The Dublin Jerome High School football team continued to make strides under third-year coach Bob Gecewich.
The Celtics had a winning record for the third consecutive season, finishing 7-4 overall after a 35-0 loss at second-seeded Olentangy Liberty in the first round of the Division I, Region 2 playoffs Nov. 3.
"I talk about standards with our kids and what our expectations are, and they upheld that," Gecewich said. "You play as hard as you possibly can, you put everything out there (and) you ignore everything on the periphery. Our kids did that. We came through with some games that other teams may have lost, but the way our kids approached it is something everyone on our staff is really proud of."
Against Liberty, Jerome was limited to 133 total yards and trailed 28-0 at halftime after being outscored 21-0 in the second quarter.
"They're the No. 2 seed for a reason," Gecewich said of the Patriots. "They're the real deal, and they've got quite a few three-year starters. ... We had little mistakes, and you can't do that against a great team like this."
Jerome finished second in the OCC-Cardinal Division at 5-1, behind Hilliard Bradley (6-0) and ahead of Hilliard Darby (4-2), Scioto (3-3), Worthington Kilbourne (2-4), Delaware (1-5) and Thomas Worthington (0-6).
In their first two seasons under Gecewich, the Celtics finished 10-2 overall last year, reaching a Region 2 semifinal, and 6-4 in 2015. They shared the league title with Bradley last season after sharing it with Westerville Central in 2015.
"He's been great," senior wide receiver and linebacker Cade Kacherski said of Gecewich. "When you look back on it, our senior class was the first class in Jerome history to finish all four years with a winning record. He's been here for three of those four years. He comes in and we're back-to-back OCC champions the first two years and he takes us to the playoffs back-to-back (years), so he really turned us around."
Jerome is losing 17 seniors, including Robert Cope (RB/DB), who led the team in rushing with 982 yards and nine touchdowns on 151 carries and was named first-team all-league.
Also making first-team all-league were Kacherski, seniors Dalton Kagy (WR/DB) and Steven Tejeda (FB/LB) and sophomore Scott Sonnanstine (WR/DB).
"I'm very happy with the season," said Kacherski, who had eight blocked kicks. "We lost just about our entire offense and defense from last year, so having all the kids step up was important. We had so many sophomores and juniors starting. It was awesome to see them get the chance to play, and they ran with it."
Seniors Cole Albright (RB/LB) and Jackson Harris (OL/DL) and juniors Cam Craig (OL/DL) and Ryan Keys (WR/DB) were second-team all-league.
Junior quarterback Hayden Schell completed 114 of 197 passes for 1,262 yards with 10 touchdowns and seven interceptions and was special mention all-league, while junior Trey Ballengee (WR/LB) was honorable mention all-league.
Other key players eligible to return include juniors Andrew Brim (WR/DB), Tony Gyimah (FB/DL) and Reid McCrabb (WR/DB).
"It was nice to see different kids every week step up just with some of the depth and the injuries, and seeing those kids do everything that they could to help the team out," Gecewich said.