Heading into this season, his first as the starting goalkeeper for the Big Walnut High School boys soccer team, senior Lukas Swysgood figured he would be compared to the player he was replacing, 2011 graduate A.J. Fleak.

Heading into this season, his first as the starting goalkeeper for the Big Walnut High School boys soccer team, senior Lukas Swysgood figured he would be compared to the player he was replacing, 2011 graduate A.J. Fleak.

"Last year I sat behind an all-state keeper," Swysgood said of Fleak. "There were high expectations because I was following A.J."

Fleak, a walk-on place-kicker for the University of Cincinnati football team, was a three-year starter for the Golden Eagles who had a 1.2 goals-against average last season with four shutouts and was named first-team all-state, all-district and all-league. He made second-team all-state as a sophomore and junior.

Not only did Swysgood have to deal with the pressure that comes with replacing a player of Fleak's caliber, but he still was learning the position. Last season essentially was his first as a goalkeeper after a long hiatus from the sport.

"I played (goalkeeper) a little when I was younger, but I didn't play (soccer) for like seven or eight years," he said. "I got back into it after some friends talked me into coming out for the team."

Swysgood hasn't looked like a first-year varsity starter. Through 10 games, he had allowed only four goals and had six shutouts.

"In the beginning of the year, I was a little shaky because I didn't have much experience playing keeper," Swysgood said. "But as the season's gone on, my teammates have gotten more confidence in me and I've gotten more confident in my own abilities."

"Last year Lukas was able to watch A.J.," first-year coach Brett Weiss said. "I think that helped him. He's getting good looks (at shots) and we're giving him good looks. (Former goalkeeper and 2006 Big Walnut graduate) Robbie Williamson has been working with him this season, and Robbie is good with technique. I think that has added to Lukas' confidence as well. Lukas is reading the game well; he's seeing the game well. I like how he's come along since the start of the season."

Swysgood said his team's defense, which is led by senior sweeper Zach Mason and also includes senior stopper Josh Annis, senior Patrick Sewalk and sophomore Brayden Dronsfield, deserves much of the credit for his play.

"We have a really good defense," Swysgood said. "That makes me less nervous."

In addition to the play of Swysgood and the defense, Weiss liked his team's balanced scoring. Through 10 games, junior forward Austin Foor was leading the Eagles with five goals, followed by senior forward Corey Gibson with four. Four players - Mason, senior midfielder Dixon Duckwall, junior midfielder Shane Facemyer and sophomore defender Nathan Mickley - each had two goals.

"If you rely on one or two people, then what happens when that one guy or those two guys go into a (scoring) drought?" said Weiss, whose team was ranked third in the Division II state poll last week behind Dayton Carroll and Richfield Revere. "We're trying to get everyone involved in the attack. When that happens, you have a better chance of scoring.

"We like our team. We've kind of settled into the personnel, and when you're settled on your personnel, you can really push them. I like where we're going."

Because of mud and standing water on its field, Big Walnut has spent the past two weeks practicing at Hylen Souders Elementary School. Its home game against Teays Valley on Sept. 24 was moved to Upper Arlington and its home game against New Albany was postponed from Sept. 27 to Oct. 1, although athletics director Steve Glesenkamp was working on a contingency plan in case the Eagles' field was unplayable Oct. 1.

"Sunbury is the new Amazon River basin, I guess," Weiss said with a laugh.

Weiss and the players are doing their best to deal with the situation.

"I think (not being able to practice or play games at home) is a little bit of a distraction, but our coach told us we have to get around it and keep training," Swysgood said.

Weiss believes the fact that the Eagles got to play a game at Upper Arlington could help them in the postseason. Upper Arlington has a turf field, and many of the venues that play host to games in the Division II tournament have that type of surface.

"We were lucky enough to play at Upper Arlington," Weiss said. "In the tournament, most games are on turf. Any chance you get to play on that (surface), it's a bonus."

"It's a whole different game on turf because of the speed of the ball and the movement of the ball," Swysgood said. "A lot of schools play on turf, so it does help us."

•Poor field conditions forced the football team's home game against Olentangy Orange on Sept. 23 to be postponed and moved to Ohio Wesleyan the next day.

Big Walnut defeated Orange 35-34 to improve to 4-1 overall and 2-0 in the OCC-Capital Division.

Senior quarterback Tyler Beam sat out a 21-14 win over Watkins Memorial on Sept. 16 because of an ankle injury he sustained during a 41-13 win over Olentangy on Sept. 9, but he returned to the lineup against Orange, rushing for 72 yards and three touchdowns on 14 carries and completing 15 of 26 passes for 110 yards and two touchdowns.

"Sunbury is a place where everybody comes out to football games," junior wide receiver and safety Seth Myers said. "We probably had half of what we have for home games (at Ohio Wesleyan), but that was one of the best atmospheres I've played in. The turf was nice. It was as good (a playing surface) as you're going to get in high school."

As of Sept. 28, Big Walnut expected to play its homecoming game against Hilliard Bradley on Sept. 30 on its own field. However, Glesenkamp was working on a contingency plan in case the Eagles' field was deemed unplayable for the second week in a row.

The football team does not share its field with the boys and girls soccer teams.

"I think (dealing with the field situation) is a pretty big distraction," Myers said. "But coach (Joe) Weaver says we're still lining up and playing, so we've got to focus on getting better."

The Eagles took a four-game winning streak into their league matchup with Bradley.

"Honestly, after Week 1 (a 27-16 loss to Westerville Central on Aug. 26), I was kind of scared," said Myers, who caught a 16-yard touchdown pass against Orange. "I thought it was going to be like coach Weaver's first year (as head coach, when the Eagles finished 6-4 in 2009). But we're improving each week. Everyone has their head up. No one on our team is doubting us."