Whetstone Roundup: Strong chemistry helped girls soccer squad win City League title
In a season that was shortened by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, the Whetstone girls soccer team still achieved its desired — and familiar — result.
The Braves’ season culminated in a 4-2 victory over Centennial in the City League championship game Oct. 21, earning them their seventh City title in nine seasons and putting a stamp on a 7-0-1 overall record.
Whetstone went 5-0-1 in the regular season while playing a City-only schedule and then defeated West 12-0 on Oct. 14 in a league tournament semifinal before beating the Stars for the title.
“We had a successful season despite the situation we were in and I think it even motivated us to play better,” said senior forward Annabelle O’Neal, who had eight goals and five assists and was named first-team all-league. “After the temporary shutdown in August, it was eye-opening just how fragile circumstances were and how important it was for us to practice safely. We didn’t know what to expect and if we would be allowed to play.
"The short break in the middle of the season gave us a new appreciation for soccer and our team. Our chemistry this year was outstanding. It was the best I’ve seen out of the team in all four years I’ve played.”
For fourth-year coach Doug Kohler, it was his second consecutive City title after Centennial won it in 2017 and 2018.
“It’s nice to start a new streak,” he said. “I’m just happy the girls got the opportunity to play. There were many times, including the midseason shutdown, where we thought all was lost.”
Senior forward Mira Dush said she was fortunate to compete after playing in only the first three games of her junior season because of injury. She had 17 goals and eight assists and was named first-team all-league and third-team all-district.
“I was very happy with how everything went (because) I was injured last year, so my goal was just to have one City League win,” she said.
Senior defender Amelia Morris and junior defender Ella Norris (13 goals) also were first-team all-league, while Morris also was third-team all-district.
Sophomore forward Summer Dush (9 goals, 15 assists), sophomore defender/goalie Emma Wood and juniors Nezzie O’Malley (defender) and Lily Hoyt (midfielder) were second-team all-league. Freshman defender Ava Flowers was honorable mention all-league.
Football team finishes
with winning record
The football team concluded its season with a 35-10 loss to Marion-Franklin in the second round of the City League playoffs Oct. 31 to finish 4-3.
It was the Braves' first winning season since 2013, when they went 6-4.
“This was a season with a lot of firsts,” coach Tom Jones said. “For the first time ever it was COVID season. For the first time ever Whetstone made the playoffs. But we had probably one of the better showings for the Columbus City League in the playoffs. ... (Also), it’s been a while since we’ve had a winning season.”
Senior quarterback Alex Hurd said the Braves were more in sync than prior seasons despite having less time together.
"The chemistry we had this year was different than past years," said Hurd, who completed 44 of 81 passes for 470 yards with three touchdowns and four interceptions. "I think in past years we didn't mesh well, but we really meshed well from the little time we had to get ready. We knew the young guys were going to have to step up and I'm very proud of the underclassmen.”
The Braves lost to South 52-6 on Sept. 17 before defeating Mifflin 12-6 on Sept. 25 and Centennial 22-14 on Oct. 2. Then in the Division II, Region 7 playoffs, Whetstone lost 28-9 at Licking Heights on Oct. 9.
In past years, a playoff loss would have meant the season was over. But this season, Whetstone could continue playing. The Braves defeated Briggs 24-14 on Oct. 17 before beating the Bruins a second time, 20-6 on Oct. 26 in their City playoff opener, and losing to Marion-Franklin.
The Braves will lose 15 seniors, including running back Darric McClinton, who rushed 94 times for 592 yards and five touchdowns and caught 10 passes for 76 yards. McClinton also returned a kickoff 70 yards for a touchdown against South and made 32 tackles at linebacker.
Senior wide receiver Khristian Watkins-Sellers had 16 receptions for 205 yards and a touchdown and rushed 31 times for 80 yards. At cornerback, he had 15 tackles, 10 pass breakups, three interceptions — including one returned 30 yards for a touchdown — and three forced fumbles, including two recoveries.
Senior strong safety Abdourahman Sallah had 27 tackles, including 7.5 for loss, 1.5 sacks and six pass breakups.
Expected key returnees include juniors Austin Haas (OL), Roobyns Jean (OL/DL) and Aidan Wilichowski (LB/FB), sophomores Justin Woolever (OL/DL) and James Ferrell (QB) and freshmen Joseph Lacey (OL/DL), Joshua Lacey (OL/DL/TE), Jake Miller (RB/LB) and Marion McClinton (WR/DB).
Wilichowski had 31.5 tackles, including five for loss, 3.5 sacks and two pass breakups.
•Seniors lost: Joren Clem, Malikahi Dudley, Zane Fent, Tre Griffin, Alex Hurd, Abdi Hussein, David Johnson-Henderson, Sam Mahan, Darric McClinton, Holden Osbeck, Jalen Robar, Devin Roberts, Abdourahman Sallah C.J. Steele and Khristian Watkins-Sellers
•Key returnees: James Ferrell, Austin Haas, Roobyns Jean, Joseph Lacey, Joshua Lacey, Marion McClinton, Jake Miller, Aidan Wilichowski and Justin Woolever
•Record: 7-0-1 overall
•City League standings: Whetstone (5-0-1), Centennial (4-1-1), Northland (2-4), West (0-6)
•Seniors lost: Julian Calderone, Mira Dush, Elizabeth Martin, Amelia Morris and Annabelle O’Neal
•Key returnees: Summer Dush, Ava Flowers, Lily Hoyt, Nezzie O’Malley, Ella Norris and Emma Wood