After losing to Westerville Central 19-6 on Aug. 24, the Whitehall-Yearling High School football team responded by winning its next two games.
Coach Rod Lightfoot, however, said the Rams are far from reaching their potential after beating Northland 31-28 on Aug. 31 and Whetstone 26-7 on Sept. 7 to improve to 2-1.
"We haven't even touched the surface of what we can do as a program," Lightfoot said. "Our kids understand that and we're just trying to get better each week."
Whitehall travels Friday, Sept. 14, to Hamilton Township, which improved to 1-2 by beating Bexley 41-7 on Sept. 7.
Last season, the Rams defeated the Rangers 40-27.
Senior middle linebacker Keon Freeman has been a key contributor to Whitehall's early season success. He has 33 tackles, including eight for loss, along with a sack and an interception.
"The difference is we're not down on each other anymore," Freeman said. "We're coming together through adversity and we're learning how to fight adversity. That was our big problem against Westerville Central because we got down on ourselves and we were just killing ourselves when we should be picking each other up. We're finally learning how to become a team."
Freeman had 14 tackles and his first career interception against Whetstone. The interception led to Raymell Byrd's 6-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.
"I had a lot of fun," Freeman said. "I got my first career interception. I was surprised it took this long. I couldn't wait for the moment and it finally happened."
Freeman is coming off a strong junior season in which he finished with 130 tackles and seven sacks and was named first-team all-district and all-league and second-team all-state in Division II.
"I feel like I can get better and I know I can get first-team all-state this year," he said. "I feel like I'm getting better each game."
Freeman expects to play collegiately and said he will soon attend games with Lightfoot.
"Keon is going downhill every play and he's creating a lot of damage," Lightfoot said. "He's a special kid. He does some things that are instinctive and he gets to the ball. He rallies the other 10 guys on defense to follow him and make plays."
After making the Division III, Region 11 playoffs in 2016 for its third consecutive postseason appearance, Hamilton Township is coming off a disappointing 4-6 finish in 2017.
The Rangers were impressive against Bexley as Drysten Crallie had 225 all-purpose yards and scored three touchdowns.
Hamilton Township, which led 34-0 at halftime, outgained the Lions 309 yards to 99.
Derek Larimer was 15-for-21 passing for 228 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
"They're a dangerous team," Lightfoot said. "They scored a bunch of points (against Bexley) and they have some size. They always have size. We just need to execute up front with our offensive line. As much as our defense was on the field (against Whetstone), they played really well. Right now our defense is leading this team, as it should be."
Against Whetstone, Byrd passed for 133 yards, including touchdowns of 69 and 49 yards to Christian Gordon. Byrd added 68 yards rushing.
Whitehall had a 230-98 advantage in total yards.
"A win is a win, but it was an ugly win," Lightfoot said. "We saw some good things, but we also saw some things that we have to shore up before we play Hamilton Township or we may have some trouble on our hands. It's a win and we had some players step up and make some great plays."
Boys soccer team earns first league win
The boys soccer team's early season performance has included its first league win and also a disappointing setback.
The Rams, who were 1-1-2 before playing Logan on Sept. 11, opened MSL-Ohio play by defeating visiting Grandview 3-1 on Sept. 5.
Lauro Guijosa scored two goals and Alex Herrera added one, and goalkeeper Jared Alvarez had eight saves.
Coach T.J. Mohammed was disappointed with a 3-2 loss at Mifflin on Aug. 27. Guijosa and Sebri Nurahmed scored for the Rams.
"We were complacent when playing Mifflin and they taught us a lesson, beating us 3-2," Mohammed said. "In all of the supposedly competitive games so far we've not been defeated."
Girls volleyball team turns back Grandview
The girls volleyball team recorded its second win of the season, defeating visiting Grandview 25-19, 25-19, 25-27, 25-23 on Sept. 6 in MSL-Ohio play.
The Rams were 2-8 overall and 1-1 in the league before playing Worthington Christian on Sept. 13. Makhia Hinton led Whitehall against Grandview with 16 kills and six aces. Entering play Sept. 13, she had 101 kills and 23 aces.
Below are the coming schedules for the Whitehall-Yearling cross country, boys soccer, girls soccer and girls volleyball teams:
Sept. 15 -- Bobcat Invitational at Grandview
Sept. 19 -- Arrowhead Invitational at Whetstone
Sept. 15 -- Home vs. Teays Valley
Sept. 17 -- At Reynoldsburg
*Sept. 19 -- At Worthington Christian
Sept. 15 -- At Marion-Franklin
Sept. 17 -- Home vs. Cristo Rey
*Sept. 19 -- Home vs. Worthington Christian
*Sept. 13 -- At Worthington Christian
Sept. 18 -- Home vs. Westland
Sept. 19 -- At Whetstone