City League Roundup: Africentric defends girls volleyball championship

Jarrod Ulrey
ThisWeek group
Africentric's Maliyah Johnson serves during a semifinal of the City League girls volleyball tournament. The Nubians won the championship with a 25-18, 18-25, 25-27, 25-20, 15-11 victory at Whetstone on Nov. 11.

During the run to its first City League championship last fall, the Africentric girls volleyball team got contributions from several members of the school's perennially powerful girls basketball program.

The Nubians used a similar formula for success this fall, but second-year coach Veronica Brownlee also believes her team improved in numerous ways.

“I actually feel talent-wise that we’re pretty equal to last year, but knowledge-wise, we’re a little bit better,” she said. “Last year was my first year so this year you’re seeing how they’re tipping, hitting and (playing their roles). That’s a year of progression in the game.”

With an eight-member senior class leading the way, Africentric won 25-18, 18-25, 25-27, 25-20, 15-11 at Whetstone in the City championship match Nov. 11.

After beating the Braves 25-23, 25-15, 25-23 in last season’s league final, the Nubians’ win over Whetstone in this year’s title match gave them a final record of 17-1.

After the league announced its programs would not participate in the OHSAA postseason because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, a 16-team City tournament was organized.

The Nubians were the top seed in their bracket and followed a first-round bye by beating fourth-seeded Briggs 25-8, 25-9, 25-15 on Nov. 5 and sixth-seeded South 25-6, 25-11, 25-21 on Nov. 9 to advance to the title match.

“It’s a good team,” senior outside hitter Maliyah Johnson said. “We’ve got lots of chemistry.”

Johnson and seniors Anyiah Murphy (libero), Lyric Ransom (right-side hitter), Arianna Smith (middle hitter) and Mykala Wheat (defensive specialist) all were key contributors last winter when the basketball team reached a Division III state semifinal before the remainder of the season was canceled because of the pandemic.

“It feels good,” Smith said. “We’re still rocking how we’re rocking. Most of us play basketball and volleyball, so it’s bouncing off volleyball going into basketball.”

The other seniors in the program are Keanna Allen (defensive specialist), Ladeya Brantley (right-side hitter) and Janiah Wahkeel (defensive specialist).

Sophomore setter Naveah Brownlee, who is the coach’s daughter, junior defensive specialist Jadyn Person and freshmen Taelynn Clayborn (right-side hitter) and Kamryn Grant (outside hitter) are others on the team.

“We’re thankful,” coach Brownlee said. “We’re very safe. We have a system and as soon as you come off the court, we’re spraying and we’re being safe. Columbus has done a really good job of spraying the nets down.”

Devils football team

showed resiliency

Coming off a 2019 season in which it reached the Division IV, Region 15 playoffs, the Marion-Franklin football team got in six games and reached the semifinal round of the City tournament.

The Red Devils finished 4-2. They won all three of their games before opening the Region 15 playoffs as the No. 6 seed and losing 21-13 to 11th-seeded Carrollton in the second round Oct. 17.

After a bye the next week, Marion-Franklin beat seventh-seeded Whetstone 35-10 on Oct. 31 in a second-round City playoff game before falling 20-6 to third-seeded Walnut Ridge on Nov. 7. The Red Devils were seeded second.

“(It was a) very tough season for the players and coaches,” coach Dave Lakso said. “Getting kids to practice with no (in-person) school is always a challenge. Another struggle for us was having the bye weeks. I loved how a lot of our guys showed resiliency through starting late in the summer with limited practice time, having all online school, injuries, sickness and so on. We had some great senior leadership this year.”

Two-way linemen Lahti Murphy and Quanaire Tatum and defensive back/wide receiver Giovanni Scales led the senior class. Tatum finished with 35 tackles and 11.5 tackles for loss, and Scales had two interceptions and 11 receptions for 239 yards.

Senior running back Taylen James rushed for 305 yards and three touchdowns in four games, and senior quarterback Macheo Brooks completed 39 of 81 passes for 545 yards with six touchdowns and rushed for 297 yards and five scores.

Juniors Chrishawn Adams (WR/DL), Michael Griffin (RB) and Dimir Thomas (LB), sophomore Jamier Cato (LB) and freshman Tito Glass (RB) should be among the top returnees.

Adams had nine receptions for 142 yards and four touchdowns.

Griffin was at quarterback during a 34-22 win Sept. 26 over Independence, throwing for 136 yards and one touchdown.

76ers football coach

excited for future

With a 46-12 loss to top-seeded Eastmoor Academy on Nov. 7 in a semifinal of the City tournament, the Independence football team finished 4-4.

City teams played three regular-season games before the OHSAA playoffs began, with the 18th-seeded 76ers losing 42-38 on Oct. 9 to 15th-seeded Walnut Ridge in the first round in Division II, Region 7. Independence had beaten the Scots 26-14 on Oct. 2.

After losing 17-14 to Groveport on Oct. 16, the fourth-seeded 76ers beat 13th-seeded Linden-McKinley 62-20 on Oct. 22 and fifth-seeded South 20-0 on Oct. 31 to reach a City semifinal.

Orlando Jones (QB/DB), Shawn Munnerlyn (WR/TE/LB), Adiel Cruz (OL/DL), Vontez Brice (WR/DB) and Grace Baraka (OL/LB) led the senior class.

Jones, who missed his junior season with a broken foot, finished with more than 1,400 all-purpose yards on offense and eight interceptions on defense, including returning four for touchdowns.

Munnerlyn is a Rutgers commit who averaged more than 27 yards per reception and also was among the team leaders in tackles.

Juniors Wadny Antenor (OL/DL), Dontae Porter (LB/RB) and Jalin Sample (RB), sophomores Abdoul Bah (OL/DL) and A.J. Jordan (RB/WR/DB) and freshman Robin Briggs (DL) should be among the top returnees.

Sample rushed for more than 900 yards and Porter was the leading tackler.

“We really feel that Orlando Jones was the top player in the City League this year,” coach Maurice Douglas said. “Shawn Munnerlyn did a great job for us and Vontez Brice was kind of an undersized slot receiver who did a great job for us.

“Jalin Sample had 900 yards in the eight games we played. We lose a lot of guys, but the future is bright with some of these kids.”

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