The Olentangy Liberty High School boys soccer team hopes to be playing for a perfect regular season when it visits Olentangy on Saturday, Oct. 13.
The Patriots were 13-0 overall and already had clinched the OCC-Central Division before closing league play Oct. 9 against Thomas Worthington. They also play at Westerville North on Thursday, Oct. 11.
"It should be an interesting match against Olentangy," Liberty coach Rick Collins said. "There's nothing more that they'd love to do than trip us up. It's a good rivalry where the kids have played club together for years. We've had a target on our backs all season and there's still a lot of intrigue in the final regular-season matches.
"Westerville North has a strong team and Olentangy has played well lately. Plus, we'd like to make sure we carry the momentum and confidence into the (Division I district) tournament."
The Patriots, who were state runners-up last season and were ranked first in the state poll last week, had outscored opponents 63-7 through 13 games.
The Braves had won six of their previous seven to improve to 8-5-1 overall and 4-2 in the OCC-Capital before playing Delaware on Oct. 9.
"It'll be a great challenge to play the No. 1 team in the state," Olentangy coach Matt Weiss said. "They're a great opponent and a rival. No matter what the result is, it will get us geared up for the tournament.
"We lost some tough ones early, but we've been improving and things are flowing well. It's similar to the past couple of seasons where we got hot late and played in district championships. Maybe we'll win one this year."
The Patriots had a lot of offensive firepower return from last season, but they knew they had to reconstruct the defense in front of goalkeeper Anderson deAndrade if they wanted to replicate last year's success.
"Anderson is the only returning starter on defense and there was some concern entering the season," Collins said. "We're a possession-oriented offense and we knew that could help the defense early on until they matured and clicked. Anderson hasn't been called on too often, but has made some really big saves when we've needed him to make them.
"The whole back has really been solid, with Kyle Boone and Rajat Gupta at center backs and Drew Collins and Luke Crea on the outside. They're organized and they support each other very well. We may have allowed seven goals, but four of those have been late in matches after the outcome was decided."
The Patriots also had posted eight shutouts through 13 games.
Offensively, Kyle Baum led with 13 goals. Jared Robinson and Sam DeRoy both had seven.
"Our defense starts the attack," coach Collins said. "They are directly involved in a lot of our goals. They're distributing well and attacking from the outside, too. Whether it's three or four passes or more before we score, much of it starts with good distribution."
The district tournament draw was Oct. 7. Liberty was seeded first and Olentangy received the 10th seed. Both have first-round byes and then play home games in the second round at 7 p.m. Oct. 20. The Patriots will meet Whetstone or Logan and the Braves will face Newark.
Orange to face Franklin Heights
Orange already had clinched the OCC-Capital before playing Watkins Memorial in the league finale Oct. 9. The Pioneers entered the game 9-4-1 overall and 6-0 in league play.
Orange closes the regular season Thursday, Oct. 11, against visiting Worthington Kilbourne.
The Pioneers were seeded sixth for the Division I district tournament and have a first-round bye. They play host to Franklin Heights in the second round at 7 p.m. Oct. 20.