Stressing a unified concept, the Hilliard Davidson High School football team regained its status as an elite program.
Behind their typical strengths -- a strong rushing attack and a stingy defense -- the Wildcats won the OCC-Central Division title and reached a regional final for the first time since 2015. They also were ThisWeek's Super 7 poll champion.
Davidson, whose 2017 playoff absence was its first since 2007, earned the top seed in Division I, Region 3 and defeated eighth-seeded Huber Heights Wayne 28-21 and fourth-seeded Springfield 17-14 before losing to sixth-seeded Pickerington Central 20-13 to finish 11-2 overall.
The Wildcats also lost to the Tigers 17-14 in overtime during the regular season before going 5-0 in the OCC-Central.
"Our goal each year is for our kids to reach or exceed their potential, win our league, make the playoffs and win games in the playoffs," coach Brian White said. "We feel like we were very successful at achieving these goals for this season. These successes, for us, are only possible through the development of the team chemistry that comes from our players growing up with each other and developing a strong sense of camaraderie."
On defense, the Wildcats were led by senior linebackers Evan Annis and Ethan Royer. Royer had 132 tackles and was district defensive Player of the Year and first-team all-state and all-league. Annis had 121 tackles, was second-team all-state and first-team all-district and shared league defensive Player of the Year honors with two others.
Three senior running backs led the offense. Jordan Hicks rushed for 832 yards and 22 touchdowns on 179 carries and was first-team all-league and honorable mention all-district. Christian Sweet rushed for 662 yards and was first-team all-district and all-league, and senior Kalib O'Connor rushed for 719 yards and was honorable mention all-league.
"Having missed the playoffs for the first time in a decade as juniors, our senior class was very hungry to not only get back, but to advance and continue to build the Davidson playoff tradition of winning with class," White said.