Hilliard Darby High School football coach John Santagata has an idea of what Olentangy Berlin coach Mark Nori is experiencing with his first-year program.
Santagata was coaching the Panthers when Hilliard City Schools opened a third high school, Bradley, in the fall of 2009, reducing his roster's depth. Being a fledgling school, Berlin does not have a senior class, meaning the team is filled with young, inexperienced players that still have some growing to do.
Darby visits Berlin on Friday, Sept. 28, in an OCC-Cardinal Division game.
The Panthers are 3-2 overall and 1-1 in the league and are coming off a 14-7 win over Dublin Jerome on Sept. 21. That same night, the Bears lost to Worthington Kilbourne 31-13 to fall to 1-4 overall and 0-2 in the league.
"They don't have a senior class, and we went through a similar situation when Bradley opened," Santagata said. "(Coach Nori) has done a good job of managing through all of that."
The Bears have lost four games in a row since a 53-22 win over Briggs in their opener Aug. 24.
Against Kilbourne, place-kicker Jacob Lewis made field goals of 47 and 21 yards and quarterback Jake Moeller connected with Justin Rader on a 62-yard touchdown pass. Moeller was 8-for-15 passing for 127 yards and a touchdown, Rader had two receptions for 76 yards and Johnny Spinner rushed for 131 yards on 24 carries.
Defensively for Berlin, Rader and Trevor Scott both had an interception.
"A lot of people only look at wins, losses and the scores, but they can't see the little things improving," Nori said. "We try to eliminate the scoreboard from the equation and try to keep getting better. We're not changing a culture, we're setting one. We're developing a culture with kids from other cultures."
The Panthers are giving up just 12.8 points per game, but are averaging only 10.6 per contest. They have not allowed more than 16 points, but haven't scored more than 17.
"Our defense has been playing well. It's not perfect, but we're playing well," Santagata said. "Offensively, we are struggling and need more consistency. We wanted to mix in the pass more, but it seems like we have struggled with that. We want to be more consistent and be able to run the clock."
Quarterback Jack Stultz has completed 11 of 31 passes for 115 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions and has rushed for 190 yards and two scores on 54 carries. Connor Jones is the Panthers' leading rusher with 543 yards and four touchdowns on 94 carries.