Bryce Eisnaugle downplayed the Canal Winchester High School football team's recent move from a three-man to four-man defensive front, but the senior defensive tackle admitted he and his teammates had little time to learn.
Instead of making the change between seasons, it took place between the Indians' 27-13 win over Olentangy Berlin on Aug. 31 and their 14-7 win at Teays Valley seven days later.
"It wasn't too big an adjustment. It was more about staying focused," said Eisnaugle, who usually plays tackle but also sees time at defensive end in certain rotations. "It wasn't that much different than playing a three-man front. We just added another guy. We're playing well as a group and I think it was a good idea to put another one of us on the field.
"Instead of playing nose (guard), I am more of a true defensive tackle now. Being a nose, your head is up the whole time. This is more slanting and going in different directions."
The move paid dividends for a unit coach Josh Stratton called one of the team's strongest. Canal Winchester forced three fumbles against Teays Valley, and the starters allowed only a field goal in a 38-15 win over Westerville North on Sept. 14.
The Indians are 3-1 entering a Friday, Sept. 21, game at winless Grove City.
Seniors Jared Bulluck and Dez Turkson anchor the ends and junior Michael Wilson is the other starting tackle, with juniors Chris Snyder and Hunter Allen rotating in.
"(Moving to a four-man front) was a good move for us," Stratton said. "Those guys are tough to stop. They allow our linebackers to run a little bit more freely.
"Their technique is so much better. Every one of those guys are weight-room junkies. All six guys never miss a day. They're just always here. They never miss practice or the weight room, and that's why they are playing at a high level. And their technique is so good. As a coach, you want to see drill work show up in film, and that's exactly what is happening at a really high level."
Turkson plays full-time on the offensive line and sees most snaps on defense.
"I knew we had a lot of quality and quantity, a lot of talent all over the field," he said. "We've been able to stop the run better and really get our good defensive linemen in there to make plays."
Wilson said he feels freer to make plays with an extra man on the line.
"It takes more pressure off you at nose guard," he said. "I feel like I can get more tackles and there's less pressure coming on to you. You have more ability to do more things.
"This line has speed, talent and strength. I figured we could be a strength of his team."
Stephan Byrd rushed for 101 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries and Darren Davis added two touchdowns and 36 yards on five carries against North, as Canal Winchester scored 17 points in a pivotal third quarter to pull away, outgaining the Warriors 129 yards to negative-7 in the period to build a 31-3 lead.
The Indians amassed 307 of their 427 total yards on the ground.
Grove City fell to 0-4 with a 35-0 loss at Marysville on Sept. 14. The Dawgs, who were outgained 363-137 in total yards and held to six first downs, have lost nine consecutive games dating to last season and 25 of their past 26.
Canal Winchester is 2-0 all-time against Grove City, having won 26-23 in 2011 and 38-14 in 2010.
Stratton praised last week's strong second half as "our culture taking another step," something Bulluck is confident can continue.
"These past (four) weeks, we've played the hardest we ever have and it's started to pay off," Bulluck said. "We are bringing a lot of energy and that helps you make good plays. We have a lot of confidence. From the first week to now, we're playing harder. We've learned our roles, especially with everybody rotating in. That's been a big key."
Eggleston stepping up for boys golfers
Led by Jake Eggleston's round of 84, the boys golf team finished third in the fourth and final round of the OCC-Capital Division tournament Sept. 12 at Apple Valley as well as in the overall league standings.
Canal Winchester shot a 369 to finish behind New Albany (325) and Big Walnut (338) and ahead of Newark (401). Franklin Heights and Groveport did not record team scores.
Also scoring for the Indians were Noah Cox (91), Trevor Mays (97) and Vincent Vatri (97).
The Indians finished 12-8 in the league, behind New Albany (20-0) and Big Walnut (16-4) and ahead of Newark (8-12) and Franklin Heights and Groveport (both 2-18).
"Jake has been playing really well the past two weeks. He's to the point that he's been our low man several times," coach Rick Maharry said. "Trevor, Noah and Jake are all pretty close in talent, but Jake has pulled away a little bit. He's putting well and chipping much better, too. He's even seen more consistency with his irons, but his putting is helping a lot."
Eggleston was Canal Winchester's leading scorer in three of the four rounds of the league tournament. He shot a 91 in the first round Aug. 7 at Denison Golf Club and an 85 in the second round six days later at Darby Creek.
Mays led the Indians in the third round Aug. 29 at Turnberry with an 85, three shots better than Eggleston.
"Trevor and Noah are within two-tenths of a shot of each other in terms of average, and when I say Jake is pulling away, I mean he's probably three-tenths of a shot ahead of them," Maharry said. "I could put any one of the three of them in the top spot."
Hatley leads way for girls golfers
Rachel Hatley of the girls golf team shot a 75 in the fourth and final round of the OCC-Central tournament Sept. 12 at Westchester, leading the Indians to a score of 374 and fifth place behind New Albany (289), Upper Arlington (304), Dublin Coffman (316) and Hilliard Davidson (368) and ahead of Marysville (377).
Also scoring for Canal Winchester were Abby Vaughan (86), Erin Booher (96) and Amanda Gleadle (117).
Hatley averaged a 77 in the OCC-Central tournament, which according to coach Greg Hippler is the best individual score for that event in program history.
The Indians went 2-18 in the league, tying Marysville for fifth place behind New Albany (20-0), UA (15-5), Coffman (3-17) and Davidson (8-12).
Below are the coming schedules for the Canal Winchester cross country, boys golf, girls golf, boys soccer, girls soccer, girls tennis and girls volleyball teams:
Sept. 22 -- Heath Invitational at Geller Park
Sept. 20 -- Bexley at Westchester
Sept. 24 -- Licking Heights at West-chester
Sept. 26 -- Westerville North at Westchester
Sept. 20 -- Watterson at Westchester
Sept. 22 -- Marysville Invitational at Darby Creek
Sept. 25 -- Logan at Westchester
Sept. 26 -- Gahanna and Lancaster at Valley View
*Sept. 20 -- Home vs. Groveport
Sept. 22 -- At Watkins Memorial
*Sept. 25 -- Home vs. Franklin Heights
*Sept. 20 -- At Groveport
Sept. 22 -- At Dublin Coffman
*Sept. 25 -- At Franklin Heights
Sept. 24 -- Home vs. Whitehall
*Sept. 20 -- At New Albany
Sept. 22 -- At Watkins Memorial with Thomas Worthington
*Sept. 25 -- Home vs. Newark