Senior captain Trevor Lewis said it's always been a big deal for the Hilliard Davidson High School boys soccer team when it's had the opportunity to play Bradley or Darby.
Lewis said those games have taken on an even greater importance after the Hilliard Cup was created last season.
The Hilliard Cup is awarded to the team that finishes with the best record against the other two Hilliard squads.
Last year, Bradley and Davidson both had their names added to a plaque on the Hilliard Cup after they tied at 2 and both defeated Darby.
This season, Darby and Davidson tied at 1 on Sept. 6, and Bradley and Darby played Oct. 9.
Davidson plays host to Bradley on Monday, Oct. 15, in the final regular-season contest between the Hilliard squads.
"It's always important when we play the other Hilliard teams, and now it's even more fun because we all want to win the Hilliard Cup," Lewis said. "We already tied Darby, but we can at least win a share of the Hilliard Cup again if we beat Bradley. We're hoping Bradley will beat or tie Darby so that we can win the Hilliard Cup by ourselves this year."
The game will serve as a homecoming of sorts for second-year Bradley coach Pat Billman, who played soccer at Davidson for four seasons before graduating in 2001. He also was an assistant coach at Davidson from 2005-10.
"We want to prove we're the best team in Hilliard, so it's big for the kids," Billman said. "Personally, this game means a lot to me because it will be the first time I've coached a game at Davidson since I left for this job. I have a lot of great memories of playing and coaching in that stadium, and I know Davidson's team pretty well because I coached a lot of their seniors when they were sophomores. But I love where I'm at, and I'm going to do my best to lead our team to a victory over Davidson."
Davidson has had an up-and-down season and went 2-0-1 last week after losing to Olentangy Liberty (5-1 on Sept. 25) and Dublin Jerome (3-0 on Sept. 27) the previous week.
The Wildcats defeated Thomas Worthington 3-1 on Oct. 2 and Worthington Christian 1-0 on Oct. 4. Andrew Chiou scored the winning goal against Worthington Christian with a left-footed shot.
The Wildcats also tied Grove City at 1 on Oct. 6.
After Lewis moved from forward to defense for last week's games, Davidson gave up only two goals in those three contests.
Lewis hopes the Wildcats can maintain momentum heading into the Division I district tournament. Davidson opens district Oct. 20 by playing host to Dublin Scioto or Thomas in the second round.
"This was one of our best weeks of soccer and we're going to try to keep this rolling into the playoffs," Lewis said. "We just need to keep playing with a lot of heart instead of playing down to our opponents' level.
"We have a lot of guys who are contributing. Andrew Chiou has been our most consistent player in the midfield, Rylee Moore is playing well at outside midfield and Joe Justus is a major scoring threat up top. Kyle Martin is playing well in the back and both our goalies, Phil Ferguson and Matt Martin, are doing a good job."
Bradley was 3-8-3 overall and on a four-game winless streak heading into its game against Darby.
The Jaguars scored 15 goals in their first 14 games. Alex Lanfear had three goals and two assists and Ben Fitzpatrick had five assists.
"We don't have the firepower that we had last year and it's been a tough season," Billman said. "We're not scoring enough goals and we're giving up too many in certain games. Our younger guys are getting a lot of playing time and learning, but our lack of experience has cost us and we've lost three games by one goal in the past two weeks.
"We do have some guys who have played well. Jeff Ireland is holding the team together in the center midfield, and Riley Uhrin is consistent there, too. Jared Daniel and Michael Warner have been great in the back, and Joe Krochmal has been solid in goal."
Bradley opens Division I district tournament play Oct. 20 at fifth-seeded Westerville Central in the second round.
The Jaguars, who lost to Central 4-0 on Sept. 11, won two district tournament games a year ago before losing to Liberty 5-4 in a final.
"The key for us in the tournament is to score early and defend well late in games," Billman said. "It comes down to set pieces. Whoever is better on set pieces will win in the tournament."
Darby wins share of league title
Darby beat Westerville Central 1-0 on Oct. 2 to clinch at least a share of the OCC-Cardinal Division title with a 5-1 league mark before playing Bradley.
The Panthers would have won the OCC-Cardinal outright with a win or tie against Bradley, or if Westerville North were to tie or lose to Westerville South on Oct. 9.
A.J. Gaietto scored off an assist by Jacob Atkinson to help give Darby its first league title since 2007.
The Panthers also beat Bloom-Carroll 5-0 on Oct. 4 to improve to 11-1-2 overall before playing Bradley. Jensen Culley scored two goals.
"Westerville Central's a great team and they were ranked third in the district, two spots ahead of us," coach Johnny Ulry said. "This is the best regular season we've ever had, and winning the OCC is a special accomplishment for our boys because they did a great job of putting a lot of value on every game.
The Panthers were seeded third in the Division I district tournament and open Oct. 20 by playing host to Northland or Zanesville in the second round.
Last year, seventh-seeded Darby was upset by Watkins Memorial 2-1 in the first round of the district tournament.
"Being seeded third is an honor but it also puts a big target on our back, so the boys need to be prepared to play well with the spotlight on them," Ulry said. "We need to embrace it, rather than try to hide from it."