Darby, Davidson set for showdown
The Hilliard Darby High School boys soccer team won its first three games by a combined score of 7-3, including a 2-0 victory over Pickerington Central on Aug. 30.
Central was 2-0-1 and ranked third in the ThisWeek Super 7 poll before losing to the Panthers.
Meanwhile, Davidson lost its first two contests by a combined score of 4-0, including a 3-0 loss to Dublin Coffman in its OCC-Central Division opener Aug. 28.
Despite the sharp contrast in the way each team has started its season, Darby coach Johnny Ulry is expecting a highly competitive game on Thursday, Sept. 6, when the Panthers travel to Davidson.
"Davidson may have lost its first two games, but they're a great program and they've got a good coaching staff and talented players, so you can throw our records out of the equation because it's always a street fight when we play them," Ulry said.
Davidson got the better of Darby last season, holding an edge in ball possession in a 2-1 win. Wildcats coach Michael Mundey said his team will need to follow a similar formula to beat the Panthers again.
"We need to move the ball as a unit and get numbers involved in the attack instead of relying on standouts to get the job done by themselves," Mundey said. "I'm playing everyone on the roster to give them the opportunity to prove themselves and contribute. We definitely need a team effort."
Ulry said the Panthers must control possession against Davidson, like they did in their first three games.
"The boys from both teams have known each other since they were little kids and that only makes them want to beat each other that much more," Ulry said. "A win at Davidson could be a huge morale boost for us. It would definitely give our guys some confidence because Davidson's had our number the last few years.
"We just need to keep doing what we've been doing. The boys are buying into our system and they haven't wavered from it. Even when we're losing, they don't complain."
The Panthers rallied from 1-0 and 2-1 deficits to earn a 3-2 win at Westerville North on Aug. 28.
Ryan Kasprzak tied the game at 1 early in the second half and Zach Kuebler scored to tie it at 2.
With less than two minutes remaining, Kuebler intercepted a pass, dribbled the ball down the field and passed it to Jacob Atkinson, who faked a shot and passed the ball between his legs to Kasprzak, who got the ball on the run, raced past North's defenders and scored.
It was a special victory for Ulry, who led North to a Division I state championship as a senior in 2003.
"To walk into that stadium and see our state championship banner brings back a lot of great memories," Ulry said. "But this is about the kids, and this was the first time Darby's ever beaten Westerville North, which is a big deal. This was also our OCC opener, and if we would have lost this game, it could have put us behind the eight-ball.
"The most exciting thing was seeing Jacob Atkinson dummy the ball through his legs to give a teammate a better shot at scoring. That shows that our kids don't care who scores or how we score, as long as we win."
Kasprzak also scored both goals against Pickerington Central to push his total to five goals through three games.
"Ryan's been finishing for us, and Jacob Atkinson and Zach Kuebler have done a great job of setting up scoring chances," Ulry said. "Brian Lee is distributing the ball well and creating chances in the center midfield, and we've got one of the best goalkeepers in central Ohio in Kyle Kaplan. Jeff Tuckett's making great stops at center back and Cameron Howard's been one of our big surprises on defense. We have so many guys contributing in so many ways. I don't even have time to mention them all."
Despite shut out in a 1-0 loss to Sidney on Aug. 23, Davidson had plenty of scoring chances. The Wildcats had 10 shots on goal and five corner opportunities, compared to one shot on goal and one corner chance for Sidney.
Riley Moore hit a shot off Sidney's crossbar in the second half, as the Wildcats had 10 other shots that weren't on goal.
"We've combined well in the midfield and into our attack to get some good scoring opportunities, but they haven't translated into goals yet," Mundey said. "I'm happy with the effort and work rate of guys like Trevor Lewis, Luis Rosas and Jake Entyre up top, Andrew Chiou, Ryan Lang and Callan Myerscough in the center midfield and Jacob Felicitty in the back."
In addition to finishing its scoring chances, Mundey would like to see his team play better defensively.
"We need to work on our defensive shape because we've allowed some teams to get behind us," he said. "We need to improve our man-to-man marking and our communication needs to get better."