On and off the field, the Northland football team has had to battle through adversity during the season's first five weeks.

With a schedule that included a pair of Division I programs off to strong starts in Marysville and Westerville Central, the Vikings started 0-3 for the first time since 2011.

Northland lost to the Warhawks 76-0 on Sept. 13, marking the first time the Vikings had allowed 60 or more points since 2005 when they lost to Brookhaven 69-20.

Three days before the matchup with Central, senior two-way lineman Isahman Ford-Cowans' mother, Linda Cowans, died. Ford-Cowans suited up against the Warhawks despite the tragedy.

"He's overcome some (things)," coach Brian Staats said. "'Big I' is having a pretty good year."

With the 6-foot-3, 320-pound Ford-Cowans at nose tackle and senior Josiah Ellis, junior Victor Jeter and sophomore Corey Craddolph also lining up on the defensive line, the Vikings have improved defensively the last two weeks, not resembling the unit that was outscored 169-7 over the first three games.

Northland beat Mifflin 25-0 on Sept. 20 in its City League-North Division opener and defeated Whetstone 42-7 in a league contest Sept. 27 to improve to 2-3 overall.

The Vikings continue league action Friday, Oct. 4, at Linden-McKinley, which is 1-4 overall and 0-2 in the City-North after losing 20-6 to Mifflin on Sept. 27.

"This season, a lot of people have been writing us off, but the season isn't over," Ford-Cowans said. "We've still got to take it one game at a time, week by week. We played pretty well (in our first win), but could have played a lot better."

Northland scored its only touchdown in the first three weeks of the season on a 5-yard run by quarterback Isaiah Jackson that cut Whitehall's lead to 14-7 on Sept. 6. The Vikings went on to lose 44-7.

Against Mifflin, senior wide receiver Kalil Branham scored his first two touchdowns of the season -- one on a wildcat run and the other on a reception -- and junior defensive back Japhrone Chapman Jr. had two interceptions.

Staats also has been pleased with the improvement of senior running back Dayzon Busby.

Against Whetstone, Busby rushed for 146 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries and Jackson threw a pair of touchdowns to Rasi Bailey, who finished with 80 yards receiving on four receptions.

"I would argue that no one (in the City) played the schedule we've played the first three games, so hopefully even though they didn't go our way, we can learn from it," Staats said. "We're starting to come around."

Cougars volleyball team progressing

The Beechcroft girls volleyball team picked up its first victory of the season by beating Linden 25-18, 25-18, 25-20 on Sept. 5 and looked for the season sweep of the Panthers on Oct. 1.

Before that rematch, the Cougars were 1-13 overall and 1-10 in the City-North. They close the regular season with league matches Thursday, Oct. 3, at International and Tuesday, Oct. 8, at East.

Beechcroft is in Division II for the postseason and will learn its district tournament drawing Sunday, Oct. 6. The tournament gets underway Oct. 14.

"We've had many close losses," coach Amanda Cox said. "We started the season this year against some of the best in the City League and it was hard for the girls to recover from those losses. Due to some injuries and illnesses, some inexperienced and young players had to fill in and we're adjusting to that."

Senior Gabby Paige and junior Arianna Culpepper are middle hitters who have led the defense and freshman defensive specialist Ivy Camp has been one of the team's top servers, according to Cox.

Michelle Arhin (middle hitter), Carrin Carr (defensive specialist), Tiara Hale (setter/right-side hitter), Jai Hill (outside hitter), Jada Mitchell (outside hitter), Leah Osei Adjei (defensive specialist) and Richae Wilson (defensive specialist) are the other seniors.

"Tiara Hale, Jada Mitchell and Jai Hill have set themselves apart as dedicated leaders in words and actions," Cox said. "This team has struggled with working together, but I believe they're heading in the right direction and we'll see a turnaround for them."

Braves win City golf tourney

At the City League boys golf tournament Sept. 26 at Airport, Whetstone shot 181 to finish first, ahead of Walnut Ridge (219), Centennial (238), Mifflin (246), West (253), Northland (257) and Independence (no team score).

Whetstone senior Spencer Ball was medalist with a 42 and Walnut Ridge senior Naomi Idehen was runner-up (43).

Northland had two representatives in a Division I sectional Oct. 2 at Turnberry in seniors Jason Barnes and Ramses Holland.

At the City tournament, Barnes and Holland each shot a 59 to lead the Vikings, followed by seniors Hasan Ahmed (69), Alonzo Waugh (70), Lorenzo Waugh (70) and Arnold Bangudi (73).

"All of my guys are seniors, so I've got to get some new guys for next year, for sure," Northland coach Robert Pea said. "They really enjoyed it and I think if I had them next year, they'd be pretty good. You have some guys who start out and they're like, 'This is hard,' but then it gets to be fun and you want to be better. I like to see that they're smiling when they're playing."

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek