PATASKALA — Reclaiming the Battle for Broad Road in thrilling vogue definitely was the spotlight of the 2021 Licking Heights soccer season, however the Hornets didn’t let that momentum subside.

Heights constructed on a 24-20 victory in opposition to rival Watkins Memorial to set off an October run that included three consecutive victories to vault them into the Division II playoffs. The Hornets now are eyeing a return to Licking County League-Buckeye Division competition and hope to be a menace in Area 7 after falling 24-7 to Dublin Scioto within the expanded first spherical.

“Our protection within the final half of the season was stunning, and we could not actually ask for something extra besides possibly the final recreation in fact,” senior linebacker Grant Hoff mentioned.

Licking Heights senior quarterback Deuce Caldwell looks for an open player during morning 7 on 7 scrimmages on Tuesday, July 12, 2022 at Columbus Academy in Gahanna.

Licking Heights senior quarterback Deuce Caldwell appears to be like for an open participant throughout morning 7 on 7 scrimmages on Tuesday, July 12, 2022 at Columbus Academy in Gahanna.

That protection definitely keyed Heights’ late-season surge. Brody McLaughlin’s interception preserved the Hornets’ victory in opposition to Watkins, they usually then allowed a complete of 18 factors in victories in opposition to Harvest Prep and Licking Valley.

Star energy on the opposite facet of the ball was useful in hard-fought video games, too. Senior quarterback Deuce Caldwell might be one of many high twin threats in central Ohio for the third consecutive season.

“For us, it is a number of chemistry and reps. Proper now, we appear like we’re choosing up the place we left off final 12 months,” mentioned Caldwell, who earned All-Ohio honors final season, racking up 1,023 yards and 10 touchdowns passing and 1,008 yards and eight TDs speeding.

“Many of the younger guys bought expertise, and we’re heading in the proper method,” he added.

Licking Heights sophomore Reese Powell intercepts a pass intended for a Columbus Academy player during morning 7 on 7 scrimmages on Tuesday, July 12, 2022 at Columbus Academy in Gahanna.

Licking Heights sophomore Reese Powell intercepts a move meant for a Columbus Academy participant throughout morning 7 on 7 scrimmages on Tuesday, July 12, 2022 at Columbus Academy in Gahanna.

McLaughlin within the secondary and Sir Ford at linebacker graduated, however Heights returns loads of expertise. Senior Jonah Hane might be a three-year starter at security, becoming a member of sophomore Reese Powell and senior Nick McDougall as returning starters within the secondary, and juniors Ethan Whitt, who was restricted to punting after an early-season harm, and Reggie Crawford every at defensive finish and sophomore Jake Lopinto and junior Michael Landry every at linebacker might be breakout performers.

“I’ve actually grown to get pleasure from taking part in with (Lopinto),” Hoff mentioned. “He’s quite a bit faster, and he’s good, too. He actually works exhausting. He works his (rear) off. Each of our corners are upcoming and athletic. General, our protection is youthful than it was final 12 months, however actually , I really feel like they’re prepared for it.”

Heights graduated all of its high runners and receivers round Caldwell, however the cabinet is much from naked. Senior DJ Fillmore, who ran for 2 touchdowns within the Watkins win, is anticipated to have an expanded position after profitable the Division I state lengthy soar title in June, and Powell and classmate Josiah Ayers might be the subsequent in line of Heights’ dynamic playmakers with Hane receiving an expanded position on offense as will senior Tyler Lopinto and junior Jackson Brewer.

Heights appears to all the time have a giant entrance line, and this season might be no completely different. Senior Bobby Ruh (6-foot-1, 245 kilos) is again at middle in entrance of Caldwell, and he has classmates Andrew Schmitz (6-4, 285) and Logan Keller (6-4, 285) off to his left with Whitt main the candidates on the proper and junior Robert Jacobs battling to begin at tight finish.

“Even within the youngsters getting back from final 12 months, we now have seen guys make enormous jumps,” coach Kele Waaland mentioned. “Our offensive line has been grinding. The seniors have been doing an incredible job of getting that group prepared as a result of we should exchange the proper facet of our offensive line.”

Licking Heights coach Kele Waaland led the Hornets to the Division II playoffs in 2021, including a three-game winning streak to close the regular season.

Licking Heights coach Kele Waaland led the Hornets to the Division II playoffs in 2021, together with a three-game profitable streak to shut the common season.

Heights once more will open with Licking County League foe Johnstown because the Johnnies go to in Week 1, and Tri-Valley follows them to Pataskala in Week 2. The Hornets will hit the highway to go to Bellefontaine in Week 3 as they get alternatives to choose up victories that might be important down the highway through the postseason push.

Every season is completely different, however Waaland will not be tempering expectations. He’s completely satisfied to see the keenness from the sturdy end 10 months in the past nonetheless is fueling the Hornets.

“We have now had a implausible offseason each in our management and outdoors of our management,” Waaland mentioned. “We have now new uniforms coming and a brand new facility that’s being constructed, so there’s a number of constructive momentum for our faculty and our program and our neighborhood. All of these issues are feeding into the place our expectations and hopes are for this upcoming season . We proved on the finish of the 12 months we will win video games in opposition to good soccer groups, and we hope to maintain that rolling.”

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At a Look

Coaches: Kele Waaland

State Classification: Division II, Area 7

In 2021: 5-5, 2-1

Key gamers: Deuce Caldwell, Sr., QB/DB. Grant Hoff, Sr., LB. Reese Powell, So., WR/DB. Jake Lopinto, So., RB/LB. DJ Fillmore, Sr., WR/LB. Michael Landry, Jr., QB/LB. Reggie Crawford, Jr., RB/DL. Jonah Hane, Sr., WR/DB. Andrew Schmitz, Sr., OL/DL. Logan Keller, Sr., OL/DL. Bobby Ruh, Sr., OL/DL.

What to anticipate: Deuce Caldwell and his potential to run and move once more is a focus, nevertheless it’s removed from a one-man band. DJ Fillmore was a big-play machine final season and can obtain extra touches on the skin together with Jonah Hane and Reese Powell. Grant Hoff and Jake Lopinto will lead a bodily protection from the within out.

Video games to observe: Weeks 2 vs. tri-Valley — It’s a particular recreation for Heights coach Kele Waaland going in opposition to his alma mater, however much more might be on the road. A victory in opposition to the perennially sturdy Scotties will pressure groups within the LCL-Buckeye and in Division II to take discover of the Hornets.

Put up-season outlook: The Hornets used a three-game profitable streak down the stretch to qualify for the Division II playoffs final season, they usually once more could have a chance to choose up important factors most each week in opposition to a aggressive schedule. Non-league victories in opposition to Tri-Valley and Bellefontaine would give the Hornets an opportunity to earn their first high eight seed since 2016.

This text initially appeared on Newark Advocate: Licking Heights Hornets soccer surging again into elite