Although the Thomas Worthington High School football team got to ring the victory bell for the first time in nearly two years, first-year coach Matt Zingery warned his players about thinking their work is done for the season.

“I told them they had two days to celebrate because it’s such a rare occasion here,” Zingery said about the Cardinals’ 27-20 double-overtime win at Canal Winchester in the opener Aug. 25. “When we got back (to Thomas), we rang the victory bell. I told them that one win doesn’t make a season. They (were) looking forward to getting back to school Monday where they can be recognized.

“But I told them we want to reach the point where a win is a lot more common. That’s the goal. What was really great is that we won on all levels, from seventh grade through varsity. It has to have been a very long time since that happened.”

Wide receiver Dakarey Williams caught a fade pattern from quarterback Charlie Rhoades in the end zone on the first possession of the second overtime and the defense then stopped Canal Winchester on downs, with outside linebacker Habib Bondu getting a game-ending sack on fourth down.

Thomas had lost 17 consecutive games and 29 of its previous 30. Its previous win came against Columbus South, 23-0 on Sept. 11, 2015.

The Cardinals will be looking to start 2-0 when they travel to Westerville North on Friday, Sept. 1.

The Warriors defeated host Groveport 27-0 in their opener Aug. 25, as their defense allowed only 98 total yards and running back Bodi Bien rushed for 102 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries.

“They’re kind of like our program in that they’ve been in a little disarray lately,” North coach Scott Wetzel said. “But they have tough kids and a coach that is energetic and getting after them a bit, I’m sure.

“Our big challenge is: how do we handle success the next game? Do we sit back and say, ‘Look at what we just did?’ Or do we come back and get back to work to fix a lot of the things we didn’t do well? We’re 1-0, but we need to execute better. We won and it wasn’t pretty. You never miss an opportunity to celebrate a win in high school football, especially when you compete in the OCC. But we have work to do.”

The Warriors beat Thomas 33-10 last season.

“Westerville North is a very good team with lots of seniors,” Zingery said. “I think they start 10 seniors on offense. We have to really focus on stopping the run. We can’t start like we did against Canal and get away with it. We had three turnovers and seven penalties in the first half and trailed 17-0.”

North quarterback Jacob Woods started three games last season as an injury replacement and was 17-for-49 passing for 398 yards with four touchdowns and four interceptions. Against Groveport, he threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to tight end J.J. Harvey and ran for 32 yards on six carries. Running back Rondale Smith added 83 yards rushing on 14 carries.

Jeremiah Burton and Alek Downs anchor the Warriors’ offensive line and will have double duty in the team’s 3-4 defense, where Downs plays linebacker and Burton plays nose guard.

Thomas rallied from its halftime deficit against Canal Winchester, as defensive back Vincent Eguakun stripped Indians quarterback Stanton Smith of the ball and raced nearly 40 yards for a touchdown that pulled the Cardinals within 17-14 early in the fourth quarter. The Cardinals then got a 32-yard field goal from Owen Graham with 3 minutes, 38 seconds left to tie the score. Graham missed a 53-yard field-goal attempt on the final play of regulation.

The Indians had the first possession of the first overtime and kicked a field goal that Graham matched to force a second overtime.

“Khalil Jones had nearly 180 all-purpose yards and, defensively, our linebackers – Habib Bondu, Charlie Kneessi and Layne Burns – played well,” Zingery said. “Overall, it was an emotional night and we gave the game ball to the family of Eric Clark, who drowned this summer in the Atlantic Ocean. He was there with the basketball team, but also was one of the more athletic football players on this team. A lot of his teammates dedicated the game to him.”

Wolves looking to
rebound from loss

Kilbourne will be looking to bounce back from a 32-7 opening loss to visiting Olentangy Orange on Aug. 25 when it plays at Big Walnut on Friday, Sept. 1.

“Our inexperience showed up big time,” coach Vince Trombetti said. “We had 17 guys out there making their first Friday night starts and it took them a bit to adjust to the speed of the game. Olentangy Orange is a very good team and they overwhelmed us.

“I thought we did a nice job of putting the first half behind us and we played fairly well in the second half. We’re going to continue to bring the kids along. We’ve got to get better in every practice and every game.”

Big Walnut also struggled in its opener, falling to Johnstown 3-0 on Aug. 25.

“Big Walnut runs a lot of power-running plays and has a simplistic and effective passing game,” Trombetti said. “We have to address our play on the line of scrimmage and we may be swapping some of our offensive and defensive linemen to see if that helps us offensively. Although we gave up too many big plays on defense, I think we’re going to be a good defense here shortly. We’re getting closer on defense every day.”

Big Walnut returned seven starters on defense, led by linemen Caleb Pierce (6-foot-3, 300 pounds) and Eli Myers, linebackers Luke Apple, Brandon Mosher and Abe Myers and defensive back Dante Chhuom. Big Walnut’s offense is led by running back Abe Myers and receiver Chase Adams, with Tanner Daniels (6-3, 245) and Pierce anchoring the line.

Against Orange, the Wolves’ only score came with 1:37 left in the game as Grayson Timms hauled in a 29-yard touchdown pass from Parker Wereb, who was 3-for-10 passing for 45 yards. Running back Elijah Young had 58 yards rushing on 13 carries.

“Big Walnut has a physical defensive line and blitzes linebackers a lot, so we need to fix some things up front,” Trombetti said. “We had way too many second-and-10s and it’s tough for our offense to fall behind schedule in down and distance. We had holding penalties and motion penalties and missed blocking assignments. We’ve got a lot to work on, but I told the kids to stay patient. We’ll get there. We’re just a young team, but if we keep picking ourselves up off the ground and getting back to work, we’ll be fine.”