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Watterson Roundup: Cam Nickleson delivers out of backfield

JARROD ULREY
julrey@thisweeknews.com
Watterson's Cam Nickleson finds room to run during the opener against DeSales on Aug. 28. Nickleson, who scored five touchdowns in a 39-0 rout of Teays Valley on Sept. 11, has been impressive in his first season as the Eagles' primary running back.

Cam Nickleson is fired up about his final prep season with the Watterson football team.

The Eagles, he believes, could go deep into the Division III playoffs considering how closely they've competed against CCL rivals DeSales and Hartley.

Thinking about how he might fare as a college football player, though, would be a natural instinct for someone with his background.

Nickleson's father, Michael Nickleson, competed in basketball, football and track and field in Indiana, went on to play football for Ball State and even spent some time on the Carolina Panthers' practice squad.

Cam's maternal grandfather, Miguel Dilone, played Major League Baseball from 1974-1985. In 1980, he finished third in the American League with 61 stolen bases and batted .341 for the Cleveland Indians.

His sister, Christiana Nickleson, is a junior who plays lacrosse for Dublin Scioto.

"I come from a pretty athletic family," Cam said. "I haven't met (Dilone) yet, but one of my main goals in life is to meet him. He lives in the Dominican Republic. If you look at a picture of him and me, I'm his spitting image. I always played baseball growing up, but I ended up quitting baseball last year because I really wanted to focus on football."

Nickleson ran for four touchdowns and added one receiving score in a 39-0 victory over Teays Valley on Sept. 11.

After a 35-34 double-overtime win over DeSales on Sept. 18, the Eagles are 2-2 overall and 1-2 in the CCL. They also have games scheduled for Friday, Sept. 25, at home against Hartley and Oct. 2 at home against St. Charles before the playoffs begin Oct. 9.

The Eagles lost 28-22 in overtime Aug. 28 to DeSales, which was fifth in last week's state poll.

Nickleson spent his first two prep years at Scioto before transferring to Watterson. Last fall, he rushed for 192 yards over the first five games before having to sit out the remainder of the season because of the OHSAA transfer rule.

"I played varsity special teams and a little bit of running back (at Scioto), but (my family) really felt like they wanted me to experience something new at a private school," he said. "They're really good for college transcripts because at the end of the day it's not just about football, it's about going to college and getting an education. They want me to go to college, and when (colleges) see that you're a minority at Bishop Watterson High School and have the grades that you have, that's what drove us to transfer.

"I really love it at Watterson. They're like a giant family to me. If you'd asked me in the eighth grade and told me, 'You're going to transfer to a private school,' I would have told you you're crazy. ... I'm grateful."

Focusing mostly on offense, Nickleson has rushed for 451 yards and seven touchdowns on 83 carries, including 25 rushes for 69 yards and one score in the win over DeSales. He also caught the winning two-point conversion pass.

"Certainly going into when we started camp and going into June and July, he had really taken that next step," coach Brian Kennedy said. "He had put a lot of hard work into the quarantine and to his credit, you're seeing that hard work pay off."

Sitting out the final five games last season wasn't easy for Nickleson, who then focused on being a part of the program's scout team, particularly on defense, after starting the first five games at cornerback.

It's also made him appreciate this season that much more.

"It really did hurt a lot watching them all play (during the second half of last season), but sometimes you have to roll with the punches," Nickleson said. "I'm really focused on trying to get school done with and I really want to focus on winning states this year because we have a really good chance with Jake (Hoying) at quarterback (and) me at running back. Our (offensive) line is doing an amazing job and our defense is doing things that I'm more than happy to see."

Boys golf squad continues to battle

Boys golf coach Olin Melaragno expects it to be challenging for his team to advance to the Division I district tournament from sectional competition, which will be held Oct. 6.

Junior Carson Trafford and sophomore Deacon Pinson, though, could be factors individually if the Eagles don't make it to district as a team.

Trafford has been averaging 38 in nine-hole matches. He carded a personal-best 69 on Aug. 22 in the DeSales Invitational at Chapel Hill.

Pinson has been averaging 39 for nine holes and has been the Eagles' medalist six times.

Seniors Adam Pavliga and Gavin Greene, sophomore Noah Stauffer and freshmen Jonah Altiero and Cooper Struckel all have been averaging between 43 and 46.

The CCL postseason tournament is Sunday, Sept. 27, at Denison Golf Club.

"Based on our performances to date and considering the level of competition in Division I in the Central District, it would appear to be very difficult for us to advance out of sectionals as a team," Melaragno said. "However, both Carson Trafford and Deacon Pinson do have the capability to qualify to districts as individuals. ... Nonetheless, with two freshmen, two sophomores and junior competing, they will be gaining valuable experience that they can carry forward into next year regardless of how we perform this year."

Girls golfers prep for postseason

The girls golf team is preparing for the Division I postseason, which begins with sectional competition Oct. 6.

Juniors Sofia Roncone and Anna Stauffer have been leading the way, and sophomores Sydney McKinney and Ava Wiant also have been key contributors, according to coach Mike Crotty. Roncone was medalist Aug. 5 in the North Union Invitational at Mill Creek.

The Eagles have lost senior Victoria Alves and junior Amelia Walker to season-ending injuries.

The final round of the CCL tournament will be held Oct. 10 at NorthStar. In the first round Aug. 12 at NorthStar, Hartley was first (366), followed by DeSales (374) and Watterson (379).

"(We're) preparing for the postseason (with extra) putting, chipping and wedge play, managing our distance, attitudes and expectations," Crotty said.

julrey@thisweeknews.com

@UlreyThisWeek