After being an offensive lineman the last two seasons, Elijah Hairston was expected to lead that unit again this fall for the Beechcroft High School football team.
That all changed when the 6-foot-2, 205-pound senior made a pair touchdown receptions during a 7-on-7 scrimmage over the summer.
"(New coach Charles Gibson) asked what positions we wanted to play," Hairston said. "He was going to put me on the line again, but (after) we had a 7-on-7, he ended up saying I wasn't a lineman anymore."
His move to wide receiver has been beneficial for the Cougars, who have won four games in a row and are 5-3 overall and 3-1 in the City League-North Division entering their contest Friday, Oct. 19, at Linden-McKinley.
Should Beechcroft win that game, the league title will be on the line when it faces Northland on Oct. 26 in its season finale.
Last season, Northland beat the Cougars 39-32 as both teams tied Mifflin for first in the league at 5-1.
This fall, Beechcroft opened with a 27-10 win over Dayton Ponitz on Aug. 24 but lost its next three games and likely won't make the Division III, Region 11 playoffs unless it wins its final two and gets a series of upsets to go in its favor.
"I played offensive line last year, and this year I like it better because I can make plays more," Hairston said. "You can control stuff playing O-line, but when you get into a place where you can score more, it's fun."
Hairston, who has grown about two inches since last season and also starts at linebacker, scored a touchdown in a 33-8 loss to Central Crossing on Aug. 31 as well as in a 33-0 victory over Dayton Meadowdale on Sept. 28.
Then against Centennial on Oct. 5, he scored the game-winning 83-yard touchdown and added an interception to help seal a 30-25 victory.
"He's exceptional," Gibson said. "I've coached a long time and I think he can at least be a (Mid-American Conference) player."
Beechcroft beat Whetstone 19-0 on Oct. 12 as quarterback DeShannon Butler threw touchdown passes of 63 and 30 yards to Davon Wooden in the second quarter. Tahjon Francis had a 70-yard interception return for the other touchdown.
Devils, Scots to meet in key league game
A pair of football teams battling for playoff spots in the City-South will meet Friday, Oct. 19, when Marion-Franklin visits Walnut Ridge.
The Red Devils, who are in Division III, Region 11, are 6-2 overall and 4-1 in the league and the Scots, who are in Division II, Region 7, are 7-1 and 4-1.
Both teams have had solid quarterback play, with Walnut Ridge's Isaiah Murphy having completed 89 of 124 passes for 1,484 yards with 23 touchdowns and just one interception and Marion-Franklin's Ke'Zion Brown having completed 81 of 142 passes for 1,056 yards with 11 touchdowns.
The Red Devils are coming off a 14-12 victory over Independence on Oct. 12, a game they won despite being held to minus-6 yards rushing. Yovonne Roberts had two interceptions to lead the defense.
In Walnut Ridge's 47-8 win over South on Oct. 12, Murphy completed 15 of 20 passes for 178 yards and four touchdowns, Javarus Leach rushed 12 times for 108 yards and a touchdown and Sincere Staples had 17 carries for 113 yards and one score.
Both teams sustained their only league loss against Eastmoor Academy, which is 7-1 overall and 5-0 in the City-South with games remaining Oct. 19 at Briggs and Oct. 26 at Africentric. Briggs and Africentric are 2-6 and 0-8 overall, respectively.
Eastmoor wins City title in volleyball
With a 25-15, 25-16, 25-21 victory at Centennial on Oct. 13, the Eastmoor girls volleyball team captured its fourth City championship under coach Rhonda Peck.
"We're so excited and honored," Peck said. "We're fortunate enough to have an athletic group of girls that work hard. Our motto is, 'Play like a team, fight like a family.'"
The Warriors were seeded 31st for the Division I district tournament and opened Oct. 15 at 27th-seeded Lancaster. They were 19-2 overall before playing the Golden Gales and went 14-0 in the City-North.
Seniors Mallory Barnes (middle hitter) and Joelle Lalla (middle hitter/libero) and junior Paige Barnes (outside hitter) have been among Eastmoor's top players.
The Warriors lost junior setter Kinsley Nesmith to an injury in late September, but junior Micaela Edwards has filled in.
Vikings girls runners win league title
The Northland girls cross country team captured its first City championship under 18th-year coach Maureen Kennedy by scoring 29 points in the league meet Oct. 10 at Walnut Ridge.
Whetstone (51) was runner-up, followed by Eastmoor (87), Africentric (95) and East (98).
Walnut Ridge's Navaeh Reaves finished first (22 minutes, 34.3 seconds) and Northland sophomore Tyra Thomas was second (22:47.0). Thomas' time was a personal best by more than one minute.
The Vikings' other top finishers were freshmen Nahdia Alcorn (fourth, 23:16.1), Nahjae Alcorn (fifth, 23:22.3) and Nasia Bailey (12th, 25:17.7), sophomore Isabel Alberto (14th, 25:20) and junior Tara Odari (16th, 25:48.9).
"They have worked so hard and are outstanding young women," Kennedy said. "We scored 29 points, which is incredible. It was a team effort."
Also placing in the top seven to make first-team all-league were Whetstone's Harper Daniel (third, 23:09.8) and Elizabeth Cobbs (sixth, 23:57.2) and Africentric's Charjae Brock (seventh, 24:09.9).
Centennial won the boys title with 60 points, ahead of International (79), Whetstone (84), Eastmoor (92), Walnut Ridge (109), Northland (137), Africentric (183), Mifflin (214), Briggs (233), Beechcroft (288), South (288) and West (316).
Eastmoor's Bushra Bonkiye finished first (16:39.5) and International's Yacouba Harane was runner-up (18:07.6).
Rounding out the top seven were Whetstone's Matthew Conroy (18:09.2), Mifflin's Jonathon Carter (18:13.4), International's Khalid Ahmed (18:19.9), Centennial's Jeff Kimball (18:28.7) and Whetstone's Thaine Nederveld (18:30.7).
West captures City boys soccer title
After losing last year's City championship game 3-2 (10-9 in a shootout) to Beechcroft, the West boys soccer team ended up in another tight game for this year's title.
On Oct. 11 at Mapfre Stadium, Basho Aibo scored in overtime on a free kick from 25 yards out as the Cowboys beat Mifflin 2-1.
"He's one of my best players and I knew he was going to make that," Cowboys coach Mwaliko Ahmed said.
"This means a lot to me. I played for Columbus West for four years and after I graduated from college I wanted to do this job. It's a dream come true."
Senior Hassan Hassan was named the game's MVP and senior Sakou Matia scored the Cowboys' other goal as they improved to 9-1-1.
Mohamed Sheik scored for Mifflin, which was making its first appearance in the City championship game.
The Punchers, who fell to 7-2-1, tied Northland at 3 on Sept. 13 and the teams ended up sharing first place in the City-North, but Mifflin won the tiebreaker because Northland previously had competed in a City final.