The Hilliard Bradley High School boys soccer team took a major step forward this season.
A year after finishing 3-10-4 , the Jaguars went 12-2-6 and captured league and district championships for the first time in their five-year history.
"The season was unreal," coach Pat Billman said. "We accomplished so much as a team and we have so much to be proud of this year. We won the tough OCC-Cardinal (Division) for the first time in school history, won our first-ever district title and had our best record in school history. Going from 10 losses to two losses is a huge step in the right direction."
The Jaguars got out to a 5-0-6 start, beating Dublin Coffman 2-1 on Aug. 29 and tying Davidson at 1 on Sept. 19 along the way. They capped the regular season by beating Darby 5-3 on Oct. 8 to clinch the OCC-Cardinal title outright and earn a share of the Hilliard Cup along with Davidson.
Bradley finished 5-0-2 in the league, ahead of Canal Winchester (5-1-1), Westerville South (3-0-4), Westerville Central (3-1-3), Dublin Scioto (2-4-1), Dublin Jerome (1-3-3), Darby (1-6) and Westerville North (1-6).
"Beating Coffman is always a highlight in my mind," Billman said. "Honestly, winning the OCC championship at Darby on the last game of the year and seeing our kids around the Hilliard Cup was an unbelievable feeling."
Seeded fourth in the Division I district tournament, Bradley beat 15th-seeded Scioto 5-1 in the second round Oct. 19, 17th-seeded Jerome 2-1 in a semifinal Oct. 22 and fifth-seeded New Albany 2-1 in a final Oct. 26.
The Jaguars then lost to defending state champion Olentangy Liberty 3-0 in a regional semifinal Oct. 30 at Gahanna.
"Winning our first district title was a game where my boys really followed our game plan and it was awesome to see," Billman said.
Bradley loses seven senior starters in forwards Robert Castillo and Tyler Dillow, defender Seth Westendorf, goalkeeper Jorge Morales and midfielders Jeff Ireland, Alex Lanfear and Riley Uhrin.
Castillo, who had 14 goals and two assists, was first-team all-district and OCC-Cardinal Player of the Year. Ireland, who had six goals and four assists, was third-team all-district and first-team all-league and Dillow, who had seven goals and three assists, was honorable mention all-district and first-team all-league.
Uhrin, who had six goals and 10 assists, and Westendorf were second-team all-league and Morales was honorable mention all-league.
Among those expected back are five players who started multiple games in junior defenders Alex Helderman, Derek Turner and Nick Valdes, sophomore midfielder Brady Whittekind and freshman defender Isaiah Harris.
Whittekind was second-team all-league and Harris was special mention all-league.
"We lost a fantastic senior class which had a lot of varsity games under their belts," Billman said. "We will lose experience, but the future is always bright. There is no wanting or looking at stepping back. ... Younger guys have to step up and accept the challenge to continue to take this program to the next level."
Wildcats made big strides this season
After finishing 6-6-5 overall last year, Davidson showed significant improvement this season in finishing 12-4-2.
The Wildcats won their first seven games, defeating Coffman 2-0 on Aug. 27 and Darby 1-0 on Sept. 5 along the way, but went 5-4-2 in their final 11 games.
Davidson finished 4-2-1 in the OCC-Central to place fourth, behind Coffman (6-1), Liberty (5-2) and Thomas Worthington (5-2) and ahead of Upper Arlington (4-3), Marysville (2-4-1), Westland (1-6) and Central Crossing (0-7).
Seeded sixth in the Division I district tournament, the Wildcats opened in the second round by defeating 34th-seeded Briggs 8-0 on Oct. 19 before losing to fifth-seeded New Albany 2-1 in a semifinal Oct. 23.
"We had a very successful season," coach Michael Mundey said. "We started off strong out of the gates and ran off six shutout victories (in the first seven games).
"I would say beating Dublin Coffman was one of our big wins early in the season. ... Traveling up to Sylvania Southview to play a team that was in the state final a year ago and winning 4-1 (on Sept. 21) was also a nice road victory."
Davidson loses seven senior starters in goalie Phil Ferguson, defenders Spencer Bumpus, Scott Harmanis and Rylee Moore and midfielders Kyle Heinlen, Chris McMahon and Callan Myerscough.
Bumpus was first-team all-district and all-league and Harmanis was third-team all-district and first-team all-league. McMahon was special mention all-league and Ferguson was honorable mention all-league.
"Our seniors were solid this year and I was happy they had a successful campaign," Mundey said. "Although we would have liked to have gone deeper in the tournament, we were in every game this season and the four games we dropped were all one-goal differentials ... ."
Among the expected returnees are nine players who started or saw significant playing time in junior forwards Jerrod Blevins and Mitch Corey, junior midfielder Andrew Chiou, sophomore forwards Jake Etnyre and Ryan Lang, sophomore midfielder Robert LeFevre, sophomore defenders Jake Felicity and Brandon Woo and freshman defender Ryan Schoener.
Lang had seven goals and was second-team all-league. LeFevre had six goals and Etnyre scored five.
"Overall, the future of our team looks strong," Mundey said. "I expect us to challenge for a league title again next year and to take our tournament experiences the past two years and go even further."
Panthers experienced rebuilding season
Darby struggled through a rebuilding season. The Panthers finished 5-13 overall and 1-6 in the OCC-Cardinal to tie Westerville North for seventh.
Seeded 24th in the Division I district tournament, Darby defeated 22nd-seeded Chillicothe 4-0 in the first round Oct. 16 before losing to seventh-seeded Canal Winchester 3-1 in the second round Oct. 19.
"Coming off of a season of being 15-2-2 and ending up 5-13 is a tough one to swallow," coach Johnny Ulry said. "At Darby, we have set a tradition of winning, so not to win is unacceptable. However, we were very young this year and a lot of our guys got some great experience to help push us back to the top next year.
"A few of the games that stood out as memorable games were beating Jerome 2-1 at their place (Sept. 3), losing to Gahanna 3-2 (on Oct. 10) after trailing 2-0 early and beating undefeated Chillicothe in the first round of the tournament."
The Panthers lose four senior starters in forward Brian Lee, defenders Zach Cowen and Alex Keller and goalie Austin Salyers.
Lee had six goals and four assists and was second-team all-league.
Among the expected returnees are seven starters in juniors Jason Bowman (midfielder), Kyle Fogarty (defender), Luke Geise (defender), Braden Ghilani (defender) and Ryan Kasprzak (forward) and freshmen Tre' Boger (forward) and Tavo Huey (midfielder).
Kasprzak had 11 goals and eight assists and was first-team all-league, and Geise was honorable mention all-league.
"This team never gave up and never stopped fighting no matter what the score was," Ulry said. "This is going to help the character of our team next year."