By David Fong
Regional Sports Content Manager
SIDNEY — After a two-year layoff, the Lehman football team returned to its rightful place in the postseason in 2013.
Previously, the Cavaliers had made the playoffs every season from 2005-2010 under head coach Dick Roll. That ended in 2011, however, as the Cavaliers went 3-7 and then 4-5 in 2012.
As it turned out, however, all the Cavaliers were doing were waiting in the weeds as a young team reached maturity. That came to fruition in 2013, as a team loaded with talented seniors and juniors fought its way back into the postseason, reaching the Division VII regional semifinals before falling to Triad, 14-7.
“We exceeded expectations,” Roll said following the Triad game. “I told the kids that this week. But you still want to win the game.”
Lehman’s season actually started off on a down note, as Anna knocked off the Cavaliers 40-14 in the season opener. That, as it turned out, would not be a sign of things to come. From there, the Cavaliers won its final nine regular season games for finish the regular season 9-1 and ranked fourth in the Division VII, Region 26 computer points standings.
Following the loss to Anna, Lehman would face a pair of tough games against Minster and London. The Cavaliers would outlast Minster 33-18, then outscore London 48-26. Those two games set the season in motion for the Cavaliers, who rolled past Perry (33-0), Riverside (57-0) and Jefferson Township (42-14) in its next three games.
That set up a titanic clash with Fort Loramie in a game ripe with Northwest Central Conference and computer points implications in Week 7.
Against the Redskins, Lehman fell behind early, but knotted the score at 7-7 when junior quarterback Nick Rourke hooked up with senior receiver Andrew Westerheide on a 50-yard touchdown pass. Lehman would take a 14-7 lead in the second quarter when Rourke split a pair of defenders and scored on a 53-yard touchdown run.
After Lehman had tied the game at 14, a huge kickoff return by Lane Monnin set up a 2-yard touchdown run by John Husa late in the third quarter. Lehman’s defense — led by All-Ohio linebacker Sklyar Brown — shut down the Redskins the rest of the way as the Cavaliers held on for a 21-14 victory.
From there, the Cavaliers rolled through the rest of the regular season, scoring 60 points or more in each of the final three weeks of the season, blasting Ridgemont (61-6), Waynesfield-Goshen (60-0) and Upper Scioto Valley (62-26) to clinch the NWCC title outright.
The Cavaliers continued its roll into the postseason, knocking off Paint Valley 44-9 in the regional quarterfinals before the match-up with Triad.
Lehman dominated the All-NWCC voting — and much of that talent returns this season.
Brown — who will be a senior — was named NWCC Defensive Player of the Year, in addition to special mention All-Ohio, while Roll was named NWCC Coach of the Year.
Rourke — who set school records for pass attempts (293), completions (168), passing yards (2,551), passing touchdowns (28) and completion percentage (54 percent) — was named first-team All-NWCC as a junior. Center Joe Skelton (a junior last season), guard Brad Montgomery (senior), tackle Quinn Monnin (senior), Westerheide (senior) and running back Greg Spearman (junior) were named to the first team on offense.
On defense, linemen Husa (senior) and Josh Smith (senior), Brown, defensive backs Spearman and Westerheide and kicker Ian Smith (sophomore) all earned first-team honors.
Contact David Fong at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong