Watterson: Eagles battled through tough schedule

Jarrod Ulrey
ThisWeek group
Running back Cam Nickleson helped lead Watterson's 18-player senior class, rushing for 886 yards and 15 touchdowns as the Eagles went 4-4 overall and 2-3 in the CCL. He was named first-team all-district in Division III.

The way the Watterson football team views it, the positives more than outweighed the negatives during a season in which it finished with a .500 record.

There was the 35-34 double-overtime win Sept. 18 at eventual CCL champion DeSales and a 39-21 postseason win over 11th-seeded Hamilton Township on Oct. 16 at Ohio Dominican while competing as the No. 6 seed in the Division III, Region 11 playoffs.

Among the losses were a 28-22 overtime defeat Aug. 28 against DeSales in the first home game in program history and three others by 10 points or fewer, including 28-20 on Oct. 23 at third-seeded Thornville Sheridan in a regional quarterfinal.

Watterson finished 4-4 overall and 2-3 in the CCL.

There’s hope for the future, too, considering 41 freshmen were a part of the program.

“No. 1 is the fact that we even played,” coach Brian Kennedy said. “I know we finished 4-4, but I thought we had a really good year. Our kids had a really strong senior group. A lot of them have played three years of varsity football. We played DeSales and Hartley twice, so it was a tough schedule, and I thought we played really well. Sheridan was a good team. They completely took us out of our rhythm on offense, but it was still a one-score game. They gave Hartley fits so it wasn’t like we lost a game to a bad team.”

Watterson loses an 18-player senior class that includes first-team all-district honorees Jake Hoying (QB) and Cam Nickleson (RB) and second-team all-district selections Andrew Bettendorf (WR/DB), Davis Boone (TE/LB), Sam Intihar (WR/DB), Nick Youell (OL/LB) and Tyler Young (WR/DB).

Hoying finished 108-for-179 passing for 1,428 yards with 13 touchdowns and five interceptions and rushed for two scores. Nickleson rushed 133 times for 886 yards and 15 touchdowns and added two receiving scores.

Young finished with 26 receptions for 336 yards and one touchdown and also returned two punts and one kickoff for scores.

Bettendorf had 28 receptions for 412 yards and six touchdowns, and Boone had 27 catches for 341 yards and four scores.

Intihar had 78 tackles and eight pass breakups, and Youell had 80 tackles, nine tackles for loss and two fumble recoveries to lead the defense.

Alex Altier (OL), Kervin Azor (DL), Henry Blevins, Patrick Jesse (OL) and Tanner Mercer (DL) also were senior contributors.

Leading the expected returnees is sophomore Brandon Trout (WR/LB), a special mention all-district honoree who had 32 receptions for 432 yards and three touchdowns.

Sophomore Ryan Rudzinski, who served as Hoying’s backup and rushed for 47 yards in limited action, is the favorite to take over at quarterback.

Others eligible to return include juniors Anthony DeFilippo (TE/LB), Cole Graney (OL/LB), Dom Orsini (DB), Danny Siegel (RB/DB) and Brady White (OL/LB), sophomore Charlie Bernotas (RB/DB) and freshman Dominic Purcell (RB/DB).

“We lose a lot, but that’s how it goes sometimes,” Kennedy said. “We had 41 kids in that freshman class and we haven’t had 41 freshman football players in close to 10 years. Some of those kids are going to be playing varsity football next year. We’ll probably have more guys going both ways.”

Girls volleyball team

overcame obstacles

Getting out to a 2-3 start and having to pause its season for two weeks because of COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic issues didn’t stop the girls volleyball team from reaching some of its biggest goals.

The Eagles lost to Olentangy Orange 25-18, 25-23, 25-20 on Oct. 12, the day after they returned from a two-week quarantine, but they won their next seven matches, including avenging the loss to the Pioneers with a 17-25, 26-24, 25-23, 25-21 victory Nov. 7 in a Division I regional final.

On Nov. 13, Watterson lost to Parma Padua 25-17, 15-25, 25-21, 25-23 in a state semifinal at Vandalia Butler to finish 17-7.

“We’ve had a lot of adversity,” coach Stephanie Grieshop said. “We’ve dealt with a lot of things off the court and even some things with injuries. Maybe the quarantine was what we needed to regroup and refresh and come back. (The last several weeks) we really worked hard on ourselves mentally and physically.”

The Eagles lose eight seniors, including first-team all-CCL honorees Olyvia Kennedy (right-side hitter), Sophie Mangold (setter) and Sydney Taylor (outside hitter) and second-team all-league selection Gina Grden (middle hitter).

