Big Walnut Roundup: Football team capitalizes on extra practice time

Scott Gerfen
ThisWeek
Big Walnut football coach Rob Page believes his team will benefit from having extra practice time after being eliminated from the playoffs. The additional practices are "critical to program development," he said.

Immediately following the Big Walnut football team’s exit from the Division II, Region 7 playoffs, athletics director Brian Shelton began texting, emailing and calling possible opponents to close out the 2020 schedule.

The Golden Eagles’ games against Central Crossing on Oct. 30 and Mount Vernon on Oct. 23 were imperative to first-year coach Rob Page’s efforts to establish his program.

Under OHSAA COVID-19 coronavirus guidelines for this season, teams were permitted to play after losing in the playoffs.

“You look at the teams who are elite in the area, like Pickerington Central and Dublin Coffman, and they habitually go to Week 12, 13, 14, 15 (in the playoffs),” Page said. “By the time a student-athlete is a junior, they’ve played a full season of football and practiced an additional season of practice. It’s the additional practice that these guys get that’s so critical to program development.”

Which means, for example, a junior is even “more seasoned” as a starter, Page said.

Freshman quarterback Jake Nier received unexpected playing time in a 31-13 loss at Dublin Scioto in the second round of the playoffs Oct. 16 when senior three-year starting quarterback Jagger Barnett left the game with an injury.

Nier threw two interceptions but had a much better performance in a 14-13 loss to Mount Vernon, which dropped the Golden Eagles to 4-5.

“He was 11 of 18 for 110 yards, we didn’t turn the ball over and he made good decisions,” Page said. “He put us into a position where we had a chance to win.”

The Yellow Jackets’ Joel Hubbard scored from 2 yards out with 1 minute, 1 second remaining in the third quarter to give host Mount Vernon the lead for good.

Senior Caden Williams scored both Big Walnut touchdowns in the third quarter on runs of 5 and 50 yards. He finished with 169 yards on 25 carries and had more than 1,200 yards rushing entering the game against visiting Central Crossing.

“I know our seniors wanted to finish strong,” Page said. “They wanted to finish on their home field. They’re a group that tried to do it right the whole time. They’re definitely not a ‘we’re-going-to-cash-it-in’ group of people.”

Big Walnut freshman Addie Zielinski placed 63rd in 21:22.6 in the Division I, district 2 meet Oct. 24 at Hilliard Darby. “Addie was our star, running her best and fastest race of the season,” cross country coach Kevin Lewis said.

Lee, Yano lead 

runners at district

Juniors Christopher Lee and Madi Yano led the boys and girls cross country teams in Division I district meets Oct. 24 at Hilliard Darby.

The girls were 12th (308) of 17 teams behind champion Dublin Coffman (55) in district 2 and the boys finished 18th (432) of 19 teams behind first-place Lancaster (91) in district 3.

Lee finished 31st of 133 runners in 17:03.4 and Yano was 41st of 117 runners in 20:48.3 as the top six teams and top 24 individuals in both races advanced to regional Oct. 31 at Pickerington North.

Also competing for the girls were junior Grace Grunewald (59th, 21:12.3), freshman Addie Zielinski (63rd, 21:22.6), sophomore Gianna Rose-Romosier (72nd, 21:37) and freshmen Emma Kelly (73rd, 21:37.7), Kaylyn Huber (91st, 22:20.4) and Kylie Brandt (101st, 22:43.5).

“Addie was our star, running her best and fastest race of the season,” coach Kevin Lewis said.

Also competing for the boys were sophomore Gabe Ghering (82nd, 18:02.2), freshman Gabe Bibawy (94th, 18:16.7), freshman Eli Lengl (103rd, 18:27.5), junior Ryan Cummins (122nd, 18:58.1), senior Braden Buckler (126th, 19:43.2) and freshman Kyan Johnston (128th, 20.11.7).

“Many of our district entries were underclassmen ... so the future looks good,” Lewis said.

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CROSS COUNTRY

OCC-Capital standings: Boys — Westerville North (39), Worthington Kilbourne (63), Delaware (65), Westerville South (113), Canal Winchester (117), Dublin Scioto (159), Big Walnut (178); Girls — Scioto (32), North (43), Delaware (80), South (80), Canal Winchester (103), Big Walnut (150), Kilbourne (200)

Seniors lost: Boys — Braden Buckler; Girls — None

Key returnees: Boys — Gabe Bibawy, Ryan Cummins, Gabe Ghering, Christopher Lee and Eli Lengl; Girls — Grace Grunewald, Kaylyn Huber, Emma Kelly, Gianna Rose-Romosier and Madi Yano

Postseason: Boys — 18th (432) at district behind champion Lancaster (91); Girls — 12th (308) at district behind champion Dublin Coffman (55)