One of the aspects that Hartley football coach Brad Burchfield likes about his team heading into the season is that "every day we get better."
Selfless attitudes like the one that senior running back Jalan January has attempted to display likely are helping that pursuit.
"I want to give my teammates more opportunities so we can be a more complete team," January said. "I want to work on all phases of my game like blocking and when I'm going on defense."
January and the rest of the Hawks will try to get off to a better start than they did a year ago when they lost their opener to Toledo Central Catholic 42-17.
January was held to 54 yards rushing in that game, but he emerged as one of central Ohio's top running backs, finishing with 1,488 yards and 20 touchdowns on 207 carries in 12 games.
He's expected to play a key role on defense as well this season for Hartley, which opens Friday, Aug. 30, at home against Erial (New Jersey) Timber Creek.
After going a combined 31-4 from 2015-17, including 10-1 in '17, the Chargers slipped to 4-7 last season.
Hartley, which finished 9-3 last year, has returned senior quarterback and Minnesota-recruit Miles Fleming and other key players such as January, seniors Mason Sawyer (LB/RB) and Kiron Anderson (RB/LB), junior Marcelis Parker (RB/LB) and sophomore Daniel Tooson (DL/TE).
The top returnee for Timber Creek is senior Tarheeb Still (WR/DB), who has committed to Maryland.
Last season, Still had 46 catches for 800 yards and four touchdowns.
Sophomore Donovan Leary went 52-for-105 passing for 960 yards with five touchdowns and 14 interceptions while splitting the quarterback role with 2019 graduate Fred Jefferson.
Another key offensive weapon for Timber Creek figures to be senior Justin Houston, who had 15 receptions for 274 yards and two touchdowns last fall.
They'll be supported by two-way lineman Curtis Miller, a 6-foot-1, 270-pound senior who has a scholarship offer from Temple.
Hartley is in Division III, Region 11 for the second consecutive season, and the Chargers likely will be considered a Division II school by OHSAA. If so, the Hawks would have five opponents in Division I or II on their schedule.
"We're excited about the schedule," Burchfield said. "We embrace it. We're going to be excited to tee it up against some good teams and we'll see where it goes.
"(Timber Creek's) quarterback is supposed to be a big-time player. They've got all kinds of skill guys, kind of like a (Cleveland) Glenville from New Jersey with a lot of high-profile recruits. It'll be a tough game. They're going to be big, strong, physical and fast."
Volleyball team has young lineup
Bridging the gap between a successful past and what looks like a strong future is among the goals of the girls volleyball team this fall.
The Hawks lost what seventh-year coach Mike Rahe estimates was "90 percent" of their offense last season to graduation following their seventh state tournament appearance.
Now in Division I for the second time in three seasons after finishing as Division II state runner-up last fall, Hartley began the season with three freshmen expected to be key players.
Two of those players are taller than 6-foot and all three have extensive club experience, and their growth alongside junior setter Colleen Sweeney and three other returnees likely will determine the extent of the Hawks' success.
Hartley, which went 22-7 overall last season and 6-2 in the CCL to share the league title with DeSales and Watterson, opened Aug. 19 with a 25-16, 25-13, 25-19 win over Liberty Union and beat Fairfield Union 25-23, 25-23, 25-19 on Aug. 24 before facing Teays Valley on Aug. 26.
The Hawks open league action Tuesday, Sept. 3, at Ready.
"For the most part, we've been trying to get everyone acclimated to each other," Rahe said. "I've got a very good setter in Colleen, who now has to get used to three freshmen who have never hit off of her. We have to figure out the tempo and where to set the ball for them, so it's really just trying to adjust to the freshmen that will be big impact players.
"This year is going to be a growing year. I still think we'll surprise a lot of teams being as young as we are, but the future we're looking at is pretty bright."
Sweeney had 918 assists and 111 kills last season. Also back are senior Aiva Smith (defensive specialist), junior Lauren Heuser (outside hitter) and sophomore Lauren Johnson (libero).
Last season, Smith had 202 digs and 232 serves received, Johnson had 307 digs and 249 serves received and Heuser had 61 kills. Johnson has moved from defensive specialist to take over for 2019 graduate Ashley Tipton at libero.
Chiamaka Nwokolo, who had 370 kills and is now playing for Pittsburgh, was the biggest offensive loss to graduation.
Freshman Ella Brandewie, a 6-foot-3 middle hitter, is the sister of 2015 graduate Maddie Brandewie, who helped Hartley earn a state runner-up finish in 2014 and played for Bowling Green.
The other freshmen stepping into the starting lineup are Kate McLane, a 6-1 middle hitter, and Jasmyn Crockett, an outside hitter.
The only other seniors in the program are Andrea Bergman (defensive specialist) and Bea Kelley (right-side hitter).
"We have 16 freshmen (in the program)," Rahe said. "I did not anticipate this freshman class being as good as it is. Being to state three out of the last five years, people are starting to notice that we've got something pretty good going on around here."
Below are the coming schedules for the Hartley cross country, field hockey, boys golf, girls golf, boys soccer, girls soccer, girls tennis and girls volleyball teams:
Aug. 31 -- Westerville North Invitational
Sept. 3 -- Licking Heights Invitational
Sept. 4 -- Home vs. Olentangy Berlin
Aug. 31 -- Bexley Invitational at Westchester
Sept. 3 -- Pickerington Central at Turnberry
Sept. 4 -- Licking Heights at Broadview
Aug. 29 -- At Hamilton Township
Aug. 31 -- Home vs. Zanesville West Muskingum
*Sept. 3 -- Home vs. Ready
Aug. 29 -- Home vs. Berlin
Aug. 31 -- Home vs. Wellington
Aug. 29 -- At Whetstone
*Sept. 3 -- At DeSales
Sept. 4 -- At Delaware
*Sept. 3 -- At Ready