A season after reaching a Division II state semifinal, the Bexley High School boys soccer team is off to a bit of a slow start.
It wasn't unexpected, considering the Lions lost most of last year's starting lineup to graduation.
However, if the way Bexley played for the majority of its 3-2 home win over Delaware on Sept. 7 is an indication of things to come, a successful season might be attainable.
"I knew there would be some growing pains anytime you have to replace eight or nine starters from the year before," said coach Greg Kullman, whose team improved to 2-3 overall by beating the Pacers. "We're certainly nowhere near where we need to be and that is evident by our three losses, albeit to very strong opponents."
The Lions opened with a pair of 4-1 losses, to Granville on Aug. 20 and Watterson on Aug. 24, before beating Whitehall 9-0 on Aug. 29 in their MSL-Ohio Division opener. Bexley then lost to St. Charles 5-0 on Aug. 31.
Against Delaware, the Lions controlled the ball for most of the game and outshot the Pacers 13-4.
Bexley took a 1-0 lead in the 23rd minute when junior midfielder Adam Hirsch's shot from about 15 yards got inside the far left post. Hirsch, a third-team all-district and first-team all-league selection a season ago, also is the kicker for the football team.
Five minutes later, senior midfielder/forward Daniel Loeser found the back of an empty net after Delaware goalkeeper Ian Alger was caught out of position.
But the Pacers got shots past Lions senior goalie Eli Feuer in the 31st and 33rd minutes to tie the game.
"That has been the story of the season so far," Kullman said. "We create all of these good opportunities and we don't finish them, and then we do something silly in the back and we find ourselves down a goal or down a couple of goals or (tied).
"We've got plenty of work to do in terms of cleaning things up in the back."
The Lions went ahead to stay in the 67th minute when junior midfielder Jonathan Bowman scored from about 12 yards out on the left side. The lefty's third goal of the season nicked the near post and went into the net.
Bowman said Bexley's shift from a 4-5-1 to 4-4-2 alignment has helped create more scoring opportunities.
"We really needed this win," he said. "(The goal) was amazing. I knew it was in right away. I had the perfect hit on it."
The Lions are off until Saturday, Sept. 17, when they play at Hamilton Township. They return to league play Sept. 19 at home against West Jefferson.
Bowman said the Lions still are expecting to have a strong season to follow up last year, when they lost 4-0 in a state semifinal against eventual champion Dayton Carroll to finish 14-4-4.
"I think that our goal this year is to do better than last year because we want to show that we are better players than the ones that (graduated)," he said. "It is not (easy to do). We lost a lot of good players, but I think we have a really good roster this year."
Football team equals last year's win total
The football team has won its first two games to match last season's win total.
The Lions opened with a 28-7 home win over Harvest Prep on Aug. 30 and followed with a 28-2 victory at Berne Union on Sept. 6.
Seventh-year coach John Smith said the Lions' improvement goes beyond the results on the scoreboard.
"Overall, team chemistry has been a strong point, from top to bottom," he said.
Senior leadership also has been a key, according to Smith.
"Greg Miller, Jacob Old, Daniel Lee and Jack Needles, the emergence of these guys has spearheaded and led the team," Smith said. "They have a great rapport with the players and they are an extension of (the coaches)."
Against Berne Union, the Lions took a 21-0 lead into halftime thanks to scoring runs of five yards by Zach Ward and quarterback Andre Stewart and Stewart's 10-yard pass to Miller. Dylan Cramer's 7-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter capped the scoring for the Lions, who rushed for 313 yards on 45 attempts.
A bad snap that went out of the end zone for a safety in the fourth quarter prevented a shutout in the Lions' third consecutive win over the Rockets.
The Lions fumbled four times, but lost possession just once.
Bexley held Berne Union to 147 total yards, intercepted quarterback Brady Mahlerwein twice and forced three fumbles, recovering one.
Smith said there's room for improvement entering a home contest Thursday, Sept. 12, against Centennial, which also has started 2-0.
"We have to correct some mistakes we made (against Berne Union). We had 15-plus penalties," Smith said. "We were not able to get anything going in the second half because of penalties."
Centennial, which was 1-9 last year, rallied to defeat Franklin Heights 48-47 on Sept. 6, as quarterback Jeremy Johnson was 26-for-40 passing for 247 yards and five touchdowns.
"It looks like they have a pretty good quarterback and offensively it looks like they are going to be able to put points on the board," Smith said.
Weisman paces girls golf team
Sophomore Liza Weisman of the girls golf team shot a 79 to place second in the Bexley Invitational on Sept. 7 at Champions.
Upper Arlington won the 11-team event with a 360. The Lions posted a 436 to tie Jonathan Alder for sixth.
Gahanna's Emily Hughes shot a 75 to earn medalist honors, but Weisman carded a 38 on the front nine to trail Hughes by only one shot at the midway point.
Also for Bexley, Vahni Kurra shot a 116, followed by Emily Walker (118) and Maya Maynard (123).
In the boys Bexley Invitational on Sept. 7 at Westchester, the Lions' Matt Abramson shot a 71 to tie Jacob Braskett of Teays Valley for second behind Cameron Michalak (67) of Grove City Christian.
Teays Valley won the 20-team event with a 302. Bexley placed ninth (322), and the Lions' B team was 19th (390).