As expected, the Pickerington High School North boys soccer team has started strong defensively.

As expected, the Pickerington High School North boys soccer team has started strong defensively.

The Panthers defeated Dublin Coffman 1-0 in their opener Aug. 21 and two days later tied Upper Arlington at 1.

"We've got four seniors in the back and two quality senior goalkeepers (Steven Bannick and Max White), so this is the type of play we expected from our defense," said coach Darrin Monhollen, whose team played Newark in the OCC-Ohio Division opener Aug. 28 and plays a non-league game Thursday, Aug., 30, at Dublin Scioto. "Sean Goddard was instrumental in defending UA's top player and Jared Linkhorn has been outstanding at center back. They've really closed things down."

The other two starting defenders are Jarrod Brunet and Andrew Johnson.

"They have been playing very well, too," Monhollen said. "They're tough and aggressive one-on-one defenders."

While the Panthers knew they could rely on their defense this season, Monhollen also was pleased with his team's offensive play against UA.

"We gave up that goal with two minutes left and we turned around and attacked them," he said. "We actually should've been awarded a penalty kick. Even so, we weren't just sitting back and settling for a tie and relying on our defense."

If there is one aspect of the Panthers' defense that Monhollen would like to see improved, it's their communication.

"It could be better and it's the one area we're working on back there," he said. "Ideally, you want your center back making the majority of the calls, but we have to work as a unit. The keepers certainly have a part in it."

Bannick had 10 saves against Coffman. Against UA, White had five saves and Bannick had three.

"I'm very happy to have two senior keepers who are capable of making big saves and making the routine saves," Monhollen said. "They are very competitive and very supportive. It's a testimony to their maturity and character that they understand. We make the starting decision based on how things go in practice and in pregame warm-ups. Everyone has a bad day, and if we see it developing, we feel comfortable getting the other one in there. It's a great feeling to have that flexibility."

Central boys team wins first two games

The Central boys team opened with a 6-2 win over Granville on Aug. 21 and then beat Canal Winchester 1-0 on Aug. 23.

Senior forward Dillon Ricketts, an Ohio State recruit, scored three goals in the first two games, including the lone goal against Canal Winchester.

Senior midfielder/forward Derrick Awuah also had two goals against Granville. Sophomore goalie Collin Federer had six saves against Canal Winchester and two against Granville.

The Tigers opened OCC-Ohio play Aug. 28 against Lancaster and play a non-league game Thursday, Aug. 30, at Hilliard Darby.