The confidence gained in the offseason was on display when the St. Charles football team opened against Dublin Scioto on Aug. 30.
After losing to the Irish 56-7 last fall, the visiting Cardinals quickly built a 21-point lead and held on for a 28-21 victory.
St. Charles won its first season opener since defeating Columbus South 38-0 in 2015. It hopes the momentum carries into Week 2 when it plays at home Friday, Sept. 6, against Eastmoor Academy.
"I would say (winning came down to) having confidence after working hard all summer and sweating with my guys," senior tight end/defensive lineman Cameron O'Neal said. "We went out and did what we were supposed to do."
Eastmoor opened with a 13-12 victory over Harvest Prep on Aug. 30 as linebacker Da'Haan Franks returned a blocked punt 20 yards in the fourth quarter for the decisive score.
Quarterback Demetrius Salley was 5-for-13 passing for 104 yards with a 23-yard touchdown to Diamonte Salley, who had two receptions for 32 yards. Chamon Turner caught two passes for 67 yards.
"It's a good program and (the Warriors) have a bunch of good athletes," coach Deke Hocker said. "They have won a lot of games in the last few years, and they are a perennial playoff team. Coach (Jim) Miranda does a good job with them and it will be another big test for us."
Senior slotback Roland Rowe contributed 111 yards of offense and two touchdowns against Scioto. He rushed for 36 yards on six carries, including a 23-yard touchdown, and caught six passes for 75 yards with a 41-yard score.
"We have something to prove this year," Rowe said. "We have a good group of seniors who want to play hard and succeed. We showed it on the field (against Scioto)."
Quarterback Andy Mason was 9-for-13 passing for 108 yards and one touchdown, and Luke Eversole had 22 carries for 87 yards with a 1-yard score.
"I think we need to get back to work," Hocker said. "We have to forget about this win, watch film and get better. We made some good plays, but there are a lot of errors we made that we need to fix."
Karas sets pace for cross country team
The cross country team has one of the area's top performers in junior Owen Karas, but 11th-year coach Damien Brandon is hoping the rest of his runners can mature enough for the program to win its 13th consecutive CCL championship and 20th in 21 seasons.
"We have a big gun up front in Owen, who I think could be a top-20 runner or better in the state if all goes to plan," Brandon said. "We want to continue to get better and peak at the end of the season. No one remembers who does what at Pickerington North and Westerville North to start the season, but they remember who wins the CCL and who goes to (the Division I) regional."
St. Charles finished 16th at regional last season. Returning from that lineup are senior Ethan Encarnacion (92nd, 17 minutes, 49.8 seconds), Karas (108th, 18:08.8) and senior Andrew Sarff (111th, 18:22.2).
Karas led the Cardinals in the Pickerington Classic on Aug. 24 at Pickerington North, finishing 10th (16:28.3) as St. Charles was 13th (338) of 18 teams in the Panther Division behind the champion and host Panthers (59). Encarnacion (71st, 18:16.3) was next, followed by junior Colin Hayter (98th, 18:43.9), sophomores Caleb Lipkin (115th, 19:00.1) and Andrew Dunn (130th, 19:18.7), junior Liam Quinlan (157th, 19:34.9) and sophomore William Ferris (162nd, 19:38.9).
Karas was runner-up (15:55.82) in the Division I race of the Westerville North Classic on Aug. 31 as the Cardinals were ninth (230) of 13 teams behind champion Olentangy Orange (42).
Encarnacion (34th, 17:33.6), Hayter (62nd, 18:11.66), Dunn (75th, 18:33.12) and Ferris (81st, 18:41.46) also scored.
"Owen will help us in big meets, and we have some guys who will continue to get better," Brandon said. "We don't have a large freshman class, but a good quality one, and every one of them is running well for their skill level."
Water polo team looks to continue dominance
The water polo team has three starters back after capturing the state title in dominant fashion.
After being state runners-up in 2016 and 2017, the Cardinals defeated Cincinnati Sycamore 17-6 in last year's final to finish 38-3.
The returning starters are senior attackers Thomas Lennox and Travis Miller and senior goalkeeper Seth Miller.
"Obviously we had an amazing season last year, winning the state championship by 11 goals," said Lennox, whose program also won state titles in 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2014. "We have such a deep roster, just like we did last season. We have some good juniors and some good seniors that can come off the bench and help."
The Cardinals are 5-3 after competing in a pair of tournaments in Michigan. They finished 2-2 in the Rockford Invitational on Aug. 16 and 17 and 3-1 in the Ann Arbor Pioneer Early Bird Invitational on Aug. 23 and 24. St. Charles lost twice to Dexter (Michigan) and once to Hudsonville (Michigan). Hudsonville is the state's top-ranked team and Dexter is second.
"We won't start playing Ohio teams until the Ohio Cup (this weekend at Thomas Worthington)," Lennox said. "We have played some tough competition, and that will help us when we play (Ohio) teams."
Other key performers for the Cardinals include senior center-defender Chris Edwards, senior attacker Alex Nash, junior center Will Elsrod and junior attacker Donnie Richardson
"We have great team chemistry; the team flows," Seth Miller said. "We connect in and out of the water and that helps."
Below are the coming schedules for the St. Charles cross country, golf, soccer and water polo teams:
Sept. 7 -- St. Charles Invitational at Brookside
*Sept. 5 -- Home vs. Watterson
Sept. 7 -- Home vs. Cincinnati Moeller
*Sept. 10 -- At DeSales
Sept. 7-8 -- Ohio Cup at Thomas Worthington