Having spent a full season and offseason with his players, second-year Grove City Christian School football coach Hank Patterson is confident his team can bounce back from a 4-6 finish last fall.
The Eagles should receive a test in the opener Friday, Aug. 24, against visiting Springfield Catholic Central.
"I look forward to this because (the players) do," Patterson said. "They seem like they're growing as a unit. Some of the guys who played last year that was their first year playing and they have some idea what's expected of them. They're trying to play at a high level."
Last season, Grove City Christian lost to Catholic Central 41-7 in the opener.
Both teams are in Division VII. The Eagles are competing in Region 27 and Catholic Central is in Region 28.
Looking to rebound from a 3-7 record a season ago, the Irish are seeking their first postseason appearance since 2011.
Grove City Christian last made the playoffs in 2009 when it lost to Norwalk St. Paul 52-7 in a Division VI state semifinal.
After being hired in April 2017, Patterson hopes his full offseason with the team can help lead to improvement.
"We're getting there. We're getting a little more cohesive," he said. "We're starting to get a second team and that's very important."
The Eagles' I-formation, pro-set offense should be led by senior quarterback Brett Baker, who passed for 868 yards and seven touchdowns last season. He was named first-team all-state and all-district on defense and first-team all-MSL-Cardinal Division.
"Last year we came out pretty slow (against Catholic Central) being our first game," Baker said. "Most of our upperclassmen didn't play their best and they got discouraged and that influenced the younger players. We'll definitely play better this year."
Sophomore running back Christian Lautenschleger led the Eagles in rushing last season with 438 yards and one touchdown, and senior Zion Christopher-Jackson is a key threat at wide receiver.
Baker will be the team's last line of defense at safety, with senior Alex Schuler also contributing at safety in the 3-4 scheme. Senior Zach Frank is a key lineman.
Catholic Central coach Mike McKenna is in his third season after being an assistant in the program for 25 years.
The Irish, who had 21 players on their preseason roster, have gone from a spread offense to a wing-T, according to Patterson.
Senior Jayden Borden is the quarterback, with junior John Kennedy at fullback. Juniors Collin Downing and Ryan Ewing will share time at wingback and slot receiver, and senior Mykah Eichie is a key receiver.
Central Catholic will use a 3-5 base defense led by senior nose guard Paul Kuss-Shivler, who is 5-foot-10 and 275 pounds. Other key defensive players are senior David Henderson at tackle and Kennedy at middle linebacker.
"Our big thing is being able to control the line of scrimmage. That will be our biggest weakness," Patterson said. "We have to be aggressive on defense and try to control the line of scrimmage on offense. We can get plays out of our players, but it's going to take 11. The front five has to be ready for the challenge."
Boys golf team
returns solid group
Boys golf coach Josh Braniff began his second season with a solid nucleus of players.
Senior returnee Gabe Bau-gess has replaced 2018 graduate Jason Baker as the No. 1 golfer.
Two other senior returnees, Jacob Brunney and Gavin Robbins, have been in the starting five.
Also back are senior Mark Rieser, junior Tim Sullivan and sophomore Ethan Koch.
Junior Brandon VonIns, a transfer from Central Crossing, also should contribute.
Other golfers are senior Logan Davis and freshman Ethan Doyle.
"We had a great turnout this year," Braniff said. "I'm pretty impressed with most of our seniors because they came out all summer and practiced. I'm pretty impressed from where I thought we were to where we are, especially in the Mid-State League. It's really hard to compete with Wellington and the amount of talent they have, but we're not doing too bad."
The Eagles finished second (404) in the MSL-Cardinal preseason tournament Aug. 7 at Westchester behind Wellington (283) and ahead of Fisher Catholic (406) and Zanesville Rosecrans (473).
Aug. 6 -- Teays Valley Invitational at Foxfire
Aug. 7 -- MSL-Cardinal preseason tournament at Westchester
Aug. 9 -- Chillicothe Unioto at VA Medical Center
Aug. 10 -- Bloom-Carroll Invitational at Pine Hill
Aug. 13 -- Shekinah Christian at Marysville Golf Club
Aug. 15 -- Piketon at Cooks Creek
Aug. 16 -- Delaware Christian at Cooks Creek
Aug. 17 -- Heath Invitational at Burning Tree
Aug. 20 -- Grandview at Cooks Creek
Aug. 24 -- Chillicothe at Chillicothe Country Club
Aug. 25 -- MSL-Cardinal midseason tournament at Turnberry
Aug. 28 -- Liberty Union at Pine Hill
Sept. 1 -- Bob Darwin Memorial Invitational at Westchester
Sept. 4 -- Delaware Christian at Mill Creek
Sept. 8 -- Worthington Christian Invitational at Turnberry
Sept. 14 -- Village Academy at Darby Creek
Sept. 15 -- Rodney Butt Classic at Denison Golf Club
Sept. 18 -- MSL-Cardinal postseason tournament at Denison Golf Club
Sept. 25 -- Hilliard Bradley at Thorn Apple
Below are the coming schedules for the Grove City Christian cross country, boys soccer and girls volleyball teams:
Aug. 25- Pickerington Classic at Pickerington North
Aug. 23 -- Home vs. Delaware Christian
Aug. 25 -- Home vs. Ready
*Aug. 29 -- At Fisher Catholic
Aug. 23 -- At West Jefferson
*Aug. 25 -- Home vs. Zanesville Rosecrans
Aug. 28 -- Home vs. Columbus Academy