Canal Winchester High School boys soccer coach Erik Feinstein said his team is benefitting from its improved depth.
Through five games, the Indians had outscored their opponents 18-2, with five players having two or more goals.
"We're getting goals from all over the field," said Feinstein, whose team was 5-0 overall after defeating St. Charles 1-0 on Aug. 28 and 1-0 in the OCC-Cardinal Division before playing Westerville Central on Sept. 2. "We have some players up top who are doing a good job of finishing, and we have players in the midfield and in the back who are serving them the ball well, too."
Having more depth has allowed Feinstein to rotate players on and off the field regularly, which has helped Canal Winchester maintain fresh legs in the second half. Through four games, the Indians had outscored their opponents 10-1 in the second half.
Canal Winchester held a 2-0 lead at halftime on its way to a 5-1 win over Reynoldsburg on Aug. 19 and a 4-0 win over Pickerington Central on Aug. 21.
The Indians rallied from an early deficit to beat Grove City 5-1 on Aug. 23, outscoring the Greyhounds 3-0 in the second half.
Canal Winchester defeated Westerville South 3-0 in its OCC-Cardinal opener Aug. 26, as Zach Barwick scored with 11 seconds remaining in the first half and Tristan Daniels and Jamie Robson each added a goal in the second half.
"We've been a second-half team," Feinstein said. "Part of it has been that we've come out flat in a couple of games, but the biggest reason has been our depth. After halftime, we've been able to pick up our intensity and score goals early to put teams away."
Sebastien Duque had a team-high six goals through five games. Robson and Barwick followed with four and Daniels and Kyler Splunge both with two.
"We've already been playing well up top, but we're not even full strength there yet," Feinstein said.
The Indians have been playing without Luciano Thaboune, who has been sidelined with a foot injury after scoring 15 goals last season.
"When he returns to full strength, our offense will be even more explosive," Feinstein said.
Behind the play of goalkeeper Aaron Graber and defenders Taylor Carter, Blake Horne, Zach Kolochuk and Zach Lewis, the Indians had allowed only two goals through four games.
Graber had 23 saves through five games.
"We still have to improve on the back line to the point where we don't give up many opportunities, but I've been pleased with our play in the back overall," Feinstein said.
Canal Winchester will play host to Watterson on Saturday, Sept. 6, before returning to OCC-Cardinal play Tuesday, Sept. 9, at Hilliard Darby.
Watterson was the Division II state runner-up last season, losing to Richfield Revere 2-0 in the state final. The Indians played Darby twice last season, winning 4-0 in their league matchup and 3-1 in the second round of the Division I district tournament.
"We're looking forward to these upcoming challenges," Feinstein said. "It's hard to look past anyone in our league because we're in the top division, top to bottom, in the OCC. Darby has improved a lot since last year and we'll need to play well to beat them."
Cross country teams sweep home meet
The boys and girls cross country teams both placed first in the Canal Winchester Invitational on Aug. 27.
According to coach Jeff Kline, the Indians competed in honor of their former coach, John Bender, who died of complications related to leukemia and congestive heart failure last fall in the midst of his 21st season.
"Our teams spoke at length at practice about the best way to honor coach Bender at this year's home invitational," Kline said. "Ultimately, they decided that the best way to honor coach Bender would be to compete with as much effort and toughness as possible. Coach Bender would have been very proud of the way our teams raced tonight.
"Our boys team had not won this meet since 2010 and our girls team hadn't won since 2009, so we spoke at length about the importance of winning a home invitational. Every time our squads have won this meet in the past, we went on to have very successful seasons, so we feel this is a great indicator for both teams."
The boys team finished first of 15 teams in its home meet. Canal Winchester and runner-up Fairfield Union both totaled 86 points, but the Indians won the tiebreaker by having the higher-placing sixth runner.
Ethan Fusek led the Indians, placing fifth in 17:07. Jason Appel (12th, 18:10) was next, followed by Imani Daniels (14th, 18:15), Luke Schirr (31st, 18:53), Will Morrison (34th, 19:04), Bryce Carroll (45th, 19:27) and Carson Clark (58th, 20:01).
"Our senior captains stepped up in a big way for the boys squad," Kline said. "Jason Appel dealt with an injury this summer and was a little slow out of the gate in our first meet, but he made a large improvement and placed (12th) out of 219 finishers. This was Bryce Carroll's first meet back since graduating from boot camp in South Carolina over the summer. His finish ended up being the deciding factor in the (meet)."
The girls team finished first of 16 teams in the Canal Winchester Invitational, scoring 71 points as Columbus School for Girls (91) placed second.
Placing in the top 25 were Joelle Zuberi (seventh, 20:42), Cassidy Long (14th, 21:48), Chloe Palmer (15th, 21:56), Julia Cook (18th, 22:17), Kassidy Pastor (19th, 22:18), Brittany Cain (20th, 22:18), Ashley Clubb (21st, 22:28) and Megan Tamasovich (22nd, 22:33).
"Our girls showed great strength in their depth," Kline said.
"Our girls do a great job of packing up during a race. I thought one of the largest performances for the girls team was Chloe Palmer. Chloe was in 31st place at the half-mile mark and raced her way to a top-15 finish out of 189 finishers. Chloe missed track season with (mononucleosis), so it is so encouraging to see her back racing at a high level."
Football team set for home opener
The football team will face Big Walnut on Friday, Sept. 5, in its home opener.
Canal Winchester, which opened Aug. 29 at Groveport, last played Big Walnut in 2010, when it lost to the Golden Eagles 44-20 in the first round of the Division II, Region 7 playoffs.
The Indians, who finished 0-10 last season, entered their opener on an 11-game losing streak. Big Walnut, which opened Aug. 29 against Mansfield Senior, finished 2-8 last year, marking its first losing season since 1996.
Big Walnut's offense is led by quarterback Jordan Wall, who completed 93 of 167 passes for 1,167 yards with six touchdowns and seven interceptions last year. His primary target is wide receiver Joe Muench, who caught 24 passes for 453 yards a year ago.
The Golden Eagles' 50-front defense features Isaac Lucas in the secondary and linebacker Jacob Lucas. Last season, Isaac Lucas had 63 tackles, five interceptions and a fumble recovery.
Canal Winchester's spread offense features six returning starters in quarterback Nick Hammond, wide receiver Skyler Scott, slotbacks Austin Lynch and Travis Lynch, center Ryan Kaser and tackle Ryan Tamasovich.
The Indians' 4-3 defense includes six returning starters in tackle Ryan Oliver, end Je'Len Olbrantz, linebackers Trace Luckett, Ty Luckett, Lamont Martin and Colin Sotlar.