Sophomore Ava Hoying (outside hitter) was second-team all-league.

Kennedy finished with 268 kills, followed by Taylor (220), Hoying (207) and Grden (189).

Sophomores Mercedes Motton (middle hitter) and Clara Vondran (outside hitter) should join Hoying as key players next season.

Junior Layla Bergman and sophomores Callie Kasun, Riley McGee and Sydney Spears saw limited playing time. Spears is 6-foot and McGee is 5-11.

“The sophomores have been trying to learn as much as they can from the seniors before they leave,” Grieshop said.

Watterson sophomore Finn Kephart sprints to the finish during the Division II state cross country meet Nov. 7 at Fortress Obetz.

Boys runners close

season at state

Despite having just one senior in its lineup, the boys cross country team closed its season with a 17th-place finish (359) in the Division II state meet Nov. 7 at Fortress Obetz.

Senior Will Garey finished 24th (16 minutes, 28.5 seconds) to earn all-Ohio honors.

Also competing were juniors David Druhan, Max Hall, Cris Kubatko, Max Latshaw and Jake Vanausdle and sophomore Finn Kephart.

Garey also competed at state as a freshman when the Eagles finished 18th as a team.

“It means a lot (to make it to state),” said Garey, who was the area’s best finisher at regional and its second-best finisher at state. “Just having all these young guys come onto the team and leading them on to a state meet is just huge. I’m really, really happy with how they’ve done and they’ve performed all year. I’m really happy for them.”

The girls had two runners in the Division I regional Oct. 31 at Pickerington North, with junior Chloe Demboski finishing 47th (20:37.4) and freshman Lucy Ragiel placing 49th (20:37.9).

The Eagles’ other postseason competitors were seniors Brooklyn Brush, Averie Cunningham and Tessa Whittaker, junior Leah Hetteberg and sophomore Eden Brush.

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CROSS COUNTRY

CCL standings: Boys — DeSales (44), Watterson (45), St. Charles (56), Hartley (94), Ready (140); Girls — DeSales (33), Watterson (34), Hartley (59), Ready (113)

Seniors lost: Boys — Joey DiOrio, Will Garey and Joe Haemmerle; Girls — Brooklyn Brush, Averie Cunningham, Emily Vais and Tessa Whittaker

Key returnees: Boys — David Druhan, Max Hall, Finn Kephart, Cris Kubatko, Max Latshaw and Jake Vanausdle; Girls — Eden Brush, Chloe Demboski, Leah Hetteberg and Lucy Ragiel

Postseason: Boys — First (64) at district; sixth (205) at regional behind champion Chillicothe Unioto (75); 17th (359) at state behind champion Peninsula Woodridge (113); Girls — Seventh (150) at district behind champion Upper Arlington (70)

FOOTBALL

Record: 4-4 overall

CCL standings: DeSales (4-1), Hartley (3-2), Watterson (2-3), St. Charles (0-3)

Seniors lost: Alex Altier, Kervin Azor, Andrew Bettendorf, Carson Blank, Henry Blevins, Davis Boone, Jake Hoying, Sam Intihar, Patrick Jesse, Matthew Johnson, Charlie McAdow, Tanner Mercer, Colin Meyer, Cam Nickleson, Logan Schnurr, Colin Thomas, Nick Youell and Tyler Young

Key returnees: Charlie Bernotas, Anthony DeFilippo, Cole Graney, Dom Orsini, Dominic Purcell, Danny Siegel, Brandon Trout and Brady White

Postseason: Defeated Hamilton Township 39-21; lost to Thornville Sheridan 28-20 in Division III, Region 11 quarterfinal

GIRLS VOLLEYBALL

Record: 17-7 overall

•CCL standings: Watterson (5-1), Hartley (4-2), DeSales (2-3), Ready (0-5)

Seniors lost: Gina Grden, Sophia Higgins, Anna Jannot, Olyvia Kennedy, Margo Lawson, Sophie Mangold, Sydney Taylor and Hope Uptegraph

Key returnees: Ava Hoying, Mercedes Motton and Clara Vondran

Postseason: Def. Licking Heights 25-5, 25-11, 25-11; def. Central Crossing 25-10, 25-5, 25-14; def. Olentangy Berlin 25-14, 25-21, 25-7; def. Worthington Kilbourne 25-13, 25-10, 25-13; def. Olentangy Liberty 25-10, 33-31, 25-17; def. Olentangy Orange 17-25, 26-24, 25-23, 25-21; lost to Parma Padua 25-17, 15-25, 25-21, 25-23 in Division I state semifinal