After winning five of its final six games last fall, the Worthington Christian football team entered the offseason feeling energized to begin its sixth season.
The Warriors, who finished 6-4 a year ago, will see how far they've come when they open Friday, Aug. 30, at Springfield Northeastern.
Although the Jets finished just 1-9 for the second consecutive season last fall under first-year coach Jake Buchholtz, one of their closest defeats was a 20-13 loss to Worthington Christian in Week 1.
Both teams are in Division VI, Region 24 this fall.
"(The offseason was) very productive, not just the summer, but the winter also," coach Jeff Hartings said. "The kids have been working hard to improve their skills and to get faster and stronger. It's fun to see how much they grow up and improve as players."
Worthington Christian, which went 5-5 in Hartings' first season in 2017, averaged 36.5 points over its final six games last season, with two of Hartings' sons leading the way.
While Michael Hartings was lost to graduation after being one of the top running backs and linebackers among area Division VI players, quarterback Lucas Hartings has returned for his senior season.
Lucas completed 101 of 201 passes for 1,487 yards with 14 touchdowns and six interceptions last season, with senior wide receiver Jake Thompson (20 receptions, 341 yards, 2 TDs) returning as one of his top targets.
The Warriors also bring back seniors Caleb Harper and Ryan Snedecor and junior Jeb Burford on the offensive line.
Northeastern struggled defensively last season, giving up 36.4 points, including more than 50 during a three-game stretch. Of the Jets' losses, six came to teams that made the playoffs and two others were to teams with winning records.
"They're a team that's similar to us in that they're a small team," coach Hartings said. "They compete and have a good throwing offense. It's going to be a long travel. The biggest thing we have to overcome with a lot of our away games is making sure we respond to the situation."
Northeastern is expected to go with junior Jake Nichols at quarterback after he missed much of last season because of injury.
Freshmen Hunter Albright (RB), Dylan Haggy (WR) and Gunnar Leonard (WR) also are expected to play key roles offensively, while senior linebackers Levi Ashley and Codey Taylor should lead the Jets' defense.
In the first meeting between the programs last fall, Lucas Hartings threw a 73-yard touchdown to Michael Hartings in the third quarter to help seal the victory.
Nichols threw two touchdowns but was limited to 6-for-21 passing for 166 yards.
Boys soccer team on right 'trajectory'
After earning a Division III district title in 2017, the boys soccer team lost to Wellington 1-0 in a district final to finish 9-8-2 last season.
The Warriors opened this season with wins over Watterson (2-0 on Aug. 16) and Johnstown (5-3 on Aug. 20). Their MSL-Ohio Division opener is Sept. 11 at home against Bexley.
"The preseason growth and trajectory has been one of the best in the past five years," 12th-year coach Dan Roads said. "The potential to compete with the best teams in central Ohio is present this year. We will be a strong team who wants to re-establish the successes and traditions of the program."
The top returnees are senior David Rettstatt (defender) and juniors Tyler Kindberg (midfielder), Ethan Kraynak (goalkeeper) and Levi Yoder (midfielder). Last season, Kindberg, Kraynak and Rettstatt were named second-team all-league and Yoder made honorable mention.
Junior Trent Wenger (midfielder) and senior twins Jeremy Owusu Sarfo (forward) and Jodi Owusu Sarfo (forward) also are key players.
Rounding out the senior class are Daniel Cardenas (forward), Alex Harrison (midfielder), Bryce Lawrence (midfielder), Ben Place (defender), Brien Wall (defender) and Alex Williams (defender).
Others looking to contribute include juniors Will Cain (defender), Scott Ruane (defender) and Zach Thomas (midfielder), sophomores Tommy Anthony (forward), Cam Broadfoot (midfielder), Caleb Denorme (goalie), Kael Oosterbahn (midfielder) and Grant Woodfin (defender) and freshman Matt Yorder (defender).
Girls soccer team looking to jell
Among a group of seven players lost to graduation for the girls soccer team were two of the top Division III players in the district in Grace Todd (15 goals, 7 assists) and Alanna Raikes (10 goals, 13 assists).
The Warriors, who lost to Grandview 2-0 in a district final a year ago to finish 13-1-5, aren't planning to let a slow start to this season turn into a trend after last year's success.
After losing 6-0 to Hartley on Aug. 16 and tying Newark at 1 on Aug. 20, Worthington Christian beat West Liberty-Salem 3-1 on Aug. 24.
The Warriors open MSL-Ohio action Wednesday, Sept. 4, at Wellington.
"Preseason went well and we faced some good competition in our scrimmages," fourth-year coach Steve Raikes said. "We were expecting a good home opener against Hartley and, unfortunately, I think a combination of nerves and starting inexperience never really allowed us to settle down. ... I told them one game doesn't make a season and I expect them to bounce back. My hope is we will jell sooner than later."
The top returnees are senior Mianna Hartings (forward), who was first-team all-league last season; senior Eliana Styer (forward) and junior Riley Myers (forward), both of whom were second-team all-league; and senior Lillia Bishop (midfielder), who was honorable mention all-league.
Junior Alex Friedman (goalie) and sophomore Keaton Cox (defender) should anchor the defense.
Also returning are seniors Hannah Schuler (midfielder) and Maddie Skidmore (midfielder), juniors Erin Davidson (forward) and Maya Kurzenknabe (midfielder) and sophomores Blessing King (defender) and Paige Tomallo (forward).
Others looking to contribute include juniors Faith Kray (midfielder), Elia Raikes (defender) and Emma Sanders (defender), sophomore Abbey Windsor (midfielder) and freshman Maria Klausman (defender).
Below are the coming schedules for the Worthington Christian cross country, boys golf, girls golf, boys soccer, girls soccer, girls tennis and girls volleyball teams:
Aug. 31 -- Westerville North Classic
Aug. 31-Sept. 1 -- Peg Kirk Bell Cup at Pine Needles in Pinehurst, N.C.
Aug. 29 -- Columbus School for Girls at Blacklick Woods
Sept. 3 -- Logan at Blackhawk
Aug. 31 -- At Ready
*Sept. 4 -- At Wellington
Aug. 31 -- At Ready
*Sept. 4 -- At Wellington
Aug. 29 -- Home vs. Granville
Sept. 3 -- Home vs. Upper Arlington B
Aug. 31 -- Home vs. Fairfield Christian
*Sept. 3 -- At Bexley