A bitter playoff loss has stuck with Grandview Heights players.
The 39-36 overtime loss to Bainbridge Paint Valley in the opening round of the Division VI, Region 23 playoffs was on the Bobcats' minds when they were in the weight room in the offseason, working out during the summer and on the practice field in the preseason.
The Bobcats have 10 seniors who want to set the tone in an effort to not only improve upon a 7-4 finish but to return to the postseason and have a long playoff run. They open Aug. 29 against visiting Centennial.
"We have pretty high expectations after last season," said Charlie James, a senior slotback and defensive back. "We're hoping to make it back there to the playoffs again. That's where we're setting the bar. We want to get back there and win a few games."
Grandview played the postseason contest without its leading rusher and top defensive lineman in Hudson Jump, who was injured. The 2019 graduate, who is now in the Ohio State wrestling program, was first-team all-state on defense, first-team all-district and the MSL-Ohio Division Lineman of the Year.
"That's football," 13th-year coach Jason Peters said. "We had a lot of kids step up and give us meaningful snaps and put us in position to win. We learned that we can play with some of the best teams in the region. We just have to put ourselves in a position to win."
Senior Glenn Cribbs, a wide receiver and linebacker, said it's important to stay focused and work together toward a common goal.
"We have pretty high expectations and we can be very, very good if we keep grinding and do what the coaches say," Cribbs said. "We learned that we could make it there and still succeed even without some key players.
"Last year I was kind of going with what the seniors said, but this year I'm having a more vocal role. I want to have a positive impact on people."
Despite losing several key players to graduation, the Bobcats return several top performers on both sides of the ball.
"Losing Hudson is big and losing Jack (Wallace) and Cody (Cook) on the line is tough, but we have some really good players," James said. "We're a little shallow on depth, but if we get everyone working together, we should have a pretty elite offense."
James said the most important thing for the senior class is to provide leadership.
"I try to be vocal and set the expectations high for the freshmen and the rest of the underclassmen," he said. "We want to keep the program going well and it all starts at the top."
The Bobcats return seven starters in their zone-read spread attack, including senior quarterback Kyle Casey and senior tight end/wide receiver Luke Lachey, both of whom will be starting for the third season.
Lachey was second-team all-state and first-team all-district and all-league last season. An Iowa recruit, he caught 45 passes for 763 yards and 12 touchdowns and also had two kickoff returns for scores.
"We're going to have Luke all over the place and try to utilize him as much as we can," Peters said. "We have a lot of seniors who have played a lot of football for us. We have a lot of seniors who have started for three years for us and they are not resting on their laurels. They come out and work every day to get better."
Casey was special mention all-district as a junior after completing 72 of 124 passes for 1,039 yards with 11 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
"Kyle is getting more confident in his abilities and (has a) better handle on the offense," Peters said. "We had a new offense last year and we went from one that the quarterback didn't have a lot to do to one where he had a lot to do."
James (special mention all-district, honorable mention all-league) is back in the slot and senior Trey Cook (honorable mention all-league) returns at wingback. Returning on the line are senior Joey Bertani and juniors Matthew Taylor and Jake Zimmerman.
Peters expects big things from running back Darreion Davis, a senior who played behind Jump the past two seasons.
"Darreion hasn't had a lot of touches because of the people in front of him, but he can do some impressive things," Peters said. "He has played a lot of football on defense for us (at linebacker), but Hudson was in front of him (on offense) eating up reps. Darreion is an impressive athlete."
Defensive coordinator Mike Lanza will send his players out in a 4-3 base alignment featuring seven returning starters.
Bertani (third-team all-state, first-team all-district, second-team all-league) is back on the line after totaling 56 tackles, three sacks and one safety. Davis moves to defensive end after having 79 tackles, one sack and one interception at linebacker.
Cribbs (37 tackles, 4 for loss, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery) and senior Alfie Sterneker (71 tackles) are back at linebacker.
"We are back in the same defense we have run for the last three years with coach Lanza, and he has a really good scheme," Cribbs said. "I feel like our defense could be top tier, especially in the region. We're shooting to have a lot of shutouts. We don't have a lot of depth, but the players we have are pretty good."
Cook (45 tackles, 2 interceptions), James (28 tackles, 3 interceptions) and Lachey (36 tackles, 3 interceptions) return to the secondary.
"We have a lot of experience back. It didn't take long to install the package because most of them know it from last year," Lanza said. "I would say the back end of the defense is the strength because we have three of the four back for us and they know the adjustments."
Senior Hallie Georskey (38-for-42 extra points) again is expected again to handle the kicking duties, and the punter has yet to be selected by the coaching staff.
Davis, James, Lachey and freshman Tristin Pierce will return kicks, and Bertani and Cook are long snappers.
Quarterbacks: *Kyle Casey (sr., 6-4, 190), Jake Leach (so., 5-7, 130)
Running backs: *Trey Cook (sr., 5-8, 170), *Darreion Davis (sr., 5-11, 190), Alfie Sterneker (sr., 5-10, 170)
Receivers: *Glenn Cribbs (sr., 6-3, 185), *Charlie James (sr., 5-9, 170), *Luke Lachey (sr., 6-6, 230), Ian Gecse (fr., 6-3, 200), Tristin Pierce (fr., 5-9, 130)
Tight end: *Lachey
Linemen: *Joey Bertani (sr., 6-3, 215), *Connor Dobies (jr., 6-2, 185), *Gabhran Downer (jr., 6-2. 195), *Matthew Taylor (jr., 6-2 265), *Jake Zimmerman (jr., 6-2, 235), Will Doolittle (so., 5-10, 250), Jack Rickert (fr., 5-10, 175)
Linemen: *Bertani, *Davis, *Taylor, *Zimmerman, Downer, Gecse
Linebackers: *Cribbs, *Dobies, *Sterneker, Rickert
Secondary: *Cook, *James, *Lachey, Casey, Leach, Connor McCormick (so., 5-9, 135), Pierce
Kicker: *Hallie Georskey (sr., 5-3, 130)
Punter: To be determined
Returners: Davis, James, Lachey, Pierce
Long snappers: Bertani, Cook
(*Denotes projected starter)