In the postgame huddle after a 42-35 loss to visiting New Albany in a Division II, Region 7 first-round playoff game Nov. 3, O.C. Wellman tried to lift up the Whitehall-Yearling High School football team.
Wellman, a wide receiver and linebacker, thanked his fellow seniors for their commitment to the program and stressed to the underclassmen to continue to build on the Rams' success.
New Albany's Brode White recovered a fumble for the game-winning touchdown with 58.1 seconds remaining, as the fifth-seeded Eagles overcame two 14-point comebacks by the fourth-seeded Rams.
"We never gave up. We played our hearts out," said Wellman, whose team saw its five-game winning streak end and finished 7-4. "I want to give it up to our young ones, the juniors, the sophomores, they came out and they played for the seniors and they did what they did. It just stinks that someone has to lose a game like that. You can't have two winners and that's just how football is."
After the Rams twice erased two-score deficits to tie the game, the Eagles improved to 7-4 and advanced to play top-seeded Walnut Ridge in a regional semifinal Friday, Nov. 10.
Trailing 21-7 in the first quarter, Whitehall tied the game at 21 on touchdown runs of 6 and 76 yards by junior quarterback Raymell Byrd.
Byrd opened the scoring for his team with a 67-yard run midway through the first quarter.
The Eagles opened a 35-21 lead after three quarters only to have Byrd lead another comeback, as he connected with Rasheed Muhammad for a 14-yard touchdown and later hooked up with Wellman for a 44-yard score with 3:45 remaining.
New Albany was on the verge of retaking the lead on its next possession, but quarterback Jalin Jackson fumbled to give the Rams a first down at their 1-yard line. Two plays later, White recovered a Whitehall fumble for the winning points.
The Rams finished with 447 total yards as Byrd rushed for 321 yards and three touchdowns on 21 carries and completed five of nine passes for 116 yards and two scores.
New Albany's Michiah Burton rushed for 200 yards and three touchdowns on 20 carries.
"I loved how all of our community came together to come support us," junior linebacker Keon Freeman said. "Even though we lost, we truly appreciate that. I love how we left it all out on the field. Our seniors played their hearts out every single night for four years and we couldn't have gone this far without their leadership."
Whitehall, which was making back-to-back postseason appearances, played host to its first playoff game since 2003 when it defeated Youngstown Chaney 18-15 in a Division II first-round contest.
The Rams lost at Bexley 31-21 in a first-round game last season in Division III.
Boys soccer coach pleased with progress
First-year boys soccer coach T.J. Mohammad was pleased with his team's progress as it finished 3-6-3 overall.
"It wasn't the results that we were looking for, but they're working hard," Mohammad said. "That's the most important thing for me."
After a first-round bye, the 46th-seeded Rams lost at eighth-seeded Olentangy 4-0 in the second round of the Division I district tournament Oct. 21.
Senior defender Efrem Gebreambes was named first-team all-MSL-Ohio Division, and junior midfielders Kelvin Gutierrez and Bereket Woldeamanuel were second-team all-league.
Junior forward Lauro Guijosa and sophomore goalkeeper Jared Alvarez were honorable mention all-league.
Whitehall went 2-2-1 in the MSL-Ohio to finish fourth behind Columbus Academy (3-0-2), Grandview (2-0-3) and Bexley (2-1-2) and ahead of Worthington Christian (1-2-2) and London (0-5).
The Rams tied Academy at 1 on Sept. 13.