Westerville North football coach Bryan Johnson emphasized to his players after a disappointing season that their record did not tell the entire story of the season or minimize the contributions of any given individual.
The Warriors finished 1-9 overall and 0-5 in the OCC-Buckeye Division, stretching their league losing streak to 28 games dating to the 2014 season and a string of sub-.500 seasons to 14.
"I tried to make it clear all year with them that our win-loss record does not define who they are as players or people. There are more lessons to be learned in football than just the outcome of the game," Johnson said. "We had an incredibly tough schedule and our guys fought their tails off all year. Eight of the 10 teams on our schedule made the playoffs. We had a running clock against us once this year and that happened four or five times last year. The goal was to persevere every game and get better every game."
North's only win came in its fifth game, 28-20 at Franklin Heights on Sept. 27. The Falcons and Thomas Worthington, to which the Warriors lost 24-14 on Sept. 6, were North's only opponents not to make the playoffs.
The Warriors finished sixth in the OCC-Buckeye behind champion Olentangy Orange (5-0).
Several underclassmen played important roles, including sophomore Wyatt Buxton, who replaced senior Auri Dover as starting quarterback four games into the season.
"A few weeks ago (Buxton) told us that his 15th birthday was (Nov. 2, the day after the end of the regular season), so we had a 14-year-old who weighs 150 pounds out there against some of the best teams in the area," Johnson said. "He skipped a grade somewhere along the way. He will get better from everything he learned this year. The game is going to slow down for him."
Senior Maximus Plaxico rushed for 726 yards and six touchdowns on 189 carries and caught 22 passes for 176 yards.
Junior linebacker Brennan Albertini led the team in tackles for the second consecutive year as he recorded 78, including five for loss, and had two interceptions. Junior two-way lineman Reuben Simiyu added 53 tackles and six for loss and was named first-team all-league.
Albertini, senior Charles Perkins (TE/DE) and junior Hunter Weigand (DB/P) were named second-team all-league. Junior Sylvester Bockarie (RB/LB) was special mention all-league and Plaxico was honorable mention all-league.
North opened with a 31-6 loss at Groveport on Aug. 30 and also dropped non-league games at home against Mansfield Senior (14-0 on Sept. 13) and Canal Winchester (24-7 on Sept. 20).
In OCC-Buckeye play, the Warriors lost at Orange (30-7 on Oct. 4), at home against Westerville Central (21-0 on Oct. 11), at Westerville South (49-21 on Oct. 17), their home finale against Olentangy (44-14 on Oct. 25) and at Olentangy Liberty (35-7 on Nov. 1).
Other key players eligible to return include juniors Coby Darlington (WR/DB), J.J. Dixon (QB/DB), Mitchell Gillam (OL/DL), Mohammed Nasser (OL/DL) and Ty O'Hearn (TE/DB) and sophomore Nathan Dunfee (OL/DL).
"At the beginning of the season, we had so many question marks. Guys stepped in to play new roles and big roles and one of the victories of the season was watching them grow," Johnson said. "I told the guys who are returning that I want them to think of this (season) as a stepping-stone. The defense played well and they were on the field a lot. That growth is going to pay off."
As part of OCC realignment starting next fall, the Warriors will be in an eight-team division with Big Walnut, Canal Winchester, Delaware, Dublin Scioto, Franklin Heights, South and Worthington Kilbourne.
North will open the 2020 season at Central, followed by games against New Albany and Watkins Memorial.