After a 45-0 rout of Franklin Heights on Oct. 11, Canal Winchester High School football coach Josh Stratton alternated between congratulating a few of his players on significant milestones and reminding them that not only does he considers every game a playoff game, but also to never change the way they play based on the score.
The Indians continued to close in on their second consecutive postseason appearance by winning their seventh consecutive game, and will seek to extend that winning streak and remain alone atop the OCC-Capital Division on Friday, Oct. 19, when they visit Newark.
Quarterback Jack Beeler completed nine of 13 passes for a program-record 322 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Freshman running back Stephan Byrd's 145 yards rushing and three touchdowns on eight carries powered him past the 1,000-yard mark for the season, as he now has 1,044 yards and nine touchdowns on 181 carries.
It also was Canal Winchester's first shutout since a 24-0 win over Teays Valley on Oct. 19, 2012, and its most lopsided victory since a 50-0 win over Bloom-Carroll in 2010.
"I don't know a good football team that is not physical. We want to play fast, physical and violent football, and that's what we've been doing," said Stratton, whose team is 7-1 overall and 3-0 in the OCC-Capital. "We did a good job defensively against some looks with four and five wide receivers that we haven't seen in a while. We got a few sacks and a few more pressures on the quarterback.
"We want to play meaningful football in November. We have two (regular season) games to go until then. We don't want a participation trophy and a thanks-for-being-there. We want to play meaningful football in November and we have to be multi-dimensional to make that happen."
Beeler threw for 232 yards in the first quarter Oct. 12 to stake the Indians to a 21-0 lead. It was their highest-scoring quarter of the season and almost matched their 24.6 points-per-game average through the first seven weeks.
"We haven't exploded much as an offense, so it was good for us to break out, go deep and start taking shots downfield," Beeler said. "It shows we can be explosive passing and in the run game. I was in a groove. My guys were on the same page as me. They knew where to be when the ball was thrown."
Byrd said he never expected to approach the 1,000-yard mark, let alone exceed it with at least two games to play.
"Never that," Byrd said. "It's all about the blocking. They know how I run. I love getting around the corners, seeing the rest of the field and just going."
Canal Winchester was projected to be seventh in this week's Division II, Region 7 computer ratings. The top eight teams make the playoffs.
Newark fell to 1-7 overall and 0-3 in the OCC-Capital with a 16-0 loss at Groveport on Oct. 12. The Wildcats have been shut out in three of their past five games.
The Indians are one game ahead of Big Walnut, Groveport and New Albany in the league standings.
Beeler and Byrd said the "win or go home" mentality of the playoffs that Stratton has been preaching becomes more real every week, especially considering that the Indians did not clinch last year's playoff berth until the final week of the regular season and were seeded eighth in the region.
"We feel it," Byrd said. "Seven wins in a row is pretty special. When you have the bond that we have, it makes it easier to win games."
Butler, Klamorick lead runners at league meet
Will Butler of the boys cross country team finished fifth (17 minutes, 40.5 seconds) in the OCC-Capital meet Oct. 13 at Lancaster, leading three runners in the top nine as the Indians finished second as a team.
Drew Kotwis placed sixth (17:40.9) and Reece Klamorick was ninth (17:48) as Canal Winchester scored 51 points to finish behind New Albany (44) and ahead of Groveport (62), Newark (80) and Big Walnut (124).
Also scoring for the Indians were Michael McKeon (15th, 18:26.9) and Brett Smithers (16th, 18:35.5).
Allena Klamorick placed third (20:53.8) to lead the girls team to 63 points and a third-place finish in the league meet, behind New Albany (26) and Big Walnut (46) and ahead of Newark (118).
Klamorick was followed by Bonnie Butler (10th, 21:51.5), Tara Schirr (20th, 22:50), Jessica Miller (29th, 23:35.2) and Sophia Garcia (35th, 24:21.6).
Both teams will participate in the Division I, district 1 meet Saturday, Oct. 20, at Hilliard Darby. The top five teams and top 20 individuals advance to regional Oct. 27 at Pickerington North.
Boys soccer team begins tourney at home
After falling just short of the OCC-Capital championship, the boys soccer team began the Division I district tournament with the chance to play at least its first two games at home.
Seeded 14th of 48 teams, Canal Winchester played host to 19th-seeded Grove City in the first round Oct. 17. The winner plays host to 31st-seeded Westerville North in the second round Saturday, Oct. 20, and that winner would play fourth-seeded Pickerington North, 29th-seeded Chillicothe or 39th-seeded Licking Heights in a district semifinal Wednesday, Oct. 24, at the home of the better seed.
The district final is Oct. 27.
The Indians, who haven't reached a district final since winning their first Division I district title in 2014, lost to Pickerington North 2-0 on Sept. 4 and Westerville North 6-0 on Sept. 8.
Canal Winchester finished the regular season at 8-4-4 overall and 4-1 in the OCC-Capital, second behind New Albany (5-0). The Indians lost to the Eagles 2-0 on Oct. 8 but rebounded with an 8-0 win over Newark the next night to wrap up league play.
The loss to New Albany snapped a six-game winning streak.
"I like our decision-making and our attitude better (recently). We've been getting the ball where it needs to go," coach Erik Feinstein said. "That's been a big key."
Girls soccer team set for tourney
Girls soccer coach Alex Wentz expected his team to be seeded in or near the top quarter of the Division I district tournament, and a successful stretch heading into the draw helped that happen.
Seeded 11th of 44 teams, Canal Winchester took a first-round bye and plays host to 20th-seeded Westerville North in the second round Thursday, Oct. 20.
The Indians concluded the regular season at 10-5-1 overall after a 3-1 win over Hilliard Bradley on Oct. 13 and finished 3-2 in the OCC-Capital with a 5-2 win at Newark on Oct. 9.
"I think (the district tournament) is going to be more wide open than it's ever been. Any of the teams from (seeds) 1 to 16 can go hot or cold," Wentz said. "There will be a lot of upsets compared to years past, I think. I thought we'd end up anywhere from 10th (seed) to 16th, 17th or 18th, which is a good position to pick a path to a district title. We'll see how it shakes out."
The second-round winner plays seventh-seeded Gahanna or 37th-seeded Licking Heights in a district semifinal Tuesday, Oct. 23, at the home of the better seed. The district final is Oct. 27.
Canal Winchester defeated Gahanna 1-0 in its season opener Aug. 17.
The Indians are seeking their second consecutive district final appearance and first title in program history.
Volleyball team sweeps Cruisers
The girls volleyball team began the Division I district tournament Oct. 15 against a familiar foe and with a familiar result.
Seeded 33rd of 49 teams, Canal Winchester swept host and 29th-seeded Groveport 25-20, 25-11, 25-22 in a first-round match to improve to 9-12 overall.
The Indians also swept the Cruisers during the regular season in two OCC-Capital matches, winning 25-11, 25-21, 26-24 on Sept. 6 and 25-22, 25-16. 25-21 on Oct. 2.
The Indians split their final two matches of the regular season, losing to New Albany 25-17, 25-18, 25-21 on Oct. 9 before outlasting Newark 25-23, 15-25, 14-25, 25-22, 15-8 the next night to improve to finish 5-5 in the OCC-Capital.
Canal Winchester visited top-seeded Olentangy Liberty on Oct. 17 for a second-round match. That winner plays 17th-seeded Bradley or 41st-seeded Central Crossing in a district semifinal Tuesday, Oct. 23, at Franklin Heights.
The district final is Oct. 27 at Franklin Heights.
Golfer Hatley ends career at district
Senior Rachel Hatley of the girls golf team wrapped up her prep career by finishing in the upper half of the Division I district tournament Oct. 9 at Cooks Creek.
Hatley, who shot an 83 to finish 22nd of 54 golfers, was Canal Winchester's only district qualifier and its first representative at district since the team competed in 2015.
Upper Arlington's Emily Hummer shot a 75 to earn the second and final individual qualifying spot for state Friday, Oct. 19, and Saturday, Oct. 20, at Ohio State's Gary Course.