bexley in the first round of the Division III, Region 11 playoffs Nov. 5, Whitehall-Yearling High School football coach Rod Lightfoot recognized the senior class for leading the Rams on a memorable path.

The Rams qualified for the playoffs for the first time since 2003, with the 22 seniors leading the way.

"These seniors have left a legacy," Lightfoot said. "This all started back in November (2015) and through the offseason in the weight room and adjusting to some new coaches on staff and everybody bought in. Making week 11 was our second goal, winning (the) MSL was the first, and when that slipped out of our hands we knew that we could get to this level."

Whitehall was the seventh seed in Region 11 and finished 8-3 overall. The Rams won their final five games of the regular season to secure their postseason berth.

They went 4-2 in the MSL-Ohio Division to finish third behind Bexley (6-0) and Columbus Academy (5-1) and ahead of Grandview (3-3), West Jefferson (2-4), London (1-5) and Madison Plains (0-6).

Whitehall lost to Bexley 21-7 on Sept. 15 and Academy 21-20 on Sept. 23.

Second-seeded Bexley lost to third-seeded Hamilton Township 26-20 in a Region 11 semifinal Nov. 12.

The Lions have developed a consistency that the Rams hope to reach, having made the playoffs in four consecutive seasons.

"Bexley brings out the best of us, but we have to work harder to prepare," senior running back Siraj Muhammad said.

Muhammad sparked the Rams' offense this season, rushing for 1,422 yards and 21 touchdowns on 201 carries. He was named first-team all-district and shared Back of the Year honors in the MSL-Ohio with Bexley's Micah Fliegel.

"Coach Lightfoot turned this all around, you have to give credit to him," Muhammad said.

Lightfoot completed his second season leading the Rams after he was an assistant in the program the previous 25 seasons.

Senior TaQuan Williams (WR/DB) was first-team all-district and all-league. Junior Kendall Nesbit was first-team all-district and honorable mention all-league, and senior Seymour Pierce (OL/DL) was first-team all-league.

Senior Jawuan Hammock (RB/LB) and sophomore Keon Freeman (OL/LB) were second-team all-league and special mention all-district, and sophomore Raymell Byrd (WR/QB/DB) was second-team all-league.

Senior DeShante Vaughn (QB/DB) completed 127 of 201 passes for 1,501 yards with 10 touchdowns and eight interceptions and was special mention all-district and honorable mention all-league.

Senior Braden Barker (RB/DB) was honorable mention all-league.

Sophomore Wayne Blackshear (RB/LB) is another key player eligible to return. He rushed for 367 yards and seven touchdowns.

In the postgame huddle after the playoff loss, Lightfoot lauded the seniors for their leadership and dedication during the Rams' quest to end their playoff drought.

"Without you seniors, none of this happens," he said.

fdirenna@thisweeknews.com

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