The Big Walnut football team is preparing for the most challenging stretch of its schedule.
The Golden Eagles' final three opponents -- New Albany, Groveport and Canal Winchester -- were a combined 14-4 entering Week 7.
"We have nothing to lose against those high-ranked teams who think they're going to go deep into the playoffs," quarterback Jagger Barnett said. "We want to make that upset and show everyone what we're capable of doing."
Big Walnut will play host to New Albany on Friday, Oct. 18, before visiting Groveport on Oct. 25. The Golden Eagles, who were 3-3 overall and 1-0 in the OCC-Capital before playing host to Franklin Heights on Oct. 11, will conclude the regular season Nov. 1 at home against Canal Winchester.
New Albany was 3-3 overall and 0-1 in the OCC-Capital before playing Newark on Oct. 11. That same night, Groveport and Canal Winchester faced each other. Entering that matchup, the Cruisers were 5-1 and 1-0 and the Indians were 6-0 and 1-0.
"There are so many goals that we can still achieve," Barnett said. "We can still win the OCC, and we can still make the (Division II, Region 7) playoffs. Knowing that makes us even more hungry. There are so many goals left to accomplish."
Big Walnut will look to slow down New Albany's potent rushing attack led by running backs Reed Hall and Mechi McCaulley.
Hall, a 5-foot-10, 158-pound senior, surpassed the 1,000-yard mark for the season during a 41-27 loss at Canal Winchester on Oct. 4 and had 1,088 yards and 12 touchdowns on 164 carries through six games.
McCaulley, a 5-8, 138-pound junior, had 89 carries for 703 yards and five touchdowns.
"Reed has excellent vision," New Albany coach Bubba Kidwell said. "(It's the) same with Mechi. Both of them play bigger than what they are."
Through six games, New Albany had produced 2,014 of their 2,451 total yards on the ground, averaging 7.7 yards per carry as well as 32.2 points and 408.5 yards per game.
The running game sparked Big Walnut in its 37-16 victory at Newark on Oct. 4.
Tyler Crotinger rushed for 211 yards and two touchdowns. His 8-yard touchdown run sparked a 24-0 second-half run for the Golden Eagles, who trailed 16-13 at halftime.
"It felt good to have one of those breakout running games," said Barnett, who added 107 yards rushing and a score against the Wildcats. "We started out slow, but came in at halftime and talked about how we were the better team and that showed in the second half."
Big Walnut totaled 383 yards rushing against Newark.
Soccer teams prep for postseason
While the girls soccer team reached a Division II state semifinal each of the past two seasons, the postseason stage is much different this year.
The Golden Eagles have moved up to Division I.
"In terms of competition, you're seeing better teams sooner in the tournament because there are so many teams," coach Chris Allen said. "That's going to be a big thing for us. Last year and the year before, we had to wait until we got to the district semifinals or finals."
Big Walnut is seeded 13th of 45 teams in the district tournament and will open at home against 43rd-seeded Mifflin on Saturday, Oct. 19, in a second-round game after having a first-round bye. The winner likely will face third-seeded Olentangy Orange in a district semifinal Oct. 23.
The Golden Eagles were 9-3-3 overall and 3-0-1 in the OCC-Capital before playing Groveport in their regular-season finale Oct. 10.
Prior to playing the Cruisers, Big Walnut had won six consecutive games, posting three shutouts and allowing only four goals during that stretch. The shutouts came against Hartley (6-0 on Oct. 5), Franklin Heights (9-0 on Oct. 3) and Kenton (5-0 on Oct. 2).
"We don't give up a lot of goals," Allen said. "In 15 games, only four teams have two or more goals against us, with only one team scoring three. Our back line does as well as the scores show. Not too many teams have been able to get in behind us."
Leading the Golden Eagles' defense have been defenders Morgan Bodker, Alyssa Tarney, Hailey Krinn and Carly Hershberger and goalkeeper Payton Carter.
Offensively, Ella Froehlich and Avery Schone shared the team lead with seven goals apiece through 15 games, followed by Bodker with six and Alexis Schone with five.
The boys team is seeded 27th of 49 teams in the Division I district tournament and played 34th-seeded Mifflin in the first round Oct. 12. The winner plays at seventh-seeded Dublin Jerome in a second-round game Thursday, Oct. 17, with that winner likely facing ninth-seeded DeSales in a district semifinal Oct. 22.
Big Walnut was 5-10 overall and 2-2 in the OCC-Capital before playing Groveport on Oct. 10.
The Golden Eagles lost to host Westerville North 4-0 on Oct. 8.
Season ends for girls tennis team
Sophomores Addy Smith and Abbie Crandell of the girls tennis team each went 1-1 in singles in a Division I sectional held Oct. 3 and 5 at Pickerington Central.
Also competing at sectional were sophomore Kina Ehlers in singles (0-1), the doubles team of juniors Karen Ambrose and Lindsey Stevens (0-1) and the doubles team of juniors Ciara Matos and Avery Wagner (0-1).
The top four finishers in singles and doubles advanced to the district tournament held Oct. 10 and 12 at Reynoldsburg.
The Golden Eagles finished 6-13 overall and 4-1 in the OCC-Capital.
Below are the schedules for the Big Walnut cross country and girls volleyball teams:
Oct. 19 -- Division I, district 3 meet at Hilliard Darby. The top six boys and girls teams and top 24 boys and girls runners advance to regional Oct. 26 at Pickerington North.
Oct. 15 -- Home vs. 38th-seeded Westerville South in first round of Division I district tournament. Winner plays 12th-seeded Dublin Coffman in second round Oct. 17 at home of higher seed. The Golden Eagles are seeded 11th.