During the final contest of a three-game losing streak early last season, Worthington Christian led Harvest Prep by two scores before falling 16-12.

Harvest Prep went on to win its fifth consecutive MSL-Cardinal Division title, but the other two losses in that skid still don't sit well with Worthington Christian coach Jeff Hartings.

The Warriors trailed by 35 points at halftime and lost 48-26 to Galion Northmor in Week 2 and then fell 40-0 to Marion Pleasant a week later.

Both Northmor and Pleasant went on to qualify for the postseason while Worthington Christian finished 6-4 overall and 12th in Division VI, Region 23.

"We have the potential to do well and compete in every game," Hartings said. "Last year, we had a couple games where we didn't compete and teams got running clocks on us, and I think we can avoid that, for sure. We're the kind of team and the kind of program that shouldn't happen to. We build a culture here of faith, relationships and excellence, and football makes you pursue excellence every day. We're going to be able to compete against anybody."

The Warriors, who remain in Division VI but have been shifted to Region 24 this season, finished third (4-2) in the MSL-Ohio last year behind Harvest Prep (6-0) and Berne Union (5-1) and ahead of Fisher Catholic (3-3), Zanesville Rosecrans (2-4), Grove City Christian (1-5) and Fairfield Christian (0-6).

Harvest Prep has won 32 consecutive league games but has been moved to the MSL-Ohio this fall. In addition, Rosecrans is playing eight-man football this fall, turning the MSL-Cardinal into a five-team league.

Berne Union, Fisher Catholic and Harvest Prep all qualified for the Division VII, Region 27 playoffs last season.

Six of the teams on Worthington Christian's schedule will compete in Division VII, with the other four each being Division VI programs.

Among those Division VII teams is Glouster Trimble, which the Warriors will play Sept. 27. Trimble beat both Fisher Catholic and Harvest Prep in the playoffs on the way to a state runner-up finish.

The Warriors are 11-9 in two seasons under Hartings, who has added former Otterbein standout wide receiver Ron Severance as offensive coordinator.

Talk of making the playoffs and competing for the league title are on the sixth-year program's radar.

"This year it's coming along much easier and everything is falling in line," said senior quarterback Lucas Hartings, coach Hartings' son.

OFFENSE

Lucas Hartings and his brother, 2019 graduate Michael Hartings, led the way last season offensively.

Michael Hartings was the featured running back, rushing for 1,148 yards and 14 touchdowns, and was among the team's top defenders at linebacker, while Lucas completed 101 of 201 passes for 1,487 yards with 14 touchdowns and six interceptions and rushed for three scores in his first season as the full-time starter.

Junior Braden Anderson will be the H-back and also should see carries out of the backfield along with senior Landon West and sophomore Daelon Johnston.

Anderson rushed for 208 yards on 27 carries and had six receptions last season.

Seniors Jake Thompson is the top returning wide receiver and should be joined at the position by senior Dillon Fulks. Thompson had 20 receptions for 341 yards and two touchdowns last season.

Senior Caleb Harper will line up at left tackle, senior Ryan Snedecor will be the left guard, junior Jeb Burford is at center, junior Chase Fourman is at right guard and junior Zach Hoheisel will be the right tackle. Burford, Harper and Snedecor all played key roles on the line last season.

Other key losses to graduation included Michael King, a wide receiver who had 36 receptions and now is playing for Indiana Wesleyan, and Derek Holston, a two-way lineman who is playing for Hillsdale.

DEFENSE

Anderson, Hoheisel and Thompson are among the top returnees on defense.

Anderson will line up at outside linebacker after finishing with five tackles for loss and one interception last season, Hoheisel is an interior lineman who finished with 29 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and two sacks a year ago and Thompson will be at cornerback after having one interception.

West will be at outside linebacker with Anderson, while Johnston and freshman Josh Carrel are expected to fill inside linebacker roles.

Fulks and sophomore Jackson Moore are at safety, with junior Jaeden Reynolds at the other cornerback spot.

On the line, Harper and Snedecor will be at the end positions, while Burford will join Hoheisel in the middle and Fourman will provide depth.

Coach Hartings has been pleased with the play of all of his two-way linemen.

"It's going to be a lot of fun and I'm really looking forward to playing with all of them this year," Anderson said. "We'll be pretty fast, quick and strong, too."

SPECIAL TEAMS

Sophomore Grant Woodfin returns at kicker after making 21 extra points and one field goal last season.

Coach Hartings wasn't sure after the team's opening scrimmage who would be the punter after Michael Hartings held that role last season.

Anderson was among the team's kickoff returners last season and could serve in that role again along with West and Reynolds.

THE LINEUP

Offense

Quarterbacks: *Lucas Hartings (sr., 6-4, 180), Cayden Lassiter (fr., 5-8, 150)

Running backs: *Landon West (sr., 6-0, 180), Braden Anderson (jr., 6-0, 165), Daelon Johnston (so., 6-0, 195)

Receivers: *Dillon Fulks (sr., 5-10, 180), *Jake Thompson (sr., 6-3, 170)

H-back: *Anderson

Linemen: *Jeb Burford (jr., 6-4, 220), *Chase Fourman (jr., 5-10, 207), *Caleb Harper (sr., 6-5, 190), *Zach Hoheisel (jr., 6-1, 265), *Ryan Snedecor (sr., 6-3, 220)

Defense

Linemen: *Burford, *Harper, *Hoheisel, *Snedecor, Fourman

Linebackers: *Anderson, *Johnston, *West, Josh Carrel (fr., 5-10, 150)

Secondary: *Fulks, *Jackson Moore (so., 5-10, 180), *Jaeden Reynolds (jr., 5-10, 160), *Thompson

Special teams

Kicker: *Grant Woodfin (so., 5-7, 135)

Punter: To be determined

Returners: Anderson, Reynolds, West

Long snapper: *Burford

(*Denotes projected starter)

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek