Having a first-year program isn't a valid excuse to Olentangy Berlin High School football coach Mark Nori.
Sure, the Bears don't have any seniors, don't have much varsity experience and are playing some young players who likely would be playing junior varsity in other programs, but it doesn't matter. It's the hand Nori and his coaching staff have been dealt.
It doesn't get any easier for Berlin when it travels Friday, Oct. 5, to play Hilliard Bradley, the two-time defending OCC-Cardinal Division champion.
"Obviously, (the Jaguars) are well-coached and are a perennial power," said Nori, whose team is 1-5 overall and 0-3 in the OCC-Cardinal. "It's stacked against us, but it's what we'll be facing every week.
"We have to go out and play football. It will be another week of learning experience and growth for us. It all goes into creating a culture and a program. We want to win games, and we have to work hard to do that."
Bradley coach Mike LoParo, whose team improved to 5-1 overall and 3-0 in the league with a 46-17 win over Dublin Scioto on Sept. 28, said the Bears are doing things the right way to build a program.
"You watch them on film and you can tell that they are really well-coached, and that's not just coach speak," LoParo said. "You can see what they are trying to do with the skill set they have. The kids are where they are supposed to be defensively. They are a young group without any seniors, but they're being coached so they have the ability to do well."
The Bears beat Briggs 53-22 in their opener Aug. 24, but have lost five games in a row. They lost to Hilliard Darby 24-21 on Sept. 28 when the Panthers' Eric Williams scored on a 6-yard run with 26 seconds left. Berlin led 21-7 at halftime.
"I think we have been talking to the kids and the community that going through this is part of the process," Nori said. "There are just things that have to happen.
"We were beating a team at halftime like Darby that we probably shouldn't be beating, which is one thing you can check off. The next thing on the checklist is finishing that game, and we didn't do that. You hope that next time you learned from that and it won't happen again. It's part of the growth."
Berlin quarterback Jake Moeller was 11-for-14 passing for 109 yards with one touchdown and one interception against Darby. Johnny Spinner rushed for 77 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries, Ethan Lee caught two passes for 42 yards and one score and Jalen Weitzel had four receptions for 41 yards.
Defensively, Jake Hill had 12 tackles and Weitzel had 9.5 tackles.
Bradley gained the upper hand in the race for the OCC-Cardinal title with its win over Scioto. The Jaguars became the first road team to win in the series while improving to 5-4 against the Irish.
Bradley led 14-10 at halftime before outscoring Scioto 32-0 in the third quarter.
Through four games, the Jaguars had 13 turnovers and zero takeaways. However, the past two games, they forced six turnovers, including two fumbles against the Irish, without committing any.
"I think our kids are cognizant of the turnover margin and the fact that we were losing that battle, but we still had the ability to overcome that," LoParo said. "In the last two weeks, we forced six turnovers and scored 98 points."
First-year starting quarterback Griffin Veil is getting more comfortable with each start. Against Scioto, the senior was 17-for-23 passing for 320 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions. Jack Duffer had five receptions for 169 yards and two touchdowns, and Trey Warner caught six passes for 112 yards.
On the ground, Jack Richards rushed for 98 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries.