Senior Isaiah Murphy views what transpired last season for the Walnut Ridge High School football team as a confidence booster for what it hopes to accomplish later this year.
A year ago, the Scots won their first eight games, qualified for the playoffs for the first time since 2009 and posted just their third postseason victory when they beat Canal Winchester 27-14 in the first round in Division II, Region 7.
With Murphy leading the offense and senior Julius Wood, a wide receiver and safety with more than 20 scholarship offers, leading the defense, Walnut Ridge has higher aspirations this fall.
"We've still got a lot to work on, but we've been able to run the ball, pass the ball and we're a lot more balanced," Murphy said. "We've all got the timing because we've played together. At the beginning of (last) season, we just wanted to get through a few games and then we started to win a bunch of games and then thought we could go to the playoffs and make a run. It ended (earlier than we wanted) and that really drove us to work even harder this season to try to win (a state title)."
The Scots improved to 4-0 overall by beating West 75-0 in their City League-South Division opener Sept. 14 and will face what could be their toughest opponent to date when they play host to Eastmoor Academy on Friday, Sept. 21.
The Warriors are 3-1 overall and 1-0 in the league after beating previously unbeaten South 47-6 on Sept. 14, with their only loss coming against Division I Westerville Central, 55-24 on Sept. 7.
Walnut Ridge beat Eastmoor 20-14 last season and the Warriors went on to fall one spot short of making the Division III, Region 11 playoffs. Eastmoor won the matchups in 2015 and '16.
Through three games for the Scots, Murphy had completed 37 of 56 passes for 573 yards with six touchdowns and one interception and had rushed for one score.
Sincere Staples (291 yards, 3 TDs on 42 rushes) and Javarus Leach (276 yards, 6 TDs on 26 rushes) have led the running game and Kaylyn Anderson (8 receptions for 197 yards, 1 TD), Qian Magwood (7 receptions for 160 yards, 3 TDs) and Wood (5 receptions for 67 yards, 2 TDs) have led the receiving corps.
The 6-foot-4, 210-pound Murphy, who attended Hamilton Township as a freshman but transferred to Walnut Ridge later that year, has a scholarship offer from Valparaiso.
He's a member of the National Honor Society and the Handshake America program, which according to its website is "dedicated to coaching high school student-athletes for success in life."
His father, Anthony Murphy, is a former Eastmoor receiver who serves as an assistant coach for the Scots.
"Isaiah does an outstanding job leading our offense," coach Byron Mattox said. "He makes great decisions and takes care of the football. He keeps all of our receivers involved."
Wood, who had five tackles for loss through three games, is 6-2, 195 pounds and has offers from a list of schools that includes Cincinnati, Ohio University, Rutgers and Syracuse.
After going to Independence as a freshman, he now attends Columbus Downtown.
According to Mattox, Wood "plays with great energy" and is outstanding tackler.
"We've gotten faster, hit better and our defense is better this year," Wood said. "There are a lot of young guys on our defense and we have to keep talking."
Vikings boys soccer team to meet Stars
The Northland boys soccer team should face its toughest game to date when it plays Thursday, Sept. 20, at Centennial.
The Vikings were 4-0 overall and 1-0 in the City-North before facing International on Sept. 18.
On Sept. 13, the Stars beat two-time defending City champion Beechcroft 7-0 in their league opener as Mortuza Fnu and Nicolas Oberdick both scored two goals.
Junior Eugene Bowen (defender) and sophomores Kabir Abdullahi (forward) and Prajal Tiwari (forward) have been among the top players for the Vikings.
City runners prep for postseason
The Walnut Ridge cross country teams will play host to the Scots Invitational on Wednesday, Sept. 26.
Among the programs expected to compete in the meet are Africentric, Beechcroft, Briggs, Centennial, Independence, International, Linden-McKinley, Mifflin, South and West.
The City meet will be held Oct. 10 at Walnut Ridge.
Vikings, Cougars open City football action
The Northland and Beechcroft football teams will continue City-North action Friday, Sept. 21, with the Vikings playing host to Mifflin and the Cougars playing host to East.
On Sept. 14, Northland improved to 2-2 overall with a 35-0 league victory over Centennial as John Branham Jr. rushed for 116 yards and two touchdowns and Kalil Branham threw for 182 yards and one score and ran for an 80-yard touchdown.
Mifflin, which beat Northland 48-34 last season, improved to 1-3 overall by beating Beechcroft 12-7 in its league opener Sept. 14.
The Punchers gave up more than 50 points in each of their first three games before holding the Cougars to a touchdown.
Beechcroft also is 1-3 overall after losing its league opener and has scored a total of 20 points in its three losses.
East has one of the City's most dynamic players in Deo-Samuel Pierre, who rushed for 201 yards and four touchdowns in a 28-14 victory over Whetstone on Sept. 14.
The Tigers are 2-2 overall, which is their best record through four games since 2012 when they opened 3-0 and finished 5-5.