As one of just four seniors on the Watterson High School hockey team, Brandon Arens expected his role to be important in helping to set the tone for his final prep season as well as the future.
The forward has lived up to that position for an Eagles team that has shown significant improvement coming off a two-win season a year ago.
"We've made a lot of improvements," Arens said. "From last year to this year, it's been remarkable. I've tried to bring a little more leadership and just trying to get through to the team, that's been pretty much the biggest thing. I've wanted to be someone they can look up to and be a role model and leader for them."
Arens, who scored his fourth goal of the season during a 5-1 loss to Dublin Jerome on Feb. 3, has helped the Eagles have a bounce-back season under a new coaching staff led by former Upper Arlington coach Jay Graham.
Watterson, which lost to Graham's former team 5-1 on Feb. 4 in its regular-season finale, was the 13th seed for the Blue Jackets Cup.
The Eagles fell to 13-19-1 with a 4-3 overtime loss to 12th-seeded Cincinnati Moeller in the first round of the Cup consolation tournament Feb. 10.
Arens, who previously played at the AAA travel level before opting to focus on high school hockey once he began attending Watterson as a freshman, is joined in the senior class by Thomas Abrams, Adrian Farhat and Jake Schultz.
His younger sister, Brianna, is a seventh-grader at St. Brigid of Kildare in Dublin and plays for a girls hockey team.
While his father, Charles, works in endodontics, Brandon is considering studying to become a surgeon. He's interested in attending North Carolina-Charlotte, Bowling Green, Dayton or Ohio State.
The Arens family previously lived in North Carolina and Michigan before settling in central Ohio.
"He's been contributing offensively, but he's just been so strong for us in the defensive zone in terms of making sure every puck gets out and really being solid on his guy," Graham said. "He's playing the game the right way and has all the energy we need. I've been really impressed with how physical and how hard he's been going after every puck."
Watterson is seeded 14th in the district tournament and will face Cincinnati Elder in the first round at 8:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 17, at OhioHealth Ice Haus.
The winner plays 13th-seeded Moeller or 17th-seeded Thomas Worthington in the second round at 7:45 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 18, at the Ice Haus, with that winner playing top-seeded St. Charles, 20th-seeded DeSales or 22nd-seeded Oxford Talawanda in a district quarterfinal Feb. 25 at the Ice Haus.
Sophomore forward Adam Fallon, who leads the Eagles with 32 goals, did not play in the games against UA or Moeller because of a two-game suspension.
"We feel we're making big strides toward where we need to be and we just need to put together three good periods to beat a (good) team," Graham said.
Boys basketball team
battling ups, downs
The boys basketball team believed it was starting to turn the corner when it beat Grove City 57-54 on Jan. 14 to get back to .500 after losing four of its first five games to open the season.
However, the Eagles had lost six consecutive games before playing Hilliard Davidson on Feb. 14. They lost to St. Charles 38-36 on Feb. 10 to finish 0-8 in the CCL and lost to Mansfield St. Peter's 46-39 on Feb. 11 to drop to 7-13 overall.
Watterson closes the regular season Monday, Feb. 20, at Hilliard Bradley, a Division I program that was 19-1 before playing Logan on Feb. 14.
"We thought we were really making some good progress," coach Vince Lombardo said. "We had pulled to 7-7 and then lost a tough overtime game to Ready (53-50 on Jan. 20). The CCL is really strong. We've done some things well, but we haven't sustained any kind of consistency offensively. We need to pull things back together and we've got a really challenging (end of the regular season)."
Watterson is seeded 12th of 26 teams in the Division II district tournament and will play host to 16th-seeded Bexley in the first round Feb. 27.
Through 18 games, senior forward Alex Will was averaging 14 points and senior guard Nick Janning and sophomore forward Jimmy Patton both were averaging 10.5.
Patton and sophomore forward Drew Davis have continued to show promise, according to Lombardo.
"We've really struggled with sizeable teams, and teams with a lot of length have given us trouble," Lombardo said. "That's atypical for us. Hopefully, we can pull it together here and get a couple tournament wins.
"Jimmy Patton is a sophomore who's really come on strong of late and had some good offensive games. He's really picked it up at the offensive end. He's made great progress. Drew Davis is a sophomore who doesn't score a lot of points, but we've needed him inside and he's battled hard for us."
The boys swimming and diving team will be represented in the Division II district meet Friday, Feb. 17, at Ohio State, while the girls team will be represented in the Division I district meet Saturday, Feb. 18, at Ohio State.
In the Division II boys sectional Feb. 11 at Upper Arlington, Thomas Clark won the 200-yard individual medley (2 minutes, 2.07 seconds) and 100 butterfly (53.35), Perry Finne-gan finished first (22.48) and David Coss placed second (22.56) in the 50 freestyle and Finnegan was second in the 100 free (49.7). The 200 free relay (1:32.06) and 400 free relay (3:28.6) both finished first.
In the Division I girls sectional that same day at UA, the 200 medley relay placed third (1:53.51), Cecilia Moore placed second in the 100 backstroke (59.09) and third in the 200 IM (2:11.08), Elizabeth Intihar took second in the 500 free (5:17.96) and Mia Brown won the 100 fly (57.91) and placed second in the 50 free (24.31) and the 400 free relay was runner-up (3:43.38).
The boys finished third (196) of six teams, behind Whetstone (236) and Centennial (224), while the girls finished third (146) of 15 teams, behind UA (415) and Pickerington North (177.5).
At district, the top two swimmers and top five girls divers in Division I and the top two swimmers and top three boys divers in Division II automatically qualify for the state meet Wednesday, Feb. 22, through Feb. 25 at Branin Natatorium in Canton.
In addition, 16 at-large state berths in each swimming event will be awarded based on times statewide.
Girls basketball team
set to open tourney
Seeded fifth of 47 teams, the girls basketball team opens the Division I district tournament Tuesday, Feb. 21, at home against ninth-seeded Northland or 35th-seeded Worthington Kilbourne in the second round.
The winner plays seventh-seeded Westerville North, 38th-seeded Walnut Ridge or 40th-seeded Teays Valley in a district semifinal March 1.
Watterson was 18-3 overall before playing Westerville South on Feb. 14 and beat Ready 39-24 on Feb. 9 to finish 7-0 in the CCL. The Eagles won the CCL title for the third consecutive year and for the 10th time in 12 seasons